Albany site may be offices next

TUMWATER - A Gig Harbor developer’s representatives are scheduled to meet Thursday with Tumwater planning and building officials about converting a former manufacturing plant on Littlerock Road into 52,000 square feet of administrative office space, according to information on file with the city.

During Thursday’s meeting, known as a feasibility review, the developers will learn more about the city’s building and planning process before they submit a more formal land-use application. The developer, Rush Development Co., also is evaluating whether to purchase the property.

“The proposed project consists of a tenant improvement remodel of the existing 51,960-square-foot building, converting the use from manufacturing/warehouse to office space, for approximately 150 employees,” according to North Pacific Design, an engineering firm working with Rush Development. Representatives from both companies could not be reached Tuesday.

The manufacturing plant at 5700 Littlerock Road is owned by Albany International Corp. of New York. That company ran the plant for more than 30 years before closing it at the end of August, laying off 32 employees.

The Tumwater plant used to manufacture fabric belts used by the paper-making industry, including newsprint production. The plant’s closure was accelerated by consolidation in the global paper industry and the recession, spokeswoman Susan Siegel told The Olympian in July. Since 2000, more than 455 paper machines have been shut down in North America, she said.

Tumwater senior planner Chris Carlson said that although Tumwater city officials were sad to see the plant close and lose living-wage jobs – Siegel said salaried workers at the Tumwater plant made up to $60,000 a year, while hourly employees were paid $670 to $985 a week – the plan for an office building is a better fit for the area.

“The use that is being proposed is more compatible,” he said.

The former manufacturing plant is north of Interstate 5 on Littlerock Road, an area dominated by retailers such as Costco Wholesale and The Home Depot.

After the plant closed, it sat for a few months before it was put up for sale and listed with NAI Puget Sound Properties, said co-listing agent Billy Moultrie. He said the property has been on the market for about 30 days and is listed for $3.86 million.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403