Update: Burien council votes to change Town Square developers
The stalled Burien Town Square saga continues as the Burien City Council voted unanimously Monday, Feb. 25, to direct Harbor Urban, owner of the still undeveloped parcels at Town Square, to sell those parcels to another real estate developer, Legacy Partners, as permitted under the city agreements with Harbor Urban.
Legacy wants to complete the multi-family housing-retail project in Burien’s city center and has submitted to the city a redevelopment proposal that calls for a mix of upper-scale multi-family housing and retail.
The remaining undeveloped Town Square property is just north of the current Town Square condominiums and Library/City Hall between Southwest 152nd and Southwest 150th streets.
In agreeing to the switch in developers, Councilmember Gerald Robison commented, “Harbor Urban hasn’t come up with anything.”
Councilmember Jack Block Jr. also agreed but urged Legacy Partners to “keep the city’s vision within current market conditions.”
The council and city staff originally envisioned the remaining parcels would be contain condominiums and retail space much like in the first phase.
However, with the economic downturn, the city was informed by developers that market conditions would not support such development.
Sales at the first phase were slow but sales personnel say they are picking up. As of February, 36 units have been occupied with another 14 sold and waiting for occupancy. Subway is the only retail outlet at the complex.
However, the managing firm has replaced the long-term marketing firm of Matrix Real Estate and sales director Tracey O’Brien.
The city worked with Harbor Urban to come up with a plan featuring “high-end” apartments for the vacant parcels. Some Burien residents who urged the city to stick to its original vision were critical.
Harbor Urban proposed about 150 rental apartments, a small amount of retail and an art center. Burien arts organizations have been pressing the city to incorporate arts spaces into the downtown core.
Harbor Urban withdrew the proposal after Legacy offered its plan.
Martin told the Seattle Times that Legacy’s plan is similar but lawmakers prefer the way it relates to the rest of Town Square.
City Manager Mike Martin told the Seattle Times that he wouldn’t be surprised if Harbor Urban challenged the council’s decision in court. Martin offered several other options to the City Council on Feb. 25 but lawmakers unanimously chose the switch to Legacy.
The first phase of the Town Square project, the existing condominiums at 6th Avenue Southwest, was completed in 2009 by owner/developer Urban Partners. When Urban Partners purchased the parcels from the city in 2005, the development agreement required the developer to begin the next phase of the project within two years of completing the first phase, or by July 21, 2011. Urban Partners failed to meet this deadline and still has not commenced construction of Town Square’s next phase.
On April 30, 2012, the city notified the owner/developer, which had since merged with Harbor Properties to form Harbor Urban, that it had defaulted on its development agreement with the city. The city issued a formal written notice of its intent to repurchase the remaining undeveloped parcels. That repurchase was to occur within 180 days.
After Harbor Urban told the city that it no longer wanted to build the remainder of the project required by the 2005 agreement, the city and owner/developer entered into a “standstill agreement”, which gave Harbor Urban until March 1 to negotiate with the city an alternate project and amendments to the development agreement for the remaining parcels.
Under the standstill agreement, if the city and Harbor Urban did not agree upon an alternate project, the city could repurchase the parcels or direct Harbor Urban to sell them to another developer.
Harbor Urban and the city failed to agree on a mutually acceptable alternative project prior to the March 1 deadline, prompting the City Council’s action Monday.
Highline Times editor Eric Mathison contributed to this report.