Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tanasse Ends Olympia Mixed Use Project

Above: Citing cash constraints, John and Tiffany Tanasse have ended their effort to build their mixed use building on State Street near downtown Olympia. 

By Janine Unsoeld

After years of planning and personal sacrifice, John and Tiffany Tanasse have ended their effort to build their mixed use building near downtown Olympia. 

Citing financial constraints, local chiropractor John Tanasse warns others in a similar situation to be prepared to bring a whole lot of cash to the table.

The project involved designers, architects, construction companies, city planning officials, and banking representatives. The Tanasse’s also surmounted the objections of the nearby historic Bigelow neighborhood association last October by prevailing in a hearing examiner case, which allowed the couple to build their modern design, urban living combination of home and business.

Bigelow neighborhood residents were upset with the building’s proposed design on the long vacant lot at 924 State Avenue, saying it was not in keeping with standards or the historic nature of the area.

State Street, however, is not part of the historic Bigelow neighborhood boundary. It is considered to be a high density corridor by both the City of Olympia and the Thurston Regional Planning Council.

On Saturday, the couple issued an open letter, reprinted below:

Hello Friends, Neighbors, and Community Members,

We are writing to let others know that we have decided not to build the Tanasse Mixed Use Building at 924 State Ave. 

We arrived at this decision with great difficulty given all of the challenges that we had previously overcome and all of the community support we have received. Ultimately, we embarked on this journey to simplify our lives and make a difference along the way. We have come to a point where the cost of the project makes simplifying very complex. Unfortunately, with all of the delays, we entered the perfect storm of a hot commercial construction market that has moved our project beyond our comfort zone, which was a moderate stretch from the outset.

We apologize that we were unable to finish what we started but hope we have sparked and added to the ongoing interest and conversation regarding a new way forward in Olympia.

We want to personally thank Gretchen Van Dusen, for her friendship and splendid design, Mike Swarthout of Kaufman Construction for his professionalism, Garner Miller of MSGS architects, Paul Strawn of Riley Jackson Real Estate, Catherine McCoy and entire team at the City of Olympia, Karen Messmer for her tireless quest to make Olympia a livable city for all, Duane Edwards, landscape architect, Kevin Ekar of Heritage Bank, Chuck Hoeschen of South Sound Bank, Nick Benzschawel of Washington Business Bank, and for all community members, for and against, who engaged in vigorous debate over this and city direction.

The road ahead has a positive plan B that will allow us to continue to thrive and provide excellent expanded chiropractic services in a new location, as we have long since outgrown our current location.

Thank you for understanding.

John and Tiffany Tanasse

In an interview with Little Hollywood, John Tanasse described the frustrating experience and their final breaking point.

“Of course, we started the process with many conversations with our bank to explore our readiness as a business and as a borrower. We got the go ahead and commenced on a long journey of check boxes, some easy, and others quite difficult.

“Part of the puzzle included selling our personal residence, then selling a condo we had acquired for our parents, and then, finally, the sale of our office. And while the appeal delayed us a building season, to be fair, so did the sale of our office that did not sell until this past June.

“Meanwhile the building clock was ticking with the final details of the project and financial package coming together as expected, except for a moving budget target related to an increasingly tight commercial building market that saw enormous increases in materials and labor costs regionally.

“This squeezed us into a corner for a commitment that was ultimately beyond our break point. We were positioned to handle the increase, but it changed all available financing formulas for an odd ball building in terms of finding comparison sales to reasonably meet appraisal value, as no matches existed from here to Seattle.

“In other words, our building, having both owner occupied residential and business, failed to conform to the typical loan products available, leaving us in a position of needing to cash roll a much larger portion than we were prepared or willing to, compared to when we started….”

Tanasse said it was this need for cash that ultimately led them to reluctantly shut the project down. A bulldozer has been seen in recent weeks leveling the site, work which was dependent upon the dry season.

“….We were unable to see this coming. This should serve as a heads up to others interested in this…and for the city that has to incorporate more mixed use projects as a part of its comprehensive plan….There are severely limited bank products available to assist with this type of project,” said Tanasse.

Former Olympia city councilmember Karen Messmer, who stays active with city land use issues, is mentioned as a supporter in Tanasse’s letter.

“This project had the right elements for new development - housing above a business, on a transit corridor, close to downtown.  And, this is a well-respected locally owned business and a wonderful family. I am sad that the circumstances did not work out for this project to move forward,” said Messmer.

For more information about the Tanasse’s project, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search engine.

Above: The Tanasse property at 924 State Street today.

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