Olympia approves zoning changes to allow mixed-use development in Evergreen Park


The Olympia City Council approved changes to the Evergreen Park Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning regulations to allow mixed-use commercial and multifamily development.

The approval was based on Hearing Examiner Mark Scheibmeir's recommendation on January 11 to amend the Evergreen Park PUD, a longstanding model separating commercial and housing development uses for over 50 years.

On Tuesday, March 5, Jackson Ewing, associate planner with the Community Planning and Economic Development (CP&D), presented to the council the proposal, which sought to amend the allowed uses within the retail commercial zone of the PUD by permitting multifamily housing as an additional use.

"The amendment is to provide additional flexibility and uses,” Ewing explained.

Ewing said the Evergreen Park PUD, located northwest of the I-5/101 freeway interchange and west of Capitol Lake, contains a mix of commercial, retail, government, and residential uses. The largest developments are the Olympia Hotel and Thurston County Courthouse.

Historically, Ewing said the southern half of the PUD -- the subject of the amendment -- has been used strictly for retail/commercial uses. The northern half is developed as a mix of residential uses.

In May 2022, representatives from the Olympia Hotel filed a petition seeking approval to modify the Evergreen Park PUD. They aimed to amend the portion of the PUD restricted exclusively to retail and commercial uses to permit residential and multifamily housing within that zone. The petition's goal was to allow for the conversion of the Olympia Hotel property into a multifamily apartment building.

Ewing said the applicant initially came to the city with a presubmission conference. The city staff reviewed the application and provided public outreach regarding the project.

Ewing noted that the public was concerned about the following:

  • The increased housing would bring more crime and security issues to the area
  • Loss of jobs and meeting space at the Olympia Hotel
  • Concerns about the diminished value of commercial office space

The associate planner added that the application review focused on the city's Comprehensive Plan, specifically housing, transportation, climate, and equity. "The project was found by city staff and the Hearing Examiner to be consistent with the Plan's goals and policies."

 He said the hearing examiner recommended the adoption of the PUD amendment.

During the discussion, Councilmember Lisa Parshley expressed concern about how increasing housing density in the area could impact neighborhood centers and amenities. She asked if the PUD allowed community services as more residents were added.

Olympia City Manager Jay Burney believed that as new residential units are constructed in the area, service providers will likely seek opportunities to serve the new residents and may spur other commercial properties to look at different residential conversions, which could help the city meet its different housing goals.

Councilmember Clark Gilman supported the PUD amendment but requested that the "anachronistic" designation be deleted from the Comprehensive Plan and that typical zoning designations used throughout the rest of the city be applied instead.

Before making a motion, Councilmember Dani Madrone acknowledged shared concerns about losing the venue in the community.

However, Madrone noted potential new options to fill that need. While conversions of hotels to housing have occurred elsewhere, she said it addresses an important housing requirement.

Madrone made a motion to pass the ordinance, which was approved unanimously.


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