State Partnership Sought to Remove Capitol Center Building

Posted on February 5, 2015

The city of Olympia, with support from our local legislators, has requested that the state assist in the removal of the nine story vacant Capitol Center building. Removal of this building is the key step in perfecting the views to and from America’s most magnificent capitol campus setting. The city is seeking a $5 million appropriation in the state’s capital budget for improvements to the waterfront. Some portion of this appropriation could be used to support purchase of the vacant building. The city already owns the two derelict buildings to the west of the Capitol Center building. These are the former Housing Authority building and the former Health Department building, on what is known as the West Parcel. Work has already begun on removal of these two structures and is scheduled to be complete by late July.

Although the exact costs of acquiring and removing the Capitol Center building cannot be precisely known until a purchase agreement can be reached with the current owner, best estimates are that the cost, including demolition, could be as high as $12 million. This means that even if we are successful in getting the $5 million from the state, as much as $7 million in matching funds would be needed from our local community. The local funds could come from a variety of sources including a voter approved bond referendum and private contributions. The Olympia Capitol Park Foundation has already pledged to raise $400,000 in private donations for development of the Capitol Olympic Vista Park. Both the city of Olympia and Thurston County have been outstanding partners in the progress made so far. It is time to finish the job and we need the state to help complete the great work it has already done in building the park and civic space adjoining the isthmus properties and extending east and south around Capitol Lake, the North Capitol Campus Heritage Park.

There are still a variety of opinions as to how to re-develop ALL of the land on the isthmus if and when the Capitol Center block is added to the Fountain block and the West Parcel. The West parcel is firmly designated for park use as is the Fountain Block, but the final disposition of the Capitol Center block still needs to be determined. The position of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation is that the best use is as a publically owned civic space, with structures, if any, no higher than 35 feet. But, above all, it is most essential to get ownership (site control) of all of the land as soon as possible. The owners of the Capitol Center building want to re-develop it as a hotel. If this happens, we may live with this building for another fifty years and miss the opportunity to perfect the unparalleled view from the Capitol campus to Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains beyond as envisioned by Capitol designers Wilder and White and the Olmsted brothers a century ago. Our immediate goal is to get the site “down and green” or “down and clean” and then have an open community process to decide what comes next.

Therefore, we applaud the decision of the city council to seek state partnership and the willingness of Senator Karen Fraser and Representatives Sam Hunt and Chris Reykdal to advocate for state funds. Please take a moment to let the city council know (at that you appreciate their action, and also contact your legislators to thank them for their advocacy. If you do not live in the local 22nd legislative district, please contact your own legislators to express your support.

All of the people of Washington have a stake in perfecting the view-scape that links our magnificent Capitol to the waters of the Salish Sea and the snow-capped mountains beyond. There would then be no rival in America to what we can create here.

Please call the legislative hotline today at 1 800 562 6000 and leave a message for your three legislators and the governor. Ask that they support a capital budget appropriation of at least $5 million for Washington’s capital city waterfront. Please share this newsletter with your own contacts, family and friends and ask them to do the same.

Best regards,

Jerry Reilly, Chair
Olympia Capitol Park Foundation
360 561 4212