Construction project leaders look for clarity after Inslee’s stay-home order

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This story was originally published by KING-TV on Mar. 24, 2020.

Even though it’s just two weeks, some of these projects falling behind will have repercussions in the months to follow.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order has caused confusion at construction sites across the region and will potentially stop billions in new development from continuing during the coronavirus crisis.

The order makes an exemption for “Construction workers who support the construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction) for all essential facilities, services and projects included in this document, and for residential construction related to emergency repairs and projects that ensure structural integrity.”

There is no reference to commercial office, housing, or infrastructure projects.

In a briefing with reporters immediately following the Governor’s televised address, Inslee’s staff was asked to clarify the extent of the order as it applies to development.

In an email to KING 5, Inslee’s Communications Director Tara Lee wrote, “My understanding is that if construction is for essential purposes – building a hospital wing etc., then it is permitted. But general construction that is not essential needs to be halted…”  She added, “Amazon, Key Arena, Convention Center etc. need to stop for this.”

Multiple projects were caught off guard by the directive, which threatens criminal or civil punishment if not followed.

A spokesperson for Wright Runstad, which is developing Bellevue’s Spring District and the Rainier Square in Seattle, said the company, like a lot of people “are trying to sort out the nuances of the governor’s work-from-home order” and didn’t have more to share.

NHL Seattle declined any public comment on whether the order might have any impact on the redevelopment of the KeyArena site, or another in Northgate.  Amazon has projects underway in both Seattle and Bellevue.

“There are some efforts today to reach out to the Governor’s office to get some clarity and urge him to follow the mandate and recommendations out of Calif

The DSA said there are currently 60 projects under construction and that business has already dropped by double digits downtown due to the impact on hospitality, restaurants retail and the arts.

“There are creative ways to allow (construction) to continue. Workers not out of work, but that can support the rest of our economy in recovery,” DSA said.

Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown hinted in the call with reporters that there is an appeals process, and businesses could seek clarity from the state about whether they fall into the exemption list.  Inslee has suggested the stay-home order will last at least two weeks, starting Wednesday.

Those are two weeks which have the potential to add more disruption to the regional economy, added Scholes.

“I think it’s huge with the scheduling and sequencing of vendors, and how these projects are organized completed.  A two to three-week complete shutdown can result in months of disruption to progress on certain projects depending on where they are in their schedule with supplies, materials and labor, so each project is its own unique case,” Scholes said.