Some of Thurston County’s most prominent construction projects are moving forward again, just days after Gov. Jay Inslee announced that residential and commercial projects could resume so long as construction companies and their workers took steps to protect themselves from COVID-19.
That means in downtown Olympia residents can expect to see activity around Views on Fifth, Lurana, Westman Mill and 500 Columbia Place, also known as Harbor Heights, the apartment building for those 55 and older that faces Budd Inlet.
Although the owners of these properties are likely relieved to have workers getting back on the sites, the pandemic created a delay and pushed back some milestones.
Views on Fifth, the Ken Brogan apartment development that sits on the isthmus between Budd Inlet and Capitol Lake, was expected to have its first tenants move in this month, but now that has been pushed back to July, said Troy Nichols, a spokesman for the project.
He said construction crews are ramping up slowly. The project currently is at 70 percent capacity, Nichols said.
A contact for Harbor Heights could not be reached, but The Olympian did reach Christian Skillings, the longtime owner of Iron Rabbit Restaurant & Bar in west Olympia. Prior to the pandemic, Skillings announced he was opening a second restaurant, Cynara Restaurant & Lounge, in street-level space at Harbor Heights. His original plan was to open in June, but now that opening has been delayed. He didn’t have information on a new date, he said.
Meanwhile, Walker John, the most active developer downtown, is also moving forward with his properties. John could not be reached, but Ron Thomas, an Olympia architect who has worked closely with him, shared a few details on next steps.
Thomas said it was full-steam ahead for John. The Lurana, the former Les Schwab building at Columbia Street and State Avenue which is now a mixed-use apartment project, is close to being finished, Thomas said.
Westman Mill on the Port of Olympia’s East Bay property is about six months from completion.
And John is also about to start something new, Thomas said.
Market Flats is a mixed-use apartment building project that is set to sprout at the corner of Capitol Way and Olympia Avenue Northeast. The property is fenced off and work is set to begin on a building that will have ground-floor commercial space and four floors of apartments. It is not low-income housing, but it will feature more studio apartments and offer rents that Thomas called “attainable.” It’s across the street from the food destination known as 222 Marketplace. Those who work there could live at Market Flats, Thomas said.
John’s willingness to pursue Market Flats could be a sign that the economy is ready to spring to life. There’s one more sign: Leonard Bauer, deputy director of Olympia’s community development department, said it has largely been business as usual for the department. In the past month, the city processed more than 400 permits needed for projects ranging from replacing a water heater to larger endeavors. He thinks builders and others are getting ready to get back to work.
Meanwhile, drive down 37th Avenue in Lacey and you might be surprised by what you see. Near the Schilter Farm neighborhood, the barn is gone, the residence is gone and the pastureland has been dug up to make way for the 124-unit Woodbrook Townhomes.
The city’s approval of the project was appealed by the Schilter Farm homeowners association, but after the Lacey hearings examiner ruled against them, the HOA and the developer worked out their own agreement.
That required the HOA members to vote on whether to alter their bylaws and covenants, conditions and restrictions to allow the development to go forward. They approved that step, president Marcus Humberg said, but the HOA also received some things important to the neighborhood.
Among them: Extending a pathway from the development to College Street. Currently, the sidewalk does not extend all the way to the street. They also potentially are getting two speed humps near Avonlea Park and another on Zermatt Street to slow traffic as it comes off 37th Avenue. The developer also has agreed to additional on-site parking, Humberg said.
The project is being developed by a Puyallup-based company called Milestone. Its managing member, Brandon Smith, confirmed some of those details, although he’s not sure if the pathway is going to be asphalt or a sidewalk.
“We’re excited to be part of the community,” Smith said.