Lacey chamber eyes Woodland District for new home

The Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new home, and the organization’s preferred destination is the Woodland Square Loop area of Lacey.

That area of the city already has attracted South Puget Sound Community College and the restaurant Ricardo’s, which recently announced a plan to move and expand there.

“Sure, we’d like to be part of the build-up there,” Lacey chamber board president Madelin White said Thursday. That location would be closer to the Thurston Economic Development Council and Lacey City Hall.

But White added: “It’s all just a wish right now.”

That’s because the chamber needs to find a tenant for its existing 1,800-square-foot space on Quinault Drive in Hawks Prairie before it moves.

The chamber board voted at the end of March to sublet its current space in Hawks Prairie, but if the chamber is unable to find a tenant, the lease keeps the chamber there until October 2017, White said.

Chamber Executive Director Stephanie Hemphill said Thursday she’s intrigued by the public banquet space being created next to Ricardo’s as a possible location for chamber events.

Current chamber forums are held at Saint Martin’s University.

Ricardo’s is set to fill 3,000 square feet in one of the office buildings that comprised what used to be called the “quad.” The building owner, MJR Development of Kirkland, which owns several buildings in the area, also plans to create a 3,000-square-foot banquet space that would be made available to its tenants.

The chamber, too, is growing, said Hemphill, who has been executive director for a little more than a year. Membership has grown to 440 from 298 over that same period, she said.

“My board is buying into what we’re doing, the members are buying into what we’re doing, and the team is buying into what we’re doing,” she said about the growth.

If the chamber moves, it’s yet more momentum for the city of Lacey’s efforts to transform the Woodland District — the area between Chehalis-Western Trail, Interstate 5, Pacific Avenue and College Street — into a vibrant, mixed-use destination.