Friday, October 18, 2013

Proposed Hilton on Henderson Concerns Neighbors

Above: At a community meeting last night, Wildwood Neighborhood Association members look over the proposed plans for a Hilton Garden Inn on Henderson Boulevard.

By Janine Unsoeld

Members of the Wildwood Neighborhood Association came out in force last night to learn more about a land use application recently submitted to the City of Olympia for a proposed Hilton Garden Inn. The public meeting held at city hall allowed citizens to ask questions of city staff and representatives for the hotel applicant, Capitol Hospitality, LLC.

The construction of the 122-unit hotel on Henderson Boulevard near Watershed Park is proposed to be five stories and is expected to provide 115 parking spaces and employ 25 people.
Janae Huber, president of the Wildwood Neighborhood Association, submitted a three page letter to the city citing numerous concerns about the project. The association of 200 households borders I-5, Capitol Boulevard going toward Tumwater, Moss Lake, Trillium Park, and Watershed Park.

Various property owners have come and gone over the past few years for this parcel, and development proposals have included office buildings, restaurants, multi-family dwellings, and a hotel, the latter of which resulted in the clearing of the property and the building of a roundabout on Henderson Boulevard. The clearing of the property has caused the neighborhood additional noise pollution from I-5.

Neighbors asked questions regarding construction and operations noise, traffic impacts, stormwater plans and environmental impacts to nearby trails, Watershed Park, Moxlie Creek, and Moss Lake, signage and light pollution, building design and color schemes, and more.
Leonard Smith of PacWest Engineering represented the applicant, who was unable to attend the meeting. Smith said that he was pleased to have this level of interest in the property.
"We want to hear your ideas, comments and concerns and we will give them serious consideration - we're here to listen," he said. Regarding the current noise pollution, he said that the hotel, when completed, will in fact act as a noise buffer. Neighbors were polite but weren't quite buying it.

Above: The view of Olympia as seen from the bridge over Capitol Way of I-5, heading north near Exit 105. The Eastside water tower can be seen in the distance. The trees on the right border the Wildwood neighborhood and are in the area of the proposed Hilton Garden Inn. Neighbors are concerned about the hotel's height, signage, visibility and impact on neighborhood homes.
Another citizen asked about the noise from refrigeration trucks that need to run all night in the parking lot. Hotel representatives said they don't see that being a problem.
Don Johnson of DJ Architecture said that the facility will be a business-class, high-end facility that is typical of other Hilton Garden Inns around the country and will include a pool, restaurant, a small bar and lounge, and fitness facility for its guests.
The Hilton Garden Inn website lists six other Garden Inns that have recently opened, and 14 more are listed as upcoming, located throughout the United States, Turkey, the Russian Federation, China, and India. It also says, "All Hilton Garden Inn locations strive to be involved in our local communities."
Asked by another citizen why Olympia needs another hotel, representatives referred to the city's zoning and wishes of the city council to allow growth in this area.

Johnson said that it has been determined that there is a shortage of rooms in this area and added his opinion that "the hotels here are old and rundown, not the kind that people want to stay in." 
While Johnson said many of the building features are dictated by the franchise, he does have some flexibility when it comes to exterior colors. The colors on display at this meeting included "Super White," "Spectrum Brown," and "Whisper."

Geoff Glass, a representative of the Woodland Trail Greenway Association, expressed his concern that this area is the epicenter of the city's proposed trail network, and that it sounds like the hotel representatives have "lost the spirit of the benefit" of being able to develop in this area.

"Maybe you don't understand the benefit the trail has to Hilton - think about the connections - it's an amazing amenity for this building. Your collaboration with the city would be appreciated," said Glass.

In about three weeks, a city site plan review committee will review the project and make comments. City of Olympia senior planner Cari Hornbein said that after that review, staff will most likely have further questions of the applicant. She tasked herself, based on the comments heard, to continue researching the project's impact on parks and trails.
She also said the project must also be reviewed by the Olympia's Design Review Board, which is currently scheduled for November 14.

The city invites comments and participation in the review of the project. Comments and inquiries regarding the proposal, File Number 13-0089, can be directed to Cari Hornbein, City of Olympia Community Planning and Development, 601 4th Avenue E., PO Box 1967 Olympia, WA 98501, or go to the city's website at for more information.

Above: The roundabout on Henderson Boulevard and a partial road and sidewalk indicate previous efforts to develop this property near I-5 and Watershed Park.

A letter submitted to the city from the Wildwood Neighborhood Association says, in part, "Critical nearby watersheds are little or not acknowledged in application materials. The neighborhood would like to see analysis of watershed impacts and significantly greater attention to water treatment and runoff during construction and operations" noting that Moss Lake is both a surface watershed and comprises significant area groundwater, and Moxlie Creek is a salmon-bearing creek.