After more than three years of little change to several largely vacant office buildings in the Woodland Square Loop area of Lacey, change finally has arrived in a big way.
And that change, for the moment, has led to one question for many people who walk around or drive through the area: What happened to all the trees?
Several trees, including some towering firs, have been cut down to make way for planned redevelopment in the area. Some of those trees also had created infrastructure problems, the roots pushing up sections of parking lot.
Two representatives of MJR Development, the Kirkland-based developer that owns several buildings in the area, acknowledged Wednesday that change can be hard, but they also believe the public will ultimately be pleased with the results.
“It’s hard for people to visualize,” said Mark Lahaie on Wednesday, a partner in MJR Development. “But once the plants go in, people are going to really, really appreciate it.”
MJR’s work so far is focused on two sites: a four-building area formerly known as the “quad,” which is now known as the Woodland Center, and the Woodland Plaza, a building known for its glass dome.
Among the changes: investing $1 million into 14,000 trees, bushes and shrubs into landscaping for just the Woodland Center and Woodland Plaza, said Christian LaRocco, a development manager for MJR.
LaRocco also was on hand Wednesday for a tour of the properties.
“This is about people,” he said, adding that they want to redevelop the site so that it’s a destination for visitors and workers, where people can “sit, read and eat their lunch,” extending the hours of daily use in the area.
Woodland Square Loop currently is largely vacated after 5 p.m.
That vision is shared by city of Lacey officials, who want to transform the area into a mixed-use destination that is similar to a downtown.
Other changes that are planned:
▪ A pocket park, complete with lawn and seating, will be built in the corner of the Woodland Center parking lot, opposite the Woodland Plaza.
▪ South of the Woodland Center, the developer plans to add a fire pit — Ricardo’s Steakhouse in Lacey is moving to that spot — as well as outdoor seating and a water feature.
▪ Each main entrance to the Woodland Center will get a glass canopy, including one 23 feet long to create a “gateway” effect for the buildings.
▪ Construction crews are gutting the Woodland Plaza and removing the glass dome. The four-story area that was capped by the dome will be filled in with lobby space.
Current tenants in the Woodland Center include a state office tenant in the east end of the center and McSwain and Co., an accounting firm. Ricardo’s is set to move into the center, and Lahaie is close to inking a deal on leasing 8,000 square feet, he said.
Other work that people might see: landscaping and painting of the building that is home to Harborstone Credit Union on College Street, and, at some point, MJR expects to demolish the Prudential building and build housing, Lahaie said.
The work on the Woodland Center and Plaza buildings is expected to be complete Feb. 1, LaRocco said.