Military News

JBLM brigade will demolish building in downtown Olympia

A brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord will demolish a vacant building in downtown Olympia as part of a training exercise.

The city-owned building is at 505 Fourth Ave. W. on the isthmus, a strip of land between Capitol Lake and West Bay.

The 555th Engineer Brigade is expected to begin demolition Dec. 1 and finish the job by the end of January, said project manager Brett Bures.

The site is one of two isthmus buildings the city purchased in 2013 for about $3.3 million. Bures said the city will seek grant funding next year to fund the demolition of the adjacent building at 529 Fourth Ave. W. The future use of both isthmus properties has not yet been determined, but proposals include a public park.

The biggest building on the isthmus is the nine-story Capital Center Building, which is not slated for demolition. The vacant tower is privately owned by Views on Fifth Ltd. and is located behind the two city-owned buildings. Views on Fifth owners have expressed interest in turning the Capital Center Building into a hotel.

The first phase of demolition at 505 Fourth Ave. will start inside the building and will last about 20 days. The brigade will separate materials such as wires for recycling, said Lt. Bryan Perrenod, public affairs officer. He said the project will provide a rare training opportunity for the brigade, which doesn’t often get to actually demolish real buildings.

“For construction engineers, it’s hard to get practical training for them,” he said. “This is a good way to go out and practice their skills.”

Bob Jones, the city’s military liaison, essentially played matchmaker between JBLM and Olympia by pitching the demolition as a training opportunity. The partnership has been months in the making and represents a win-win for those involved, Jones said.

“It’s one of those training missions that also has a local value to the community,” said Jones, who retired from the Army in 1992. “Everyone wins on this.”

On a side note, crews recently finished removing hazardous materials including asbestos from the site, said Bures, noting that the city is saving an undetermined amount of money by not paying a contractor for the work. The city had estimated the total cost of asbestos removal at $550,000. The cost was supplemented by about $350,000 in grants. The city tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to secure a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to put toward the remaining total cost of asbestos removal.