Construction begins on new college campus in Lacey

Construction is underway on South Puget Sound Community College’s new Lacey campus, an $11 million project that Lacey officials expect to be a shot in the arm for the neighborhood and possibly fill long-vacant buildings.

Work began last month and the project is expected to be finished in summer 2015, college spokeswoman Kellie Purce Braseth said.

The college paid $4 million for the complex of five buildings on Sixth Avenue across from the Intercity Transit station, formerly known as Rowe Six.

The plan is to transform the 50,000-square-foot Building 1, which faces Sixth Avenue, into an entrepreneurial center. It will combine the college’s Small Business Development Center and the Thurston County Economic Development Council in a single destination to support entrepreneurs and business start-ups.

The EDC, its staff and services will move into the new building, EDC Executive Director Michael Cade said.

The organization also plans to work with several community partners such as chambers of commerce, the city of Lacey, The Evergreen State College and Saint Martin’s University, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Enterprise for Equity.

But Building 1 also will be home to corporate and continuing education staff and classes, as well as other classrooms, computer labs and student services, Purce Braseth said.

The college also will occupy Buildings 2 and 3. Building No. 3 will be home to an advanced manufacturing program. Meanwhile, Buildings 4 and 5 likely will be demolished to make way for either parking or a new building, she said.

In all, about 11,000 people will use the campus. The estimate combines students taking credit classes and others, such as state workers, participating in training.

City officials hope that influx of people will inject some life into the Woodland District and specifically, Woodland Square Loop. Woodland Square Loop surrounds Huntamer Park, and many nearby office buildings have significant vacancies, the result of the recession and downsizing.

Several of those buildings have a new owner: MJR Development of Kirkland.

The city of Lacey also recently announced a plan to sublease from the college about 1,000 square feet in Building 2 to create a military service center.

The city has a memorandum of understanding with veterans centers in Tacoma and Federal Way to provide services in Lacey, with an emphasis on behavioral health. The center is expected to open in October.

Meanwhile, SPSCC’s existing Lacey campus is on Hawks Prairie between Marvin Road and Galaxy Drive. The college has leased the space since 1995, but in 2005 it purchased property off Marvin Road and set out to build a new campus. Since then, economic changes have taken the college in a new direction.

The Marvin Road property, for which the college paid $6.2 million, is for sale, Purce Braseth said.