If all goes as planned, Olympia’s “Mistake on the Lake” may soon be reborn as a thriving hub of commercial and residential activity.

On July 12, the City of Olympia held a neighborhood meeting for local residents to ask questions and comment on the Views on 5th project, currently in the initial review stage. Developer Ken Brogan plans to renovate the old Capitol Center Building and occupy nearly an entire city block between 4th and 5th Avenues in downtown Olympia near the waterfront, adding 138 residential units, a number of live/work units, and retail space.

Architect Ron Thomas explained some of the project’s more unusual features, including a “woonerf” — a so-called “living street” running through the center of the buildings between Sylvester and Simpson Streets, designed to be pedestrian friendly and accommodate traffic. 

The building will also include an innovative parking structure that can fit 144 cars within a three-story space by using technology to slot vehicles into specific spots once their drivers and passengers have exited. Such systems are common in areas with high urban density, says Leonard Bauer, FAICP/deputy director, Community Planning and Development for the city.

Although previous proposals for the site have drawn active opposition from Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, which wants to demolish the Capitol Center building and create a public space in its place while preserving views of the Capitol State building, this meeting was relatively conflict-free.

“The audience was pretty balanced,” says Bauer. “We got a lot of specific questions about design and had a few comments from all sides of the issue.”

The next public step will be a design review board meeting on August 10.