Politics & Government

Path cleared for state offices

OLYMPIA – Crews began demolition Thursday to make way for a $255 million data center and headquarters for the state Department of Information Services, a project touted as the first major construction on the Capitol Campus in two decades.

The more than 394,000-square-foot complex, going up in the 1500 block of Jefferson Street Southeast at Wheeler Street, will consolidate DIS operations that are spread among 10 facilities in South Sound. About 900 people eventually could work in the complex.

DIS director Tony Tortorice said the Wheeler project will make his agency more efficient, allowing the state to pool servers.

“It’s a major accomplishment to get this done,” he said.

The massive project is scheduled to take slightly more than two years to complete.

It doesn’t come cheap. With financing costs, the building will cost $300 million, said Joanne Todd, spokeswoman for the state agency.

The cost of the project is locked in, which means the state won’t pay for any overruns, she said.

Wright Runstad & Co. of Seattle is constructing the building, the same company that is finishing the Washington State Employee Credit Union building nearby at Union Avenue and Franklin Street.

Crews began demolishing an existing building on the Wheeler site after a brief ceremony Thursday.

State Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, said the project would put hundreds of people to work, a great economic stimulus for the state and city.

“This building will allow state government to more forward in this digital age,” she said.

State Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, noted that the building will be the first drivers see when they’re exiting from Interstate 5.

“This is going to be a wonderful gateway to our campus,” he said.

Mayor Doug Mah, a DIS employee, said he’s “looking forward to the synergy we create when we’re all together ...”

Initially, 400 to 500 DIS employees will occupy the new structure, Todd said.

Eventually, agencies yet to be determined will occupy at least 80,000 square feet of the complex.

The project has been in the works for years but has been delayed by political concerns about its cost and neighbors’ worries that the state had not adequately addressed traffic and other effects.

The state and the South Capitol Neighborhood Association came to an agreement last month for the state to expand its study of traffic from the new facility.

The state also committed to expand parking for visitors and DASH shuttle users over the long term, and to reimburse the group up to $7,500 for signs marking the historic area.

In the meantime, the construction will mean traffic headaches. The eastbound inside lane of 14th Avenue is scheduled to be closed until today for underground utility work. Parking on 16th Avenue east of Jefferson Street will be restricted at times for tree removal and building demolition.

Excavation on the site is set to begin today and continue tomorrow. Standard work hours are 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The state also plans to widen Jefferson Street and add a roundabout at its intersection with 14th Avenue to handle increased traffic from the building.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869