Friday, July 14, 2017

Mistake on the Lake Redevelopment Plans Underway

Above: Built in 1965 and vacant for about eleven years, the blighted nine story building in downtown Olympia, known as the Mistake on the Lake, is not so visible from the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial on Thursday as Capital Lakefair wrapped up for the evening. The building is intensely disliked by many community members. Many have worked for years toward the building’s demolition to restore the scenic view north to Budd Inlet and the Olympic Mountains.  

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The nine story building in downtown Olympia is not going away. It’s going to be redeveloped and it’s going to be great.

That was the message by local developer Ken Brogan and his architect, Ron Thomas, who presented their land use plans and architectural drawings at a city organized community meeting held on Wednesday evening at Olympia City Hall.

The project at 410 5th Avenue is bounded by 4th Avenue West, 5th Avenue SW, Simmons Street SW, just south of Bayview Market, and Sylvester Street NW, which is next to the Heritage Park Fountain.

It is planned to provide 138 new residences and a mix of ground floor restaurant and retail spaces. A vacant single story structure will be demolished and two new mixed use buildings will be built with onsite parking.

City staff kept a tight lid on the evening, allowing plenty of time for questions and answers, but also making it clear that the meeting was not a visioning process or a conversation about whether or not the city should buy the building from Mr. Brogan.

About 75 people were in attendance, many of whom seemed to be supportive of Brogan’s plan, but certainly not all.

“When will you be taking reservations?” a man enthusiastically asked Brogan. After considerable laughter, Brogan responded that he hopes to break ground by the end of the year, and have construction complete by the end of 2018.

The project will be subject to a State Environmental Policy Act review, a multi-permit process, and decided by a hearings examiner, which can be appealed.

Above: Plans for the proposed Views on 5th by architect Ron Thomas were shown at a community meeting Wednesday evening. 

Brogan’s architect, Ron Thomas, did most of the speaking, showing conceptual drawings, and answering questions. He quickly preempted known community concerns about sea level rise and risks of liquefaction in the event of an earthquake by highlighting the building’s features to address those issues up front.

City staff made the point of stating at the outset of the meeting that the project was not within the city’s shoreline jurisdiction. The area is zoned Waterfront Urban – Housing.

The project will have to plan to accommodate a 16 foot sea level rise, the city’s new standard for new construction for projects that are in a flood zone. The elevation in that area is 14.85 feet, said Thomas. The area is currently known to flood during minor storm surges.

Thomas said that in the event of flooding, a rapidly deployed barrier called a Flex Wall that rises up out of the ground 24 to 36 inches will be installed to protect the building.

Steel pilings up to 70-80 feet deep will be needed to support the new buildings, and the tower building is currently undergoing seismic upgrading, said Thomas.

For nearly an hour, Thomas presented his drawings, pointing out the obvious for any new construction, such as access for refuse and fire trucks, and public transit opportunities that already exist in the area, and all the “very Olympia things to do,” such as long term bicycle storage and colored pavers to delineate pedestrian walkways, without acknowledging the most obvious: that the nine story tower building is staying.

In response to that observation, he assured the audience that the “psychology of the building” will change with the application of a special glazing that will appear to reduce the size of the tower. A drawing on one side of the tower showed Native inspired salmon artwork that he said he hoped could be designed in collaboration with local tribes.

He also said that Brogan is committed to creating a vertical green wall and seek a LEED Silver certification, making the building highly energy efficient.

I'm sitting here trying not to scream at the fact that we're not even talking about the elephant in the room, which is that people in Olympia have been working for years to make this area a park. A green wall does not compensate, and enclosing the tower does not hide what's there, said Ann Holm, a member of Friends of the Waterfront.

Community questions included how the flood barriers and automated compact parking mechanisms will work in the event of an earthquake or a loss of electricity, whether or not the building will get a multifamily residential tax credit (it will not), whether or not the building can accommodate low income individuals (it will not), the building’s impact to stormwater systems, the difference between the use of steel vs. wood pilings, estimated traffic patterns and impacts, the process of assessing impact fees, job creation and overall tax revenue to the city, and the possible regulation and code enforcement of blighted commercial property.

Above: The proposed Views on 5th development in downtown Olympia.

City planner Nicole Floyd said staff has received about 70 comments so far. The first deadline for public comment was July 7, but comments will be taken throughout the land use process, she said.

A city advisory committee, the Design Review Board, will review the plan’s designs to determine if it meets the city’s design criteria on August 10, 6:30 p.m. at Olympia City Hall. Public comment will not be taken at that meeting.

Little Hollywood wrote a detailed article on October 19, 2016 at about Brogan’s plans to purchase the building, its history, and his initial plans. Some ideas, such as a swimming pool, have gone by the wayside. The article also features an interview with Jerry Reilly, chair of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation.

For interior photos and information about the Capitol Center Building, aka the Mistake on the Lake, or Views on 5th, previous hotel plans, the isthmus, scenic views, the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, the city’s Downtown Strategy, king tides and sea level rise, go to Little Hollywood and type key words into the search button.

Project plans and documents provided by the City of Olympia can be viewed online at . For more information, contact City planner Nicole Floyd, or (360) 570-3768.

Above: The Capitol Center Building has been purchased by developer Ken Brogan, above, who has mixed use and residential plans for the property. He stayed to answer one-on-one questions after the formal presentation on Wednesday evening.