Land Use Blunders in Thurston County

Whenever I end up near Israel Road and Capitol Boulevard I can’t help but get upset. There’s a bunch of state office buildings privately-owned buildings currently leased to state agencies, in the middle of huge parking lots. There are very few residences, but a few coffee places, and some restaurants that probably are unable to stay in business because potential customers get in their cars and drive away about the time dinner comes around.

This “campus” of state office buildings privately-owned buildings currently leased to state agencies and infrastructure cost a huge amount of money and could have brought loads of other benefits (aside from office space for state employees) to Thurston County.

Can you think of any?

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4 Responses to Land Use Blunders in Thurston County

  1. Randy says:

    Alas, my earlier comment appears not to have posted. Rest assured it was brilliant.
    I have to disagree with every point you make in this post. The buildings are not “state office buildings” they are privately-owned buildings currently leased to state agencies. I work in one of them. The restaurants survive because of the office buildings and most have been in place long enough to survive the recession. I also see patrons in them on weekends. As for residential, have you not noticed all the houses north of Israel to the west and on both the south and east sides of the elementary school? If I recall correctly, this land used to be fields of scotch broom and a couple of ramshackle houses. What better use can you envision? Residental development immediately adjacent to an airport and a packaging plant? Open space? I would argue the benefits of this development are many, although aesthetics may not be among them. Being privately owned, there is property tax revenue. High density office space has replaced the scattered sites that Department of Health used to occupy all over the county, making van pools and other transit choices more realistic than before.

    • Mark Derricott says:

      Randy:

      I have never not approved a comment on this blog that was not obviously spam. I rechecked again and didn’t see any from you. If you’re inclined please re-post it.

      Also, I apologize for my lack of precision in dubbing these “state office buildings”.

    • Mark Derricott says:

      First of all thanks for your comments, Randy. It doesn’t look we’ll have others so I’ll give my thoughts on why I believe this collection of developments is a blunder. As a guiding principle, I’ve concluded that any major land use action that will result in a lot of people gathering for work, play, or living should do whatever is possible to maximize the investment not only in the buildings themselves, but the capital infrastructure which is expensive for everyone. Therefore, this strikes me as the perfect opportunity to complete a master plan, one component of which would have examined the question of whether housing could have been brought in, and whether a true 24 hour neighborhood could have been created. (If not here than where else could that have been done?)

      These buildings are at the tail end of Thurston County and they are not desirable locations for restaurants other than lunch joints. (Do you have any idea why the Trans Dynasty restaurant turned over?) That is a missed opportunity for tax revenues, aspiring business owners, and those employees of state agencies who work in these privately owned-buildings. Meconis has two other locations so we can’t draw any inferences about its financial position based on that location alone. What other kind of businesses could have worked there other than eateries? There’s a huge customer base down there with relatively stable jobs and not very many ways to leverage that except for a lunch break.
      Transportation is the other major blunder. These buildings were constructed here due to an abundance of open space that would make parking easy. I checked with Intercity Transit and van pools must be no closer than 10 miles to the destination point, so that is an advantage for anyone living in Hawkes Prairie and in fact there is a single van pool seeking more riders. (http://fwd4.me/1564). While the thought of this is nice, I don’t think it’s at all a benefit to this particular location. Likewise the IT #12 has an hourly to 30 minute run which doesn’t make for an optimal option for most people in Thurston County used to flying around in their cars at will. Thus the implicit policy of these developments is reliance on automobiles and with reliance comes use, more need for roads, parking lots, and everything else that detracts from an enjoyable built environment. Another missed opportunity.

      I certainly won’t argue that there aren’t benefits to having DOH employees concentrated in one building. That’s clear.

      I look at land use actions in terms of avoidable mistakes that we hopefully won’t repeat. I see many examples of those here. I have no hope of this happening, but I certainly wish GA (assuming that’s who administers office space leases) would seek environments like what I’m describing above. Push the envelope! There would be plenty of developers willing to give these a shot if that’s what a plumb state office lease required.

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