Site work underway: construction bids new hurdle for April’s Grove

In mid-November site work began on April’s Grove, OPAL’s planned 45-home rental neighborhood, when Island Excavating began clearing brush and felling trees. The crew is working carefully to remove trees where buildings will be constructed while maintaining the “preserve and protect” areas surrounding the trees and undergrowth that will remain.

“Getting the tree work done this fall means we’ll have one winter of wind storms to see how the remaining trees manage under new conditions before construction begins,” said OPAL’s executive director, Lisa Byers.

Also in November, OPAL’s general contractor, Dawson Construction, solicited bids from subcontractors. The majority of bids came in over budget, with numerous trades having not submitted bids at all.

Jeanne Beck, OPAL’s project manager, explained, “There is so much construction in Western Washington and on Orcas right now, making it difficult to find subcontractors who have the time and who can bid within our budget. On top of that, prices for wood and metal have gone up significantly.”

To lower costs, OPAL is working with its architect, Environmental Works, and Dawson Construction on design modifications and on gaining more interest and participation from subcontractors.

Changes to the design include reducing the size of the commons building by eliminating the public showers and community meeting space. It will now house only laundry facilities, the resident manager’s office space, a small conference room, maintenance storage and postal boxes.

Another adjustment is eliminating one residential building and redistributing the units to other buildings. This will mean that some of the studio and one-bedroom apartments will be on top of one another, requiring second-floor entry to the upper accommodations.

The team has also modified finishes, simplified exteriors, and revised some construction methods to reduce costs.

“OPAL has run into hurdles like this with past projects, and we’ve always found a way forward to provide affordable housing to our island neighbors,” said Lisa Byers. She remains confident that April’s Grove will be under construction in 2019.

April’s Grove will be a neighborhood of 45 new rental residences on North Beach Road. Located across from Children’s House and the Funhouse Commons, April’s Grove will consist of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom townhomes. Each dwelling will be home for individuals and families who live or work on Orcas Island and need stable, affordable rental housing.

Incorporated in 1989, OPAL serves 105 ownership and 30 rental Orcas Island households. For more information, go to or call 360-376-3191.