by Kathryn Millhorn
Take a scenic drive through Thurston County and you’ll notice its gorgeous scenery, thriving waterfront, and new development popping up all over. With our region’s expansion and growth comes the need for additional housing and what could be better than blending all the finer things into one. Which is exactly what they’re planning for West Bay Yards – a new way to live, work, and play along West Budd Inlet.
This project is principally overseen by Ronald Newman and Brandon Smith of the West Bay Development Group, LLC. They are planning to break ground in 2023 by starting with “beach restoration and other site improvements,” explains Smith. “The vertical construction will commence once the beach restoration has been completed.”
The site is situated on West Bay Drive, about one mile north of Olympia’s Historic District and set on the western channel of Budd Inlet at the southern end of Puget Sound. Smith says it will encompass “five separate buildings that will accommodate 478 apartment units of various size and 20,000 square feet of commercial space, which includes a planned waterfront restaurant.”
And they are literally starting from the ground up. The site is currently undeveloped and overgrown. “We have committed to restoring the beach to a more natural condition,” says Smith, “and this will benefit the natural habitat and hopefully inspire the other properties in the area to do the same upon redevelopment.”
Restoration honors the West Bay Development Group’s four core values: respect the environment, support the community, honor the region, and deliver value to the resident. The Development Group based the shoreline restoration project on the City’s West Bay Environmental Restoration Assessment, which was developed with input from the City, the Port of Olympia, the Squaxin Island Tribe, and other interested parties. Based on those findings, they’ll redefine the shoreline by creating a new tidal beach and building a water esplanade to encourage vegetation and native aquatic animals.
“As a key component of the West Bay Yards project,” says Smith, “the Development Group is making a sizable investment in cleaning up this brown-fill site, including a $4 million investment to create a beach. The impact of this investment will have a positive impact on the health of a local salt marsh as well as the local salmon habitat.”
“The planned esplanade along the entire waterfront will be public access and hopefully will one day be connected to the West Bay Park and eventually to downtown,” says Smith. “TAS (Thomas Architecture Studios) has come up with a concept that allows the areas between each of the buildings to be public plaza that protects the views from West Bay Drive.”
Smith and Newman are no strangers to the area. Together they’ve designed, developed, built, and owned more than 500 units within Thurston County and are currently completing a 125-unit townhome project in Lacey.
“The Olympia Waterfront has special meaning to me,” says Smith. “Growing up in Thurston County, I can remember my parents taking my sister and I to Priest Point Park and walking along the shore. When we saw that this property was available, we knew we had to be the ones to develop the project. I have over 20 years in the construction and engineering industry. I am a professional civil engineer and have been based out of the PNW my entire career. I moved back to Thurston County so that I can be close to this project and see it through completion.”
Their team will use local building professionals as often as possible on every step of the project. “Thurston County has an amazing number of talented professionals that work in the area,” says Smith. “Like much of our design team which is led by local consultants that have national recognition. The job market has been strong in the Thurston County area and continues to diversify from government.”
“We see there is a lot of opportunity in this area and are happy to be a part of it,” Smith continues. “Right now, our primary focus in Thurston County is to see this project through to the finish line. We see this as being an example of how we can help provide much needed housing with balancing the environment and public access to the waterfront.”
Incorporating Olympia’s natural beauty, local craftsmen and design aesthetics, amenities, restaurants, and shops, West Bay Yards will soon become part of the scenery that makes downtown special. And by creating everything from jobs to bike paths all while fostering natural recovery, the West Bay Development Group honors the diversity, beauty, and uniqueness of the Pacific Northwest.