Design plans approved for Olympia’s 71-unit affordable housing project on Franz Anderson Road


The Olympia Design Review Board approved the design plans for a new affordable housing development at 527 Franz Anderson Road SE, which would provide 71 units of permanent supportive housing for low-income residents.

Nonprofit developer Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) is the applicant for the project. The city sold the underutilized property site on Franz Anderson Road to LIHI for $1 to build low-income housing units.

The project would consist of 71 studios and one-bedroom housing units. The project has secured about $6.7 million in regional funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

According to Olympia's associate planner, Casey Mauck, the project they were reviewing is the Franz Anderson Phase 1 apartment building at 527 Franz Anderson Road near I-5. The site consolidates five parcels. The apartment building would be in the northwest corner with associated parking spaces for the south side.

Eric Blank, LIHI's design manager, explained that the building orientation aimed to minimize impacts on neighbors and provide shelter and amenities away from I-5 noise.

He added that the project's design considered existing mature trees and a wetland view. While no parking was required, LIHI proposed 35 stalls. Blank said the project would provide permanent supportive housing rather than transitional units.

Approved with one condition

Mauck noted that the planning review found that the design met the city's design guidelines. She recommended approval of the site and landscape plan with one condition regarding screening mechanical equipment and utilities from public view.

The Board's discussion of the project focused on proper screening. The on-site transformer raised safety concerns due to potential fire risks. The city code requires screening of visible equipment from the right-of-way.

Recognizing these risks, the Board believed that landscaping may not be suitable for screening the transformer. To address this, the Board modified a proposed condition requiring the developers to use an alternative screening method for the transformer to ensure safety while still providing an attractive design feature.

Blair Stone of Encore Architects noted that they are still working on designing screening plans for the on-site transformer.

Stone mentioned that the material they would use would be made of non-combustible materials due to its proximity to the transformer. They are considering using matching materials for the transformer screen and another nearby wall.

She added that the height of the transformer screen would depend on the size of the specific transformer installed.

In approving the design plans, the Board asked the developers to present a Type II landscaping screen (vegetation structure type) or other screening device around any above-ground mechanical equipment and utility vaults visible from the right-of-way on engineering plans.

For landscape design, Callie Roberts of landscape architect firm Fora said the site has many existing fruit trees and mature trees. Their goal is to preserve as many of those as possible.

"When you come down Franz, you're instantly drawn to your right with views towards the wetland… it perfectly aligns with our entryway, which draws strong elements from the architecture towards the sidewalk,” said Robesrts. “So, it's conceptually what started the landscape design in terms of the more linear elements aligned with the building you're seeing."

Stone added that the site shaped the building design concept and aimed to achieve the project goals through a biophilic design approach.

Roberts, who revisited the project on Martin Way, said one key lesson from the previous project was that providing an outdoor space for dogs is important for tenants. She said including a designated dog area in the new design was critical. She proposed a low-open visibility, four-foot chain link fence around the dog area.

The landscape architect also proposed adding a southwest-facing garden along the back of the building. "A lesson learned at Martin Way [project] is the gardens were in high demand. [Residents] have taken over this planting and building their little greenhouses."


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  • KarenMcIrish

    Hopefully this complex will be for the hard working folks that have been on the waiting list at Thurston county housing authority for years and years.

    Wednesday, February 28 Report this

  • OlyGuy

    I agree. Olympia does a very poor job at supporting hardworking low income folks that skirt the poverty line. The city should focus on helping these groups rather then waste money on homeless that migrate to Olympia for the freebies and lack of police enforcement on drug and property crimes.

    Hardworking low income individuals and families actually give back to their community and helping them first is the right thing to do. They do everything right and still struggle. It's insane to prioritize the "do nothing" homeless population over low income families.

    Thursday, February 29 Report this