Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mistake on the Lake Redevelopment Public Hearing Tuesday

Above: The proposed redevelopment of the nine story building best known as the “Mistake on the Lake” in downtown Olympia will be getting a public hearing on Tuesday, January 9, 6:30 p.m., at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, in downtown Olympia. Photo was taken from the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial on the Capitol Campus looking north in July, 2017.

-Hearing on Tuesday Evening Could Attract Hundreds 
-Sea Level Rise, Flooding, Traffic, Other Concerns About Project

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

The proposed redevelopment of the nine story building best known as the “Mistake on the Lake” in downtown Olympia will be getting a public hearing in front of a city hearing examiner on Tuesday, January 9, 6:30 p.m., at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, in Rooms A and B, in downtown Olympia.

No, the building is not going away anytime soon. Instead, public comment will be taken about a proposed mixed use redevelopment project submitted by applicant Ken Brogan in 2016 to provide 140 market rate apartments, a ground floor restaurant, and retail space. 

A nearby one story building will be demolished and two new mixed use buildings will be constructed. The two new buildings will meet the current 35 foot height limit for that area and with some exceptions, reach higher.

The 100 foot, nine story building was built in 1965 as a bank before Olympia had a planning commission. It later served as an office building for the Washington State Department of Corrections and has been vacant since 2006.

The area proposed to be redeveloped is located between Fourth and Fifth Avenue, bounded by Sylvester Street and Simmons Street near the present day Heritage Park Fountain on what is called “the isthmus,” although it really isn't an isthmus. 

The narrow strip of land was created from fill in the early 1900s and is located in a flood zone between Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet.

The city owns two acres on the western part of the isthmus that the city purchased for a park and cleared of vacant buildings. 

The city issued a determination of non-significance for the proposed project and received approval from the city’s site plan review committee on November 29, 2017. 

In support of its case, city staff submitted a packet with 25 attachments to the city’s hearing examiner. After hearing the case and public comment, the hearing examiner will review the city’s findings and issue a determination on the land use approval permit at a later date.

While many are looking forward to the redevelopment project, many others have hoped and worked for years toward the buildings demolition to restore the scenic view north to Budd Inlet and the Olympic Mountains. 

The community has grown weary of the building’s blighted presence and past pie-in-the-sky proposals for redevelopment, but given strong feelings the community has about the building, hundreds of people could attend Tuesdays hearing. 

Above: The applicants drawing of the proposed redevelopment from a southwest viewpoint.

While the city works to develop a sea level rise plan, it continues to allow the development of several new projects, including the proposed Views on 5th, within an area that is expected to be inundated with water from sea level rise.

In recent history, several city council members who supported a massive proposed development called Larida Passage on the isthmus in 2009 were voted out of office, replaced by those who supported the vision of a park. 

“We could be stuck with this nine-story eyesore for another fifty years,” says Jerry Reilly of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, a non-profit that has been working to get the building demolished.

“The plan to place residences in a high hazard earthquake liquefaction zone is foolhardy. Moreover, it is extremely short sighted to build apartments in a flood plain that will be regularly inundated during the high tides that will come with sea level rise. The project will constrain and make more expensive future efforts of the city to protect downtown from sea level rise and to maintain the vital transportation link to the west side, a cost that will be borne by all Olympia taxpayers. Finally, the height of the building violates the historic view corridor established by the Olmsted Brothers and Wilder and White in the design of the State Capitol Campus,” says Reilly.

Reilly is disappointed that the city has not kept all its promises.

“In November 2015, Olympians passed, with a 60 percent vote, creation of the new Metropolitan Park District and taxing authority, in part, based upon belief that this would enable to city to buy and remove the existing building.”

City Determination of Non-Significance Appealed

Local attorney Allen Miller met a December 26 deadline to appeal the city’s determination of non-significance.

Miller, representing several former governors, former City of Olympia mayor Bob Jacobs, the National Association of Olmsted Parks, Friends of Seattle’s Olmstead Parks and others, states that the State Environmental Policy Act checklist ignores the architectural history of the Capitol Campus, blocks views from the Temple of Justice and is in the shoreline jurisdiction.

His says the building should be removed and replaced with a civic space due to community desire. His 161 page appeal details concerns related to sea level rise, liquefaction, and the need for transportation and utility corridors.

The Behind the Badge Foundation, also represented by Miller, asked the city to avoid making a decision that would change the landscape of the area. The Behind the Badge Foundation was involved in the creation of and maintains the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial on the Capitol Campus. The memorial faces a stunning view north toward Budd Inlet and Puget Sound.

Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks said replacement of the old tower with a new tower would perpetuate an existing visual obstruction to historic views from the Capitol Campus. 

The city responded to this concern in its application to the hearing examiner saying that the reuse of the tower is consistent with the nonconforming structure provisions in city code.

“Although not required by municipal code, the project includes efforts to reduce the visual impacts of the tower from the Capitol Campus. The applicant proposes to reduce the bulk of the rooftop mechanical equipment area and wrap the building in a glass curtain wall so that it will blend in with the surrounding colors of the sky and water,” says the city in its staff report to the hearing examiner.

Above: Looking south, a relatively tame storm surge from Budd Inlet to the north spilled over onto Sylvester Street in downtown Olympia in March 2016, reaching 4th Avenue and the Oyster House restaurant. The nine story Capitol Center Building and another vacant building, above, are also in the flood zone.

Addressing sea level rise concerns from Budd Inlet, the city says the project will be required to comply with the sea level rise requirements in current code. 
Regarding flooding associated with Capitol Lake, the project proposes to use dry flood proofing measures, which will be reviewed with the building permit application.

The traffic impact analysis anticipates that the project will generate 1,072 weekday daily trips. The weekday morning peak hour will experience an increase of 85 trips, and afternoon peak hour will experience an increase of 65 peak trips. This is intended to be offset by the addition of a turn lane on Simmons Avenue, says the city.

The city says the transportation impact analysis submitted by the applicant adequately addresses anticipated impacts to traffic and that the proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan’s growth strategy for downtown.

Staff refers to the city’s 2016 Parks, Arts & Recreation Plan that discusses the Heritage Park Fountain and isthmus parcels.

“While the plan acknowledges that there is some community support for continued land acquisition for park features on the isthmus, it does not establish policies to do so. Instead, it looks to outcomes of the Community Renewal Area process and Downtown Strategy to help determine the appropriate city involvement in revitalization of this site. The plan supports the redevelopment and continual removal of blight in the isthmus area.”

Above: The northwest view of the block from the sidewalk near Simmons Street, across from Bayview Market as seen on January 3, 2018.

Above: The applicant's drawing of the northwest view for the proposed Views on 5th project.

“In a perfect world, this parcel would become a public space and this horrendous building would be demolished. In lieu of that, I hope the City of Olympia will send this ill-advised proposal back to the drawing board. I am not against development at this site. However, development should be scaled to fit its setting, and this is simply not the place for a massive tower. It never was,” writes Sam Wotipka of Olympia, in his comment letter to the city.

One person who is excited about the redevelopment project is Kevin Stormans, president of Stormans, Inc. and owner of Bayview Thriftway, which is located kitty-corner to the site.

“We will be able to provide them with grocery services without having to get in their cars, helping to reduce their carbon footprint and impacts on traffic all around the city....While previous development proposals for the site have not been perfect, they would have been much preferred over the current situation, and the latest Views on Fifth proposal represents our best chance to revitalize the area and address nearly all of the legitimate concerns most members of the community have about developing this area, Stormans wrote the city on December 20, 2017. 

Little Hollywood last wrote about the project,Mistake on the Lake Redevelopment Plans Underway, on July 14, 2017 at

For more information and previous stories and photos by Little Hollywood since 2009 about the Mistake on the Lake, aka the Capitol Center Building, now Views on 5th, Larida Passage, Ken Brogan, Jerry Reilly, Behind the Badge Foundation, the isthmus, sea level rise issues, the Downtown Strategy, Community Renewal Area, flood elevation requirements, downtown flooding, king tides and storm surges, go to and type key words into the search engine.

For more information about the project from the City of Olympia, contact Nicole Floyd, senior planner, (360) 570-3768 or