Despite challenges, Views on Fifth construction rolls on, spokesman says

Views on Fifth construction moves along across from Capitol Lake

Work continues Feb. 7 at the site of the nine-story, mixed-use Views on Fifth project near Heritage Park in Olympia.
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Work continues Feb. 7 at the site of the nine-story, mixed-use Views on Fifth project near Heritage Park in Olympia.

Construction of Views on Fifth, the mixed-use redevelopment project on Olympia’s isthmus, continues to move forward with the aim of a late fall opening, a project spokesman told The Olympian last week.

Crews are almost finished pouring the foundations for two new buildings north of the existing nine-story tower, and framing is underway on the upper floors of the tower. And it’s about to take an even bigger step in the coming days, said Troy Nichols, the former executive officer of Olympia Master Builders who now works closely with the project.

One noteworthy feature of the market-rate apartment building is a parking machine — essentially a car elevator that will park vehicles. The product will be shipped from China, arrive at the Port of Tacoma, and could be in Olympia by the end of the month, Nichols said.

Nichols shot down a rumor that the project is out of money. “That is absolutely not true,” he said.

The nine-story building on Fifth Avenue Southwest used to be known as the Capitol Center Building. It overlooks Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet and was last occupied by the state’s Department of Corrections.

For more than a decade, it sat unused and fell into disrepair. It is sometimes referred to as the “Mistake by the Lake” by critics who have wanted to see it torn down and replaced with a park and unobstructed views of Budd Inlet from the Capitol Campus.

But local developer Ken Brogan bought the building and set out to create Views on Fifth, a mixed-use development with apartments and retail space.

Brogan was not available for comment last week. In a 2016 interview with The Olympian before he bought the building, he said he wanted to turn it into a downtown destination.

“The downtown project is a good challenge for me,” Brogan said. “I want to revive that building into a gorgeous place for people to work, live, shop and dine, all the while admiring our downtown waterfront in a very nice restaurant. I would have never thought that I would have the opportunity to own and bring back this building that looked so large as a kid.”

The restaurant? Possibly a second Ricardo’s, the well-known steakhouse in Lacey run by Rick Nelsen.

“I anticipate he will do very well,” Brogan told Thurston Talk, “and that he won’t have enough seating. I think the tenants will thrive, he will deliver within the building.”

Stumbling blocks

A group challenging the building project in court — including former Washington governors, a former secretary of state, a former state senator and a former Olympia mayor — has yet to score a legal victory. Last summer, it asked the state’s Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the lower court decision to dismiss its case for lack of standing.

The group argues the city of Olympia should never have issued a permit for the building project and wants the court to limit all three buildings to 35 feet. (The new buildings are subject to a 35-foot height restriction, but the tower is not because it was built in the 1960s.)

As of this week, the parties were still waiting to hear if the court will take the case, said Allen Miller, the Olympia lawyer representing the group.

Nichols called the request for review a legal “hail Mary,” but the group’s efforts have succeeded in costing the developer more money. When Brogan broke ground in 2017, it was considered a $30 million project. Since then, the budget has gone up about $2 million because of delays and other cost increases, Nichols said.

“It’s frustrating to waste time, money and emotion on legal challenges, but we knew that was part of the game getting into it and we’re going to see it through,” he said.

Meanwhile, various contractors working on the site have drawn the attention of the state’s Department of Labor & Industries.

In October, Commercial Property Services — which is owned by Brogan — was issued a $66,000 penalty because workers at the site were exposed to lead and asbestos, while a welding company was issued a $30,600 penalty, mostly related to lead exposure.

Both penalties are being appealed.

Last month, another contractor was issued a $900 penalty for not protecting workers from falls on the site. Labor & Industries also has opened inspections into two other contractors working on the site.

“Either through referral or complaints, we’re finding out about issues. We’ve been out there quite a bit,” said Tim Church, the department’s public affairs manager.

Rolf has worked at The Olympian since August 2005. He covers breaking news, the city of Lacey and business for the paper. Rolf graduated from The Evergreen State College in 1990.