Once a vacant group of buildings, a revitalization plan is underway in the Woodland neighborhood of Lacey, near College Street. With the remodel of the new Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission building completed, and the new tenants ready to move in, one more unit in the Hub at Lacey is occupied. Led by the City of Lacey and MJR Development, the goal for the Hub is to cultivate space for startups, restaurants, medical offices, and recreational activities to coexist all in one neighborhood.

Redeveloped, the new UTC building involved thousands of workers from architects to construction workers to reach completion. Along with a cosmetic update, this building also was outfitted to be one of the most energy efficient state-occupied buildings. In addition to the Utilities and Transportation Commission, tenants will also include the Washington State Office of the Attorney General and the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.

Dave Danner, Chair of the Washington UTC, has been on an arduous search for a new headquarters that would be suitable for the UTC’s 160 employees. “We’ve had a lot of false starts with the buildings in the area, trying to find things that meet our needs, that are appropriate for us,” explains Danner.

Christian LaRocco
MJR Partner, Christian LaRocco was in charge of implementing the new UTC building’s energy efficient systems during development. Photo credit: Molly Walsh

After searching throughout Tumwater and Olympia, the Lacey building stood out, especially for its energy efficient features. On the day of the ribbon cutting ceremony, Danner couldn’t wait for the office furniture delivery, scheduled for later in the afternoon so that he could finally call the new UTC building in Lacey home. “We have one foot over here, one foot across town, and we can’t wait to have both feet over here,” says Danner.

Innovative in its features, the new UTC building contains state-of-the-art heating and lighting for peak energy efficiency. Christian LaRocco, an MJR partner compared the building to a hybrid electric car. The entire building is outfitted with LED, solar-harvesting lights that dim when the sun is brighter. In addition, the heating, air conditioning, and ventilation system is one of the most energy efficient available and is the first system of its kind in a Thurston County building. The building is also well insulated, to complement the HVAC system. Solar energy is incorporated with the use of solar panels on the building’s roof, pushing energy out into the grid when the sun is shining.

Andy Ryder
Lacey Mayor, Andy Ryder, was a strong advocate for the Woodland District revitalization plan, as not just a mayor but as a small business owner. Photo credit: Molly Walsh

At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new building, architects for the project, City of Lacey leadership, including Andy Ryder, the City of Lacey’s mayor, developers from MJR, and state employees gathered for the building’s official introduction. Beginning the ceremony was Energy Policy Advisor for Governor Inslee, Lauren McCloy, who delivered remarks from the governor. Inslee’s letter congratulated the Utilities and Transportation Commission for moving into an environmentally conscious building that will allow them to continue their work of protecting Washington residents by ensuring that utility and transportation services are reliable, safe, and fairly priced.

Part of the Hub at Lacey, the ribbon cutting for this new UTC building was a celebration of the building’s occupancy and also a reflection of the area’s previous struggles. “This was pretty much all vacant three years ago,” explains Mike McClure, partner at MJR Development. “So, this is only one of about 12 buildings around here which we branded as the Hub and this is the latest redevelopment of a building.”

Because the Hub at Lacey is a mixed-use space, tenants include startups, office space, medical facilities, and restaurants like Ricardo’s Steak & Seafood and the Royce Marie Bean Bar, which is opening in the near future. US HealthVest will be opening the South Sound Behavioral Hospital in the area. Thomas W. Huntamer Park is also a central focal point of the Hub. A plan for this new neighborhood was written by the city about six years ago and eventually the city recruited MJR Development to execute the project. “Mixed use was the idea, as well as pedestrian friendly, as well as integration of the parks,” says McClure.

The Hub at Lacey Utilities and Transportation Building
The new UTC building is one of the most energy efficient buildings occupied by a state agency with solar panels, LED lights and a state-of-the-art HVAC system. Photo credit: Molly Walsh

For Lacey Mayor, Andy Ryder, the revitalized Woodland District in Lacey, has been a longtime goal that is finally coming to fruition. As not just the mayor, but also as a small business owner in Lacey, vacant buildings and neighborhoods with low occupancy became a key issue to address.

“It wasn’t that long ago where all these buildings were basically sitting empty during the recession,” says Ryder. “It had a massive impact on the City of Lacey, our growth and all the business around here. But now, with MJR’s investment in this district, it has completely turned around this area. And so, we are very excited.”

To learn more about the Hub at Lacey and more about the revitalization project, visit the Hub at Lacey website.

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