Port Keeps Hotel Options Open

By Rolf Boone, February 12, 2013, The Olympian

The Port of Olympia commission approved the extension of an option agreement with a Seattle developer Monday night, a move that sets in motion an effort to bring a new hotel to downtown Olympia.

The extension gives developer Lorig Associates of Seattle until April 30 to finish due diligence on a downtown site between the Hands On Children’s Museum and State Street. The site is part of the port’s East Bay development.

Lorig first signed an option agreement with the port a year ago, giving the company the chance to explore development ideas on the site. The site measures just under 2 acres.

After a year of research, the developer has come to the conclusion that it would make a “wonderful site for a hotel,” Lorig Chief Executive Tom Fitzsimmons told the three-member port commission Monday night at its regular commission meeting.

The type, size and hotel operator were not disclosed Monday night, but research shows that although the Olympia hotel market is seasonal and competitive, it has room for additional facilities, Fitzsimmons said. “It is leading us to a belief that we can do this project,” he said.

Downtown Olympia’s core currently is home to four hotels: the Governor Hotel, Phoenix Inn Suites, Olympia Inn and the Clarion Hotel.

Lorig has been in the development business for more than 40 years, developing mostly mixed-use projects throughout the region. It also has developed buildings on and near the campuses of Saint Martin’s University and Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

Port commissioner Bill McGregor asked Fitzsimmons whether the public would have a chance to comment on the project.

Fitzsimmons replied that before and after April 30, he expects to participate in public events, showing hotel designs and concepts.

Fitzsimmons also said he expects to go through a “robust design review process” with the City of Olympia.

Up next for Lorig is to work with port staff on environmental issues on the site, which Fitzsimmons described as not insurmountable. There’s also a property appraisal, and then the company will work toward a long-term ground lease with the port.

If Lorig should decide not to pursue a project on the site, it would pay the port $25,000, according to the original option agreement. If a project goes forward on the site, the port will apply the $25,000 to the first year’s ground rent, said Mike Reid, the port’s senior manager of business development.

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