OLYMPIA - About three acres, including the state Department of Fish and Wildlife building across from the Olympia Farmers Market, might be redeveloped into retail and housing under a plan the state is considering.
On Friday, state General Administration director Linda Bremer met with officials from the city of Olympia, Port of Olympia and LOTT Alliance, which owns and operates wastewater and reclaimed-water facilities throughout the Lacey-Olympia-Tumwater area. Representatives of those entities are interested in redeveloping the dilapidated site.
It was the first meeting of the interested parties, said Steve Valandra, a spokesman for General Administration. He said the site could be sold or transferred to the city, or some combination of the interested parties. In turn, a private party could redevelop the project as a public-private partnership, said Keith Stahley, the director of Community Planning and Development for the city, who said the property is “vastly underutilized, to say the least.”
Stahley attended the meeting along with Councilman Stephen Buxbaum.
“In representing the city at the meeting,” Buxbaum said, “I felt strongly that this was an opportunity for the city to create multifamily housing and potentially alleviate some of the parking challenges down in the market district, and also collaborate with the state on parking solutions during the legislative session.”
Valandra said the state has hired a consultant to look at redeveloping the site, and a detailed report is due in March.
“You can see that those properties, they kind of stand out,” he said. “They’re a lot different than surrounding properties. We’ve been working with the city, with LOTT, with private groups just to figure out a way to develop that property.”
The Fish and Wildlife site includes three parcels, which are:
• A 0.56-acre site that holds the Fish and Wildlife building, a 14,500-square-foot structure that once was home to Georgia Pacific Corp. It is the workplace for 40 to 50 state employees, Valandra said.
• A 1.43-acre parcel at 516 Washington St. N.E. that contains a two-story, 42,700-square-foot warehouse. The building was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and since has been abandoned, Valandra said.
• A 0.72-acre site at 608 Washington St. N.E. that has a one-story, 925-square-foot vacant building and 70 parking stalls.
Stahley said buildings as high as about 90 feet would be permitted under current zoning, which allows 65-foot buildings, plus an extra two stories if housing is included. The number of feet in those stories is not defined.
The issue of taller buildings affecting views is fresh on the minds of Olympia residents, who saw height limits on the isthmus raised to as high as 90 feet last year before being rolled back to 35 feet this year after a public outcry.
Buxbaum, who opposed taller buildings on the isthmus, said a 95-foot building would be appropriate at the Fish and Wildlife property.
“To me, it represents a perfect spot to do high-rise, multifamily housing,” he said.
The recent effort to redevelop the site stems from a provision slipped into last year’s state budget that allocates $100,000 for the state to study disposing of the property. Sen. Karen Fraser, who advocated for the land to be redeveloped, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
City, port and LOTT officials agree that the site should be redeveloped and have issued a joint statement about their interest in the site. City officials long have expressed interest in building more market-rate housing in the city’s core. Port officials want to see the land next to the market district developed. And LOTT officials are interested in building new underground storage basins to increase capacity to treat waste.
“We’re always looking for ways that we can get a little extra room for additional treatment,” LOTT Executive Director Mike Strub said. Strub said discussions about redeveloping the site go back perhaps three years, but the conversation was restarted recently.
“From both commercial and residential development, our interest lies very specifically in continuing that high-density development for particularly retail,” Port Executive Director Ed Galligan said.
Valandra said the report due in March should outline “viable options” for the property.
“I would say that the process so far has worked out well,” he said. “Everybody’s working together on this to make something good happen in the future.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869