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February 28, 2017

Port of Olympia set to close on major acquisition in Lacey

The Olympian

Rolf Boone

The Port of Olympia is set to close on its $6.5 million purchase of three buildings in Lacey's Meridian Campus.

The Port of Olympia is expected to close on its first real estate acquisition in Lacey in March.

The deal, approved by the Port Commission in August, saw the port pay $6.5 million for three warehouses in a light industrial area of the city known as Meridian Campus. The area, which is home to the retailer Shipwreck Beads and a call center, is north of Interstate 5.

After the deal closes, the port will take ownership of three buildings measuring 60,000 square feet. Two buildings have tenants, including a winery and an organic liqueur distillery, while a third, 10,000-square-foot building is vacant.

The vacancy represents a new opportunity for the port to lease to new tenants, said Mike Reid, senior manager of business development for the port, at Monday night's commission meeting.

In a related move, the Port Commission on Monday awarded the property and lease management contract to Kidder Mathews, a commercial real estate company. The cost of that contract is $29,400 a year, and it has two, one-year renewal periods, Reid told the commission. The cost will be paid by the building tenants, who already make lease-related payments toward such a service.

The Rants Group in Olympia also bid on the contract.

"It's the right thing to do to keep everything going smoothly," said Commissioner Bill McGregor about the property and lease management contract.

However, audience member Bev Bassett of Olympia questioned the cost of the overall purchase price of the property. She called it a "pork-barrel" deal for the port.

Bassett read aloud prepared comments during the meeting and then handed those remarks to a reporter.

After her own check of Thurston County Assessor records, which showed the property has an assessed value of $4.5 million, she wanted to know why the port was paying such a premium for the property.

"We have a right to expect fiduciary responsibility from our port commissioners," she said.

McGregor said the port hired an appraiser to determine the property's current market value. A county assessment is typically a year behind the current market, he said.

"We did our due diligence on the buildings, and it came back at that price," McGregor said, adding the port expects an "immediate return" on the property.

After the sale goes through, the port expects to net $80,000 a year on the real estate, he said.

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