Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Former South Pacific Restaurant Finds New Owners

Tumwater Restaurant Will Become a Filipino-American Eatery
Above: The former South Pacific restaurant on the corner of Custer Way and Capitol Boulevard will become Florante's Restaurant and Sports Bar.
By Janine Unsoeld

The Tumwater Brewery District will be seeing new life with the recent purchase of the former South Pacific Restaurant at 3507 Capitol Boulevard.
New building owners Norma and Florante Allarde will soon bring good food to the corner of Custer Way and Capitol Boulevard near the closed brewery. They are renovating the dilapidated space into a new Filipino-American eatery.  
The name of the new restaurant is Florante's Restaurant and Sports Bar.

Norma Allarde says the restaurant will feature traditional Filipino foods and some American foods. A few common Filipino dishes include Adobo, Pancit, Lumpia, Sinigang, Kare-Kare, Kaldereta, Menudo, and Asado.
“Our goal is to open by Spring 2015,” said Allarde in a telephone interview today. “We’re working with the city, the health department – everyone’s so excited.”

Above: Demolition by J&D Contracting, LLC has already begun inside the building.

The Allarde’s bought the restaurant, built in 1964, on December 16 for $300,000 from Ng Ping. The restaurant has two floors - the first floor is just over 4,500 square feet, and the top floor is a 528 square foot loft.

According to Thurston County property records, the market value of the restaurant has fluctuated: currently it has a market value of $504,200.  In 2011-21012, it peaked at $843,850.
Allarde admitted that it will be a lot of work to bring the restaurant up to date.

“It needs a lot of TLC - the whole building is not up to code – everything’s been grandfathered in for the last 30 years and held together with Band-Aids with no permits, so we’re going to take it to the basics and renovate it. We’re in no rush – we’re going to do it right.”
The Allarde’s have many years of experience of ‘doing it right.’ The Allarde’s own and operate three local adult family homes, Norflor Manor, two in Olympia, and one in Lacey.
Norma's husband, Florante, is a certified dietary manager, and currently cooks for the family homes. Coming to the United States in 1992, Florante learned to cook, and until recently, cooked for Panorama in Lacey.
“After opening the first one in 2004, I asked Florante to resign from his position as dietary manager at Panorama to help me run the home. We've worked together ever since, side by side for almost 10 years now.  He has supported me in my dream to have one adult family home and now it's turned into three homes. It's my turn to give him support in following his dream of becoming a restaurant owner,” Norma says.
A nurse for 24 years with an eight year military background, Norma Allarde says she and her husband met at Panorama when they both worked there.  Norma is proud of what she and her husband have accomplished so far.

"We're not political people. We work hard, live a quiet life and thank God for everything we have….Florante’s dream has always been to open a restaurant,” said Norma. “He’s just been looking for the right place. The South Pacific (location) felt right to him….I fully support him, just as he’s supported me in my business decisions all these years. It’ll be a lot of work, but he’s going into it with his eyes wide open. He’s excited – so very excited!”

“Our hope is to provide people with good affordable food in a place that provides good hospitality and makes people feel at home...just like back home in the Philippines.”

Above: Capitol Boulevard is a gateway from Tumwater to Olympia. Picture is taken from the corner of the restaurant's parking lot.

The Brewery District Planning Project
The Brewery District, located near the Deschutes River, includes the former Olympia Brewery and the triangle of roads formed by Custer Way, Cleveland Avenue, and Capitol Boulevard. The district extends north to the Sunset Life property and south to "E" Street.

Planning for the area is a priority of the City of Tumwater Strategic Plan. The former South Pacific Restaurant is located at the crossroads of this major gateway between Tumwater, Olympia, and I-5.
The Brewery District Planning Project involves the city of Tumwater, the Thurston Regional Planning Council, and public input to develop a vision and transformation of the area around the former brewery. Three community meetings held in 2013 have helped to gather input on how the area would be revitalized around the brewery, which closed in 2003.

In 2014, efforts will move toward plan adoption, along with more open houses and public hearings involving code and zoning amendments.

Upcoming Brewery District Events:
January 15, 2014, at 5:30 p.m.: Focus Group Meeting #8 (Fire Station on Israel Road)

January 28, 2014, at 5:30 p.m.: Joint Planning Council/City Council briefing on Brewery District Plan (Fire Station)
February 18, 2014, at 7 p.m.: Joint Planning/City Council hearing on Brewery District Plan (Open House at 5:30 p.m.)

For more information about the Brewery District, go to the Thurston Regional Planning Council, www.tcrp.org or contact Tim Smith, Planning Manager for the City of Tumwater, tsmith@ci.tumwater.wa.us, (360) 754-4212.
Above: The triangle of roads of Cleveland Avenue, Custer Way, and Capitol Boulevard as seen from the parking lot of Baskin and Robbins ice cream shop in Tumwater. The former brewery is in the distance, behind Florante's Restaurant and Sports Bar.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Swearing In Day For Thurston County Area Officials

Above: Olympia city councilmember-elect Cheryl Selby addresses the crowd today at Thurston County's Swearing In Ceremony.

by Janine Unsoeld

Newly elected Thurston County area city, county, school and fire district officials were officially sworn in this afternoon at a ceremony held in the Minnaert Arts Center at South Puget Sound Community College. Seventy-six candidates were elected or re-elected, but not all participated in the event. 
Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall, who won her own election against Gary Alexander in November, administered the oaths of office and presented certificates of election.
Keynote speaker State Senator Karen Fraser said today was a celebration of democracy, and remarked that the candidates have transitioned through the campaign "ring of fire." 
"In two days, you can start complaining to them at the stroke of midnight," she joked.
Olympia city councilmember-elect Cheryl Selby, who won her election over Darren Mills, said she will be a voice for small business, and will help create Olympia into a city for the arts. She said she and her business in downtown Olympia just survived their eighth holiday season.
"You can be a business and care about people....the more successful my business is, the more I can share with my community." 
"I'm like a dog with a new bone!" said Thurston County Democratic party chair Roger Erskine before the ceremony. Erskine has kept track of what issues the candidates ran on, and what they said they wanted to achieve during their term if elected. 
"We endorsed a lot of these folks, and the party has some responsibility to help with this part too," said Erskine.
Erskine is pleased that the party has a majority on Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater city councils, and the county commission. "Now it's time to work hard, and create some kind of vision....This is an outstanding county, but there's always room for improvement."
Cynthia Pratt, newly re-elected Lacey city councilmember, was asked before the ceremony what she was most eager to work on in 2014.
"The Woodland Business District," she said without hesitation. "I'm excited about that - this is the year to do it. A lot of people are behind us - it's time. Everybody's talking about it."
United States Congressman Denny Heck provided the ceremony's closing remarks, giving sage advice to the newly elected officials: "Never stop looking for common ground and always be civil - you have so little control over all the rest."
Above: "No Port Support of Fracking" - Using a convenient building as a billboard earlier this month, local activists make known their opinions about current port operations.
Spotlight on the Port of Olympia
Sue Gunn, incoming Port of Olympia Commissioner, was one of those newly elected sworn in today. Gunn ousted Port Commissioner Jeff Davis in a final November election margin of 51.95% to 48.05%.  
Gunn's first port commission meeting will be Monday, January 13, 2014, 5:30 p.m., Tumwater Town Center, 7241 Cleanwater Drive SW, Tumwater.
Kathleen White, port communications and public affairs manager, was recently asked a few frequently asked questions about current port operations as it heads into 2014.  
The Port’s 2014 Annual Operating Budget & Capital Investment Plan is now on the Port website at: http://www.portolympia.com/DocumentCenter/View/1235.
Little Hollywood: What is the status of Warehouse B? I read people's comments against it during the SEPA process. Did it pass? If so, when will it be built? It seems that I did read it would be used for more than just the storage of proppants, correct?
Kathleen White: The Commission has not yet approved a contract to construct Warehouse B. The money was in the 2013 budget, it was partially funded by the bond issue, and the Port is in the process of obtaining permits. Once permitting is completed, it will go before the Commission for construction approval. The warehouse could be used to store any number of items. (Note: This project is a carryover from 2013 so it is not in the 2014 budget.)    
LH: Who does the Port have a contract with to receive proppant shipments and for how long? How many are expected in 2014?
KW: The Port's customer is Rainbow Ceramics. In 2013, these shipments drove the Marine Terminal's 56% increase in operating revenues and the doubling of Longshore hours over 2012. The Port handled 11 proppant vessels in 2013 and expects to match or exceed that number in 2014.
LH: Regarding port minutes, it would appear that the last ones posted are September 23, 2013. I'm not finding any since then.
KW: The Port contracts with a company to take minutes of the Commission meetings. Once the minutes are received, they go before the Commission for approval. Following approval, they are posted on the website. The minutes of October 28th were approved by the Commission on December 10th and were posted on the website today [December 20]. The October 14th meeting was cancelled due to Veterans Day. The minutes of November and December are expected to go before the Commission for approval on January 13th.   
LH: Is the next port meeting January 13th?
KW: Yes, the next Commission meeting is January 13th. The Commission cancelled the meeting that would have occurred on December 23rd due to its proximity to the Christmas holiday.
Earlier this month, Gunn was asked about her upcoming position on a numerous of port related issues, but declined to comment on specifics.

"The job starts on the first.  I figure it will take me six months to a year to figure out what's going on there and it will be a steep learning curve.  Remember I am one vote out of three votes.  I have no comment at this time on anything....I plan on moving slowly...as I undertake the job." 
Port Commissioner Bill McGregor ran unopposed and was re-elected to Position 2; Port Commissioner George Barner, in Position #1, was not up for election this year.
Gunn also said that as of January 1st all communications related to the port needs to go to her port address:  sueg@portolympia.com.  She also said that at some point she will also receive a port-business related cellphone.
Above: Port Commissioners-elect Sun Gunn, left, and Bill McGregor get their instructions from Sandy Baxter, Thurston County Auditor's Office voter outreach coordinator, before the swearing-in ceremony today.
For more information about the Port of Olympia, go to www.portolympia.com and read other articles published at Little Hollywood at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com.
The Port’s 2014 Annual Operating Budget & Capital Investment Plan is now on the Port website:at  http://www.portolympia.com/DocumentCenter/View/1235. Printed copies will be available at Commission meetings beginning January 13th. Copies of the budget document will also be available beginning January 13th at the port's administrative offices, 915 Washington Street NE, Olympia 98501.
Regular Port Commission meetings are on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at 5:30 p.m. in Tumwater Town Center, 7241 Cleanwater Drive SW, Tumwater, WA 98501.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quixote Village: Home for the Holidays

Above: Quixote Village residents Theresa Bitner, left, and Kenny Wyllys are finally home for the holidays.

by Janine Unsoeld

Nearly 30 people are finally home for the holidays this Christmas in Thurston County's new Quixote Village for residents who were previously homeless.

While some volunteers and camp residents sorted blankets, towels, and other linens, others prepared a holiday dinner in the nearly complete community building. Some organized their new little homes and relaxed in front of a decorated Christmas tree.

"We're moving in before it's finished - it'll be a couple more weeks before construction crews are truly done," said Jill Severn today as she worked in the kitchen. "We have a lot landscaping to do," and, pointing to the concrete floor of the community center, "a cork floor will soon be installed, and it will be quieter."

Severn said 27 people are currently moved in when Little Hollywood visited Quixote Village late this afternoon.

"By the end of the day, we'll have 29, and one more will move in when they get out of treatment, for a full capacity of 30," said Severn, a board member of Panza, a nonprofit that has overseen the project to build the permanent village for the homeless from beginning to completion.

Village resident Kenny Wyllys, sitting near the community center's Christmas tree, was asked what he liked best about the village. A Camp Quixote resident for seven years, Wyllys replied, "It's warm....it's warm," then he laughed.

Theresa Bitner, who just turned 24 a few days ago, was also sitting in front of the tree, working on her laptop. A resident of Camp Quixote since July, Bitner has been homeless off and on. Her father, who sat nearby, also lives in the camp. Bitner was interested in telling her story:

Born in Seattle, she has lived throughout Puget Sound. Her circumstances leading to homelessness are very ordinary, and all too typical for many youth.

"I had a job and was living with other people off the bus line. My rent was $200 and I was paying friends and people to take me to work, but that was expensive and I had to pay for other things. So then I moved, but my boss wouldn't work with the bus schedule...."

She got into Camp Quixote in July by attending a Sunday night meeting, filling out an application, and after a background check, got voted in by the camp council.

"Not everybody gets voted in...." she explained. 

Asked what her plans are now that she has a home, Bitner was very specific. 

"It's so much better now that I have a place to take a shower and do my laundry. I want to apply to college. I want to be a story board illustrator. I want to get a job and save $3,000, and I want to get a car. Then, when I've saved some money, I'll put my name on a waiting list to get into rapid rehousing."

Asked why she wants to save $3,000, she said, "Oh, it's just a goal, because then I know I can get to $5,000....People can be homeless and save up for things....."

Asked if she has any job interests or education, she said, "Oh yes, I have four and a half years of commercial graphic design and two years of DigiPen media communications."

Asked what that means, she said it means she enjoys computer film editing and audio, and sketching in pen and ink, and colored markers. She showed me some of her art on her computer, saying, "I can replicate art from Alphonse Mucha to Garfield." 

Bitner welcomes inquiries about her art and qualifications at trishagoodnight101@gmail.com.

Bitner's enthusiasm for her art is matched by her love of animals, especially her cat, Loki. Currently separated from Loki while she settles in, Bitner's little black cat will join her in the Village next Friday. She admits she has some anxiety as she gets settled in, and misses Loki, who is a therapy animal for her.

"I've had Loki for six years...his name is Norse for 'God of Mischief' he and lives up to his name...." she laughed.

She offered to show me her place but smiled and added, "It's kind of messy right now."

Asked if there was anything she needed, she said, "Well, we need brooms, cleaning supplies, garbage bags - things people take for granted."

Asked again if there was anything she personally needed, she said, "I would love cat litter, cat food, and supplies."

Above: Linda Austin in front of her new home at Quixote Village on Mottman Road.

A resident of Camp Quixote for a year, Linda Austin offered to show me her place. Austin, from West Virginia, moved to Washington State two years ago. Austin is very appreciative of everything Camp Quixote and the staff have offered.

"I received my first Christmas stocking last Christmas, for the first time in my life," said Austin. "I never had a Christmas stocking before." She said her father worked in the coal mines, and with four other children in the family, she didn't get much.

"When I came to the camp, I was a stranger, and sick. They didn't give up on me - they treated me like somebody when I felt like I was a nobody....Miriam and Jill gave me my first bicycle too! And they took me to the ocean. I had never seen the ocean before," said Austin, with a soft Southern drawl and an easy laugh. Miriam Lorch and Jill Severn are volunteer Panza board members.

Austin is thrilled with her new home, showing me her bathroom, curtains, TV, and assorted linens still in packages.

Above: Linda Austin shows off a picture she bought at Harry's Market in Lacey with her first paycheck when she was working. She looks forward to hanging it in her new home.

"The cost of living in Washington is unreal, but the jobs in West Virginia aren't plentiful....I'm grateful to the Union Gospel Mission, and everyone. I've been blessed....We're like family here...there's so many nice women here. I was scared when I first came into the camp, but now I'm not....the men are really respectful to women...."

She says she enjoys working with animals and used to work at the Humane Society in West Virginia. "I'd like to work in animal rescue," she says. 

It started getting dark as Linda and I walked along the newly poured sidewalks leading back to the community building.

By the time we got there, all the porch lights were turned on.

Above: Linda's neighbor waves hello.

For more information about homelessness issues, Camp Quixote, and Quixote Village, including pictures from the groundbreaking ceremony on June 8, go to previous Little Hollywood stories at www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and type in key words into the search engine.

Donations of frozen meat, fish, vegetables, and all the kind of supplies one usually has in a home are appreciated. Contact Jill Severn at (360) 753-2095 to schedule your delivery to the Village. For a full list of appreciated items and more information about Panza, go to www.quixotevillage.com.

Panza is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that grew out of the faith communities that have hosted and supported Camp Quixote. Panza is working to help build Quixote Village, and organizes community volunteers, raises funds, acts as a liaison with city and county governments, and helps the Camp Resident Council develop leadership and self-government skills. Panza has grown to include a variety of professional and community leaders as well as clergy and lay representatives.

Above: Landscaping, fruit trees, vegetable gardens and so much more will be planted in Quixote Village.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mary Randlett: Living Life Fully Focused

Above: Mary Randlett, left, and friend Ruth Kirk, view Randlett's photography yesterday. Kirk lives in Lacey and is the author of 34 books covering the natural history of the West. She was recently featured in a September 13 article in High Country News.

Randlett Art Exhibit December 15, 2013 - January 5, 2014 in Olympia
By Janine Unsoeld

Prolific, renowned Northwest photographer Mary Randlett, 89, enjoyed a celebration of life and work with an intimate, public showing of her black and white nature prints at Salon Refu, a downtown Olympia gallery at 114 North Capitol Way.

Much has been written about Randlett’s life growing up on Bainbridge Island and her life spent capturing Northwest images in black and white of nature, architecture, artists, painters, and public art. She grew up meeting these artists who taught her how to look at landscapes.

Her 42 page resumé lists images of more than 500 writers and artists. She has enjoyed a long relationship with several national museums and the University of Washington Press, which published her 2007 book, "Mary Randlett Landscapes." 
The afternoon reception was a reunion of sorts for many, with several local artists, writers and photographers honoring Randlett with deeply personal thoughts of how she has influenced their work.

An Olympia resident, Randlett greeted admirers and friends for several hours non-stop with smiles, humor, and hugs.

It was all a touching tribute to Randlett, and an opportunity to hear, first-hand, the passion local artists feel not only about her work, but how her very friendship inspires them in their own artistic endeavors.
Above: Mary Randlett greets friends at Salon Refu. 

Personal Tributes
Jeffree Stewart, an Olympia painter and artist who works with different mediums on Gull Harbor, poetically embodied his 20 year friendship with Randlett in his description of her work and life, offered in written form yesterday:
“Mary Randlett’s photographs speak well for themselves. They’re quiet, like mist, revealing light that moves over waters dark as ink. What she looks for in the landscape resonates with shared expressions of poets and painters – dear friends, in the deepest of mysteries.

Mary’s spontaneous attentions all over Salish Sea country and the Inland Empire have been ceaseless across several decades. For her skilled and careful darkroom practice have emerged glimpses of the essential atmospheres of the Northwest. This work proceeded steadily, a labor of love.
One hesitates to call Mary Randlett a “hidden gem…” because her portraits and architecture photographs are widely published, and are included in many significant collections. Yet her work seeing and showing the northwest landscape remains to be more broadly appreciated.
Vicissitudes of recognition aside, the work is built to last, though distinctly different. I’ll compare Mary’s work to that of Ansel Adams – specifically because both photographers demonstrate a deeply affectionate vision of the American West. And each engaged consummate technical skill, both with camera and in darkroom.
Where Adams’ best-known works are vast, epic, and romantic apprehensions of landscape, Randlett’s are intense, intimate, alive with moisture, and exquisitely abstract. Their presence in a room is enduringly enlivening."

Llyn De Danaan, anthropologist, retired faculty member of The Evergreen State College and author of the newly released book, “Katie Gale – A Coast Salish Woman’s Life on Oyster Bay,” is also a friend of Randlett’s. In her remarks introducing Randlett, De Danaan shared a few examples of Randlett’s educated, keen mind.

“She sent me articles about the great “Bretz’s” flood, a phenomenon that interested her and one she thought would interest me. We talked about Ruth Kirk and Richard Daugherty….She sent and still sends me poetry: “The Imaginary Iceberg” by Elizabeth Bishop….[and] “Year of Meteors” by Walt Whitman….She sent notes of encouragement for my own work…I learned about other photographers like Cunningham and Gilpin….”

Describing how Randlett is still on the road several times a week and seldom without her camera, De Danaan says Randlett still informs her of poetry, pictures, and articles she thinks she should know about. In turn, Randlett addressed the standing-room-only group and told a few stories.

Randlett's Thoughts on Her Work, Life

“My work has worked together, and I started when there were so few people and I think that makes a difference. My mother knew the artists, and I lived near Morris Graves in Woodway Park and each artist gave me an eye to see beyond what I was seeing, and I think it works both ways….Ruth Kirk, who has written many books, has given me an eye to see mountains, La Push, and all those great places. All my friends have given me gifts for seeing or living, and it makes a big difference....

“Nature is what I love the most – that I was very fortunate to have grown up on Bainbridge Island and spend summers on Orcas Island….I’ve been very fortunate that my background has enriched my work. I’m always shocked how much work I have done because I raised four kids! So, I’ve had a very rich and wonderful life I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.”
About her pictures, Randlett said she has taken color, but never learned how to process it. “Black and white is so subtle. If you look at these pictures, some things are hidden, and misty….”

Describing her college years at Whitman College in eastern Washington, she described riding her bicycle. “...We only had bicycles during the war. I think there was only one car at Whitman – we used to ride out in the boonies, in the backroads and hills, and it was a whole, totally different experience, but I had a lot of fun in college. I was always interested in many things....”
Later, after the crowd calmed a bit, Randlett’s son, Peter, took his mother outside the gallery for a picture. Peter Randlette, an electronic media faculty member at The Evergreen State College, was asked about his mother.

“The whole idea that she has worked her own personal force and focus for so long - it’s outstanding. She did so much of her documentation on her own – and most of the output has been because she loves people.”
About five years ago, he said, the Randlett family gave the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library 350,000 negatives of her work, but kept the artist’s nature and abstract collections for themselves.

Keith Geller and his partner Richard Irving of Seattle found out about the show and came down to Olympia. Geller and Irving bought an untitled photo from 1967 featuring a barn and a boat. They asked Randlett about the picture, and she said it was taken in the Georgia Straits. She said she took it as she watched the boat move into position and come to a rest, right next to the old barn.
Incredibly, Geller said he and Irving independently went around the room and each chose the same picture as the one they wished to buy.

“We do that a lot,” Geller said happily.

Susie Ann Engelstad, owner of ArtHouse Designs in downtown Olympia for 13 years, also stopped by to see Randlett.  Engelstad, a printmaker and metalsmith, says many of her customers have Randlett’s works in their collections, and that she was pleased to have recently repaired a couple of works for Randlett.
Above: Susan Christian prepares for the show earlier this week outside her studio on Capitol Way. 

Salon Refu
Christian, an artist, and the owner of Salon Refu, took time to discuss her space before the show. Many friends helped Christian put the show together, including De Danaan and Stewart.

Christian took over the 800 square foot space a couple years ago, after it was vacated by long-time tenant Nancy Sigafoos and Dice T-Shirts. She remodeled it, and envisions the space to serve as a small scale gallery with room to create her own art.

Asked about the name of her gallery, she laughed and said it was an accident. Originally, she named it after the Salon des Refuses, French for “exhibition of rejects.”
In the early to mid 1800s, when works were rejected by the jury of the official Paris Salon, small scale exhibits were created in order to be recognized by the public. Thinking of renaming her gallery, she used a razor blade to scrape off most of the name, but left it at Salon Refu and decided she liked the name.

“My real commitment will be to keep showing people’s work that I admire and keep on painting here,” she said.
No doubt, the community will appreciate the opportunity to see Mary Randlett’s work and learn more about her incredible life.

Mary Randlett’s nature photography will be on display until January 5, 2014 at Salon Refu, 114 North Capitol Way, Olympia. Gallery hours are Thursday – Sunday, 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. and by appointment. Her works, some dating back to the 1960s, are also for sale.
Randlett’s biography is available at www.historylink.org
Above: Mary Randlett and Susan Christian pose for Randlett's son, Peter, not shown, outside Salon Refu.

Friday, December 13, 2013

WSECU Proposes Garage Art Wall Installation

Above: The Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU) parking garage as seen from the parking lot of its former credit union site on Union Street. The proposed art would be placed on the southeast corner of the building, seen here on the far right.

By Janine Unsoeld

A subcommittee of the City of Olympia’s Design Review Board heard a proposal on Thursday night by Washington State Employee Credit Union (WSECU) staff to create an “art wall” on the southeast corner of WSECU’s parking garage at 410 10th Avenue SE in downtown Olympia.

WSECU has also submitted a building permit application to the city to replace the tempered glass panels with laminated glass panels. Like the previous panels, the glass will be angled to reflect light in different ways.
While the application does not require design review, the board expressed interest and welcomed the presentation. City of Olympia planner Catherine McCoy explained the project to Design Review subcommittee members Darrell Hoppe, David Goularte, and Joseph LaValle.
Mike Sanders, Vice President of Facilities for WSECU and John Thomas of NBBJ, a Seattle architectural firm, gave presentations.
The intent of the art wall is to display “relevant, local, and community-inspired art” in a variety of formats including three-dimensional artwork. Some artwork could look similar to the images wrapped around transit buses, for example, using opaque, weather resistant material.
Artwork would be mounted to perforated, stainless steel panels with a bolted connection allowing a wide range of flexibility for assorted materials and mounting configurations. It is anticipated that some three-dimensional artwork such as lightweight objects or ceramic tile panels could be used in addition to two-dimensional artwork. Lighting will be provided for nighttime illumination.
The applicant says that no advertisement or signage of any kind is anticipated or intended for the garage.
Building History and Recent Flaws
As project manager for WSECU’s corporate buildings, Sanders said WSECU tried to design a building that was more than a parking garage, and feels the glass panels add that design component, blending into the community.

Located across the street from the Olympia post office on 10th and Jefferson, the block was rezoned in 2006 from urban residential to downtown business to build the $18 million six-story garage. Nearby neighbors were not thrilled with the project at the time, as it appears out of scale with downtown residential housing in the area. The city's Planning Commission at the time made no recommendation to the city council on the project due to a split vote.

A selling point WSECU used at the time of the proposed rezone of the block was that they would consider the garage to be available for neighborhood residents and community use, however, this has yet to occur. Built in 2009, the private, gated garage contains 469 stalls.

The City of Olympia arts, parks and recreation is not involved in the application, and there is no city or state mandate for WSECU to do this project, says Stephanie Johnson, the city’s program manager for the department. In order to learn more about best practices of public art processes, however, Sanders sought Johnson’s professional opinion about the project and various artistic options of what could be done with the space.

Explosion of Glass
Tempered glass panels originally surrounded the brick building to better obscure the sight of vehicles in the garage. Those panels were recently entirely removed when it was discovered that they were secured to the building with faulty components. 

On August 17, one of the glass panels spontaneously exploded, said Sanders.
“After an investigation, it was determined that there were impurities in the glass making process….There are various opinions about what causes glass to explode….The tempered glass was under great tension….and when I say exploded, I mean it exploded with such force that there was glass found above it, outside, and rained glass onto the sidewalk.” There were no injuries.

In an effort to determine existing conditions of the glass before its removal, a 3D laser scan of the building was made. Recently, the public saw huge swaths of blue X’s marking each panel which was needed for that effort. Scaffolding was then put into place and the glass panels were removed.
Above: A sample image from a page of the Washington State Employee Credit Union's application to the City of Olympia for garage art wall installation. 
Building Art Proposal
Sanders admitted the garage is pretty ugly right now, so WSECU staff wondered what they could do to “fix the building.” He says WSECU tries to be community-minded, so, staff discussed art projects, such as photography and sculptures.

While many details are in the conceptual stage, a metal, perforated mesh, ¼ inch thick, will cover a space 13 ½ ft. wide x 39 ft. on 10th Avenue, and 23 ft. x 39 ft. on the Jefferson Street side. It will be designed to look attractive whether art is placed on it or not.
Sanders said that while WSECU does not yet have an art program in place, they have experience with the annual calendar featuring photography from around the state. He anticipates staff will use the same kind of deliberation in art for the garage as it does for the calendar, and will voluntarily stay away from controversial pieces. They anticipate changing the art once a quarter or a couple times a year.

City staff and Design Review subcommittee board members asked questions about illumination, weight, wind, earthquake, and pedestrian right of way issues. They also expressed full confidence that WSECU will not violate Olympia’s municipal code regarding signage.

"Subtle illumination will be used to define the artwork but not make it look like a billboard," said Sanders. He said they will use low profile, LED lighting that will blend into the building.
Also, credit to chosen artists will not be displayed or printed on the actual art, but be placed on a small kiosk nearby, under the art, similar to art sculptures currently on display around the city, and through their publication and website. 

Board members asked to see the final ideas when WSECU was ready with more information. Sanders said he hopes to have the metal mesh and glass installed by March or April of 2014.

In a letter received today in response to an inquiry from this reporter, Sharon Whitehead, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer says, in part, "You are certainly right in that art is subjective and yes, we realize that there may be some level of risk inherent in placing visuals on the building for others to view and evaluate. We also believe it can be a great gift to the community to increase the visual appeal of the neighborhood."

According to its website, WSECU is a non-profit, community credit union open to everyone, not just state employees. It was founded by a small group of Washington State employees in 1957. WSECU is overseen by nine volunteer board of directors. To contact the board of directors, write: boardofdirectors@wsecu.org or by mail: Board of Directors, PO BOX WSECU, Olympia, WA 98507.
For more information about the proposal and to see sample designs, go to:http://olympiawa.gov/city-government/advisory-committees/design-review-board/2012%20Design%20Review%20Board%20Agendas or contact Catherine McCoy, lead planner, City of Olympia, (360) 570-3776 or cmccoy@ci.olympia.wa.us and refer to WSECU Art Installation Case Number: 13-3544.
Above: The southeast corner of WSECU's parking garage is on the left, as seen from the Olympia United States Post Office on Jefferson Street.