Project seeks to mix innovation with reverence at Historic site

Housing development

Whether on a trip to the grocery store, looking for a place to shop and eat, or taking in the historic experience by visiting Fort Vancouver, you’ve likely driven by the corner of Fifth St. and Grand Avenue, a once rocky hillside that’s sat vacant for close to two decades, and while new development has been surging in Clark County as of recent years, this specific location just couldn’t find the right vision . . . until today.

To learn more about what ambitious task is taking place, we sat down and spoke with Tim Lee of Olive Tree Development to uncover a bit more about this project and just what the community has to look forward to in the foreseeable future.

“I’ve been in Clark County for about 20+ years and have raised a family of three girls and one boy,” says Lee. “I’ve also been a real estate developer now for over 20 years. I consider this area my community, my home. I actually won’t develop more than two hours from where I live.”

From there, Lee touched on the current state of development in Vancouver, WA, and why he’s so keen on picking specific projects.

“It dawned on me one day that we’re (Vancouver) trying to become something that we’re not,” says Lee. “We are a smaller city and we try to replicate, based on where a developer may visit, these big city buildings as if we’re New York or San Francisco. People moved here for a reason, and I try to honor the history of this city with the projects I take on.”

Speaking of “honoring”, Lee then went on to talk about his partner and mentor, Fred Hoene, and how the pair first started to buy property from the Hidden family, a prominent family in Vancouver’s history, over two decades ago. Hoene, known to be more of an “apartment guy”, brainstormed with Lee on this property off Fifth St. and Grand Avenue, seeing as other attempted projects from other developers at this site have come and gone in years past.

“That gravel pit at one point was actually owned by Ulysses S. Grant when he was stationed at Fort Vancouver,” says Lee. “So, what we did is hire the town historian and have befriended the Clark County Museum and Historic Society and have been coordinating with them to build a site that honors the history of the area.”

So, before any development of apartments, Lee and his partner first wanted to make sure that this site paid reverence to the city’s history, which is why they’ve been talking with artists to come up with nine different sculptures that will be placed at this location.

“It’s important that we first honor the past before pressing ahead toward the future,” says Lee. “We are also creating some high-end luxury apartments but in a manner that would be affordable. We’ve agreed to make 20% of the units allocated for affordable housing.”

Both Lee and Hoene purchased this property roughly five years ago, part of Lee’s niche to pick up projects and locations that have proved challenging for other developers.

“Hillside type of projects can be tough,” says Lee. “Unlike other developers, we have no other investors that we have to report to so we can take our time in that regard. We do our research, we engage with the community on what they’d like to see, and we team up with the right people who share similar visions.”

It is that very notion put forth by Lee why the landscaping surrounding this building will feature nine commissioned sculptures, given the feedback and desires of the community to honor the history of this space without leaving it undeveloped. In fact, one cool feature Lee shared is how, when you walk into the building, there will be a brick wall that commemorates the previous landowners.

“It’s a very patriotic site so we’re not taking any shortcuts in our approach to honor as such,” says Lee.

In terms of the building’s current progress, it is fully framed and the roof is already on. Olive Tree Development is actually looking to take reservations in the upcoming months and is hoping to open its doors at the first of the new year, paying tribute to communities of old and new in the process.

Grand Vista (liveatgrand.com)

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