Olympia Hearing Examiner recommends Evergreen Park development for mixed-use


Olympia's Hearing Examiner Mark Scheibmeir has recommended approving an amendment to the Evergreen Park Planned Unit Development (PUD) that would enable mixed-use commercial and multifamily development, a potential shift from PUD's longstanding model that has separated such uses for over 50 years.

The recommendation, issued on Thursday, January 11, will be submitted to the city council for a final decision.

Established in 1973, the Evergreen Park PUD provides for various public, commercial, and residential uses. Its development includes the Thurston County Courthouse Complex, legal and medical offices, government agencies, and the Olympia Hotel.

However, it only permits these different uses to be mixed within the same areas.

In May 2022, Philip Stewart, representing the Olympia Hotel, filed a petition seeking the city council's approval to modify Evergreen Park PUD to permit residential/multifamily uses within the portion of the PUD currently restricted to retail/commercial. They aim to convert the hotel into a multifamily apartment.

The hearing examiner considered the city staff report, quoting its findings and recommendations.

In recommending approval, Jackson Ewing, the city's associate planner, found that the requested amendment is consistent with Olympia's Comprehensive Plan. He noted that the Comprehensive Plan "clearly encourages mixed-use buildings as well as residential uses within commercial districts." He believed the amendment would bring PUD closer to the city's long-range planning goals.

Ewing also finds that the proposed amendment is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan's housing chapter. These policies support the adaptive reuse of existing buildings, especially in areas currently served by public streets and utilities adequate to provide for housing. He concluded that the amendment would increase housing stock options.


The proposed changes have faced resistance from the public. Written and verbal comments from the December 11 hearing opposed the amendments express worries about potential increases in crime and security issues from mixing commercial and residential uses.

There is also concern that it deviates from the PUD's original goal of separating those zones.

Another concern is plans to convert the Olympia Hotel to multifamily housing, which could result in a loss of jobs and negatively impact the city's ability to host conferences by reducing lodging options.

The city staff acknowledged public concerns and considered these. Still, they continue to believe that the requested amendment would allow for greater flexibility in land use that is consistent with the city's current goals and policies.

"Staff is sensitive to the loss of jobs caused by the discontinuance of the Olympia Hotel but notes that the decision to maintain or discontinue hotel use should be driven by market force, not land use regulation," stated the recommendation penned by Scheibmeir. "The proposed amendment will not preclude the hotel from remaining open but simply allow its ownership to consider alternate uses. Staff adds that the city has seen at least four new hotels/motels since 2014, several of which include public meeting rooms, although admittedly, none have the same sized facilities as the Olympia Hotel."

Unique challenges

In his recommendation, Scheibmeir highlighted the Evergreen Park PUD's unique challenges as the city's only remaining PUD. He noted that the regulatory process for amending the PUD is unclear.

However, the city staff looked to codes OMC 18.54.060 and OMC 18.56.120 B for direction in evaluating the proposed changes due to PUD's unusual circumstances.

The city staff also cited the PUD's foundational Purpose Statement as defined in OMC 18.54.020: "The Evergreen Park PUD is intended to permit flexibility in design, placement of the buildings and use of open spaces, including modification and requirements for lot frontage, building setbacks, and design of circulation facilities to best use potentials of sites characterized by special features of geography, topography, size or shape, and to encourage a more creative approach in the development of land that will result in a more efficient, aesthetic and desirable environment in harmony with that of the surrounding area."

Schreibmeir agreed that the proposed amendment is consistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan. However, he weighed on many issues that would arise due to the amendment.

"Approving the amendment will make possible an application to convert the Olympia Hotel to multifamily use at the loss of many jobs. It also exposes longstanding commercial uses to a more intense integration with residential uses – all in a manner that would not have been anticipated [when] those commercial uses were established," Schreiber stated.

"There is the additional issue of whether the amendment effectively prevents the city from hosting larger conferences, perhaps sending them to other nearby communities. These issues are not insubstantial and pose difficult questions for the city council. But having taken these concerns into careful consideration, I concur with city staff that the proposed amendment is consistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan, would establish a city-wide uniform policy of allowing residential uses within commercially zoned areas, and would allow market forces to decide the highest and best use among the permitted uses. I therefore recommend that the city council approve the amendment," the hearing examiner added.


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  • Callie

    Looking for a change of pace, we tried having breakfast there. We were the only patrons. Friends of a friend stayed there and could not get a drink in the evening, the bar was closed.

    So I think Market forces are speaking. I've been there for the Christmas Forest many times, I can think of other venues that could host that.

    Tuesday, January 16 Report this

  • JnNwmn

    When the previous Tye Hotel with Dance venue closed in Tumwater, 20 years ago, and there

    were almost no other hotels in town, the now named Olympian had a lot of business. But now

    there are newer hotels and many more hotels to draw business. The issue here is that there should

    be allowances for 30% to 40% affordable housing requirements if the City is rewriting the Planned Unit Development.

    Wednesday, January 17 Report this

  • SecondOtter

    Leave it as it is. If you want to see what "mixed use" looks like, just go to The Preserve in Tumwater, on 88th St SW and bordering on Old Hwy 99. There you have a subdivision of drably painted, identical in appearance tickytacky houses with an arm's length between them, ones that were thrown up in a week. Their next door neighbors are warehouses...BIG ones, with 24/7 high intensity lights, paved parking area that floods in heavy rains and have heavy truck traffic with fork lift back up alarms beeping, drivers leaving the engines running and truckers coming in at all hours of the day or night.

    This is what Tumwater has become with it's "mixed residential/commercial zoning"( and roundabouts everywhere) and now, it seems, as if Olympia does, too.

    Leave the Park alone. It's one of the few green places left.

    Wednesday, January 17 Report this