Chelsea Mancilla, Guest Writer
A project known as “The Reserve” has finally broken ground following the demolition of the former Albertson’s on Pacific Avenue. The site had been vacant since 2012. In 2016, the Southern California-based developer AVS Communities, proposed the project. It is the largest development in Lacey and the first major private investment in the area of Pacific Avenue East in over a decade. The property was untouched for over two years until demolition started in early February this year. The progress was more obvious if you traveled on Carpenter Road, but by Feb. 19, there was nothing left of the former Albertson’s store.
The project will provide 300 units of senior housing and 9,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. The original plan was to begin work by January of 2018, but it was delayed because the developer needed to solidify financing, according to Lacey Senior Planner Samra Seymour. Lacey Community Development Director Rick Walk notified the City Council in January that their financing had been finalized in December 2018. The occupancy date is set for late 2020, according to city information.
The project has been a point of contention for neighbors in Lacey’s historic neighborhoods along Bowker, Ulery, and Lacey streets. Two years ago, Joe Panesko and other residents of the neighborhood that he calls “one of the jewels in our city,” appealed for the city’s approval of the Reserve at Lacey to the hearing examiner. The appellants contested that the project would be incompatible with the area. They objected to the scale of the project, as well as its expected impact on traffic, noise, lighting, heights, and views.
To that end, they appealed to the city’s hearings examiner the site plan review decision and a mitigated determination of nonsignificance — a decision that meant the developer wouldn’t have to prepare an environmental impact statement. The hearing examiner ruled in favor of the city, and Panesko dropped his appeal. Yet, the building did drop down to four floors, instead of the five-floor building it was originally proposed to be.
However, the City of Lacey has strongly advocated for this project. In an article published in the Olympian, Walk defended the project and explained that it’s a good location for urban infill and it provides access to transit, parks, the trail system, and nearby retail services, which promote walking. The City of Lacey has stated that the project is a good example of urban infill development. It is also convenient for a senior housing center to be in close proximity to the Virgil S. Clarkson Senior Center.
Since the project is underway, Panesko voiced his concern about an increase in traffic cutting through the neighborhood on Ulery Street. He asked the city to enforce a “no thru traffic” sign, and the city responded with speed monitoring signs. In the Olympian, Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder, who also lives in the neighborhood, issued a statement in which he said, “In response to our concerns, the Lacey Police Department will conduct emphasis patrols to deter speeding within and around the Lacey Historical Neighborhood. Additionally, our police installed a radar reader board at Ulery and Seventh Avenue to alert drivers to their vehicle’s speed. I was told a second radar board is in the works as well. I believe that these actions will help alleviate some of the frustrations we are experiencing due to the increased traffic.”