Water-view development offering senior apartments, shops and dining nears finish line

A project that was years in the making in downtown Olympia is now just months away from opening.

The mixed-use development 500 Columbia, just south of the Farmers Market, will feature apartments for those 55 and older, plus office and retail space. It is set to open during the first quarter of 2020, finally concluding more than a decade of waiting and work to get to this stage.

The property owner and developer, Vine Street Group, perhaps best known for developing state office property, acquired the parcel in 2005, according to assessor’s data, with plans to construct an office building for a state agency. But when the Great Recession hit, Vine Street built a fence around the foundation and mothballed the project, said J. Camron McKinley, a vice president of Vine Street.

And so it sat, and Vine Street went back to the drawing board. “We had to rethink what it could be,” he said.

The group settled on a mixed-use project, most of which is 120,000 square feet of apartments. That’s 115 market-rate units, on floors 4-7, called Harbor Heights Living, which will be available to those 55 and older. It also has 277 parking stalls, second-floor office space and ground-floor retail space.

McKinley said Vine Street is close to announcing a local restaurateur who plans to fill some of that space.

Why apartments for those 55 and older? McKinley believes there’s a new generation of retirees or the nearly retired who want to travel and not have to worry about the safety and security of a single-family home.

“It’s a need that’s not being met at an urban level,” said McKinley about 55 and older housing.

The third floor is devoted to amenities for the residents, including a bar and lounge, a fitness room, a 20-seat movie theater, a family gathering space, a crafts-making room, and a rooftop deck and patio with fire pits and a water feature, offering outdoor views of Budd Inlet.

Commercial leasing is under way with Kidder Mathews, McKinley said, while the pre-leasing of apartments is expected to start in the next 30-45 days.

Harbor Heights will have studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, as well as two, three-bedroom units, he said. The studios each have dens, while the larger apartments, in some cases, have more than one bathroom. Rents will range from $1,500 a month to $2,600, he said.

Vine Street Group

  • The property developer, management and maintenance business has been around since 1978.
  • It has offices in Olympia and Arlington, and has about 1.5 million square feet of space under management.
  • Vine Street’s business extends east to Moses Lake and south to Vancouver.
  • One of its first developments in Olympia was Eastside Plaza along Eastside Street, and Town Square at Plum Street and Union Avenue — both of which were renovated in recent years. It also created the Cherry Street Plaza.
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.