South Puget Sound Community College plans to expand into downtown Olympia to showcase its culinary, craft brewing and distilling programs.
In December, the city bought 112 and 116 Fourth Ave. W, former home of the Olympia staple Ben Moore’s Restaurant & Pub and the site of the Great Cuisine of India. The city already owned parking lots next door, and the purchase gave it control of half a city block where it wants to eventually create a mixed-used development that could include residential, commercial and civic spaces and a parking garage.
“That’s a complex project. It will take years to figure that out, especially what part of the property gets used, how that gets used, and how do we fold in the history of the two buildings that are there,” said Mike Reid, the city’s economic development director.
In the meantime, the Ben Moore’s space has been vacant since the previous tenant moved out last summer. And SPSCC — which started downtown as Olympia Vocational Technical Institute in the 1960s and now has campuses in west Olympia and Lacey — had been looking for an opportunity to return to the area, said Kelly Green, SPSCC’s chief communications and legislative affairs officer.
The city approached SPSCC in the fall about moving in. Reid said the building’s history pairs perfectly with SPSCC’s culinary, craft brewing and distilling programs, which could offer training to future workers in downtown bars and restaurants.
Green said the space, which will be called Percival Place at Ben Moore’s, could serve as a tasting room and host special dinners put on by culinary students. SPSCC plans to christen the space later this month as part of Arts Walk, the city’s semiannual street fair, with faculty art, live performances, food and drinks.
The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a one-year lease agreement that could be extended. Under the agreement, SPSCC would not pay rent and the city would pay all taxes, insurance and maintenance costs.
The council also is set to vote on another agreement to lease 116 Fourth Ave. W to Great Cuisine of India, an Indian restaurant that was already open when the city bought the property and whose lease expired in February. Its new, three-year lease is for $1,815 a month and could also be extended.