Growth in Lacey, slowed by the Great Recession, is picking up pace, particularly in the northeast where a tidal wave of development is under way.
By 2035, northeast Lacey is expected to be home to 13,000 people, 5,500 residences — single-family and multifamily dwellings — and 9 million square feet of commercial development, according to city projections. As of 2015, that’s up from about 9,500 people, 3,800 residences and 4.8 million square feet of commercial development.
Those additions will join established developments such as the light-industrial area known as Meridian Campus, the Jubilee housing development, and distribution warehouses for Target, The Home Depot, Harbor Wholesale Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Among the next phase of projects:
▪ The Nisqually Tribe and Bellevue-based developer Wig Properties have pitched their first major project to the city — a project separate from the land they jointly own near Cabela’s. They are proposing a 300,000-square-foot retail development alongside the 7-Eleven convenience store on Marvin Road. It will have an anchor tenant — possibly a grocery store — and other smaller tenants. Construction could begin next summer.
▪ Britton apartments, a 204-unit apartment complex, is under construction on Britton Parkway, west of Cabela’s.
▪ Medline Industries, a 700,000-square-foot warehouse across from Trader Joe’s on Hogum Bay Road that will be used to distribute medical supplies. It’s under construction.
▪ IDS development is on land off Marvin Road that once was owned by South Puget Sound Community College for a new campus, but that campus was ultimately built in the city’s Woodland District on Sixth Avenue. Five buildings are proposed, including one that will measure 1 million square feet.
And more residences, warehouses and other commercial development is on the way. But will it all work? Do the pieces of the puzzle all fit together and still provide quality of life to residents in the area?
Yes, said Rick Walk, the city’s community development director. Although development might appear haphazard, it is not, he said. Master plans for development in northeast Lacey were set in motion years ago and have been vetted by planning commissions and city councils. They included parks, open space, tree tracts, the William Ives Trail, and the new Salish Middle School.
He acknowledged, though, that change can be hard.
“People buy a home with one expectation, and as time goes on, they don’t realize that city plans call for other types of development,” he said. “There’s always going to be a challenge to find that balance with growth.”
Accommodating more cars
Along with the growth comes a need to address traffic. Some of those changes have been completed, or are under way; others are planned.
On Willamette Drive, there’s a new roundabout at 31st Avenue Northeast and a pedestrian crossing with flashing beacons. The city also plans to add a roundabout at Hogum Bay Road and Willamette Drive and make other road improvements in that area.
The city also is widening Marvin Road north of Britton Parkway and expects new corridors to help alleviate congestion on existing corridors, Walk said. That includes extending Gateway Boulevard north and 31st Avenue Northeast to Marvin Road.
The council also voted to reduce speeds to 35 mph from 40 mph in the area.
Perhaps the biggest upcoming traffic-related project is the now-funded state plan to overhaul the interchange at Marvin Road and Interstate 5 — a key step for addressing growth in northeast Lacey, city officials have said.
Missing from all of this is mass transit. While more jobs are coming as warehouses continue to be built, there’s still no Intercity Transit bus service to deliver potential workers to that part of the city. Lacey Councilman Jeff Gadman, who serves on the IT Authority board, said IT doesn’t have the money to expand service — at least not yet.
On the bus
Lacey council members toured northeast Lacey in August and are largely supportive of what’s coming to the area.
Councilman Michael Steadman, who lives in that part of the city, acknowledged that residents are disappointed in the reduction in speed limits. They also ask questions about the future interchange and the future of the still undeveloped Lacey Gateway Town Center site on the land around Cabela’s.
“There’s really not a whole lot of concerns,” he said about what residents have shared with him.
Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt said she’s pleased that there’s a variety of housing coming to the area, and that it’s close to potential employment. She expressed disappointment in the lack of bus service and acknowledged there have been growing pains. She knew some people who moved to Hood Canal after they became frustrated with the industrial development around them.
Design standards for warehouses have since changed, she said.
Community Development Director Walk said for the large distribution centers they require 200-foot setbacks, and loading bay doors can’t face residences. They also can require noise studies, he said.
Gadman said developers have been receptive to solutions that work for everyone.
“By being welcoming and proactively working with developers, I think they react positively when an issue comes up,” he said.
“Nothing ever stays the same,” Gadman added. “If you want to live in a rural area, you don’t live five miles outside of town because the town is coming.”
Councilman Lenny Greenstein also acknowledged that there are going to be negatives associated with growth, such as traffic and noise.
“That area has been designated for growth,” he said about northeast Lacey. “There’s nothing that wasn’t planned for. Overall, I’m pleased with what’s going on out there.”
One development that hasn’t fully emerged yet is perhaps the biggest of them all: the 200-plus-acre, mixed-use development known as the Lacey Gateway Town Center. It was proposed years ago by developer Tri Vo but he lost the property during the recession. Now it is owned by the Nisquallys and Wig Properties. Residents recently got a glimpse of a plan after an outlet center was proposed for the site.
Greenstein remains bullish on the project’s potential, calling it a “real city-center type place with public amenities as well.”
“That’s the future,” he said.