Although Views on Fifth, a proposed project on downtown Olympia's isthmus, has grabbed much of the development spotlight in recent months, there's another building rising from the ground that is much further along.
The project is Annie's Artist Flats, a four-story, market-rate apartment building at Fifth Avenue and Adams Street that is expected to be complete toward the end of September or early October, according to those close to the project.
The flats is a brand new building, but it also has a companion project called Annie's Artist Studios, which will transform the former Montgomery Ward building on Fourth Avenue into spaces where artists can live and work. Both are open to all renters, but they will cater to artists who are looking for high ceilings, plenty of natural light and areas to do their work.
There's also a familiar name attached to the development: Walker John. This marks John's fourth project downtown. The others are the Cunningham Building at Fourth Avenue and Adams Street; Franklin Lofts at Franklin Street and Legion Way; Campus Lofts at 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street; and the 321 apartments on Legion Way.
Although John's work has made a splash locally, he prefers to keep a low profile.
The newest project is named for his mother, Anne John, who is an artist, said architect Ron Thomas of Thomas Architecture Studios in Olympia. Thomas often speaks on behalf of John and his projects. Thomas gave a recent tour of the building to fellow architects and engineers.
The flats will contain 48 units: 33 one-bedroom apartments and 15 studios. It also will have gallery space in the lobby, as well as artist display space on each floor near the elevator and about 2,000 square feet of commercial space.
Annie's Artist Studios, which are expected to be complete by the end of the year, will contain 18 studios and 10 rental work spaces. The restaurant is going to stay where it is, Thomas said. The studios, too, will have gallery space, he said.
The work of glass artist Mari Gardner will be featured on the exterior of the flats building, Thomas said.
John and others have met regularly with the Olympia Artspace Alliance about amenities for the project, he said. The alliance has long sought space for artists downtown.
Rents have yet to be determined, said Rants Group managing broker Teri Haglund, who is handling the leasing for the project. But prospective renters already have inquired about the property. She expects to have a better understanding about rental rates in July.
Thomas said demand for downtown living is coming from all ages and from those outside the area and from the suburbs.
Of John's four projects to date, he has one vacancy left: A studio apartment at the 321 apartments, Haglund said.
Disclosure: John owns The Olympian building.