Development has been down in many areas of the South Sound since the 2008 economic bust, but luckily that's not the case for the Lacey/Hawks Prairie area.
In fact, this area has seen both commercial and residential projects on the rise over the past few years, with others still in the pipeline.
Said Olympia Master Builders president John McKinlay, “Lacey seems to be a hotspot, with a lot of overall building taking place in that market with large local builders. It's definitely growing very, very fast, in part because the City has been working to make it very builder-friendly.”
Foremost as of late is the Woodland District, where the City has been since last year working on a comprehensive development plan on the ripe-for-renovation area that runs between I-5 and Sleater-Kinney Road, College Street and Pacific Avenue.
“The Woodland Project is a pretty big deal,” said a spokeswoman from the City of Lacey.
That's indeed the case, agreed Planning department director Rick Walk, who explained that the far-reaching strategy for the Woodland District is to both knit together its very different corners, which have been mostly developed over the past 50 years, while at the same time enhancing the core of the area as a major destination site.
Funded through a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development Challenge Grant managed by Thurston Regional Planning Council, Woodland is also being looked to as a major employment boon for the City. Since last August, agencies and the public have chiseled out a draft plan that was approved just last week, the finalization of which is set to happen sometime in July.
“The goal is to get more public uses there, to add more activity there with retail and residential development that happens in a cohesive way and also creates more opportunities for employment,” Walk said.
Other projects happening in the area include the addition of a Trader Joe's Kitchen site to the company's distribution site opened there last year. Currently the company is hiring roughly 60 workers through local agency Deploy HR.
Spokesman Justin Fraser said that the Kitchen is a definite go sometime soon, although he declined to comment on the exact timeline.
Lacey Chamber Executive Director Fred Wright, however, said that the Kitchen is a positive note not just for the Lacey economy, but also for the strength of its workforce.
“Sixty workers,” he said. “We don't hear those kinds of numbers around here on a regular basis.”
Another big player entering the local restaurant scene is the new Red Robin, which just opened June 10.
Part of the 36,000-square-foot, second-phase development at Galaxy Drive and Martin Way, the restaurant added jobs for 80 local full- and part-time employees.
“So far the turnout's been amazing,” said general manager David Minato.
Even at lunchtime on a Monday, the restaurant was packed to the gills.
“As for our market,” said Minato, regarding the crowd, “we have a spot for everybody.”
Britton Plaza, where the 28,500-square-foot Providence Medical Center and nearby 7-Eleven opened last year, is another hotspot for development. Projects currently in the works there, according to Lacey planners, include two buildings: a 6,500-square-foot office and retail space, and a 7,500-square-foot space with a coffee shop and drive-through pharmacy.
For the latter site, Walk said the occupant will be “more a a smaller-footprint type business” than a Bartell's or Rite Aid. The second building is laid out for other single-site “professional or personal-type businesses,” such as a dry cleaners, nail salon, or mail and photocopying company.
Housing, too, has been on the uptick with regional builders. With 88 detached single-family home permits released this year as of May, and 23 in that month alone, the City is on track to top 200 permits for 2013.
Overall, said Wright, Lacey's efforts to attract new businesses large and small throughout the recession are starting to pay off in a big way. On tap are two new businesses at Hawks Prairie and in the Pacific Avenue area, although he declined to give details yet.
“Let's just say that Lacey is really expanding its business community to new locations everywhere,” he said.