Burien Town Square – Success To Be? Or Future Ghost Town?

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by Gina Bourdage

Since discussions began in October of 2003 to build an urban community center, devoid of the need to drive to find world class cuisine, shopping and entertainment, the city of Burien and its residents and residents-to-be have been eagerly awaiting the grand opening of the new much hyped mini metropolis known at the Town Square.

On June 13th, a very successful grand opening of a new city hall and library allowed people to experience firsthand the fruits of Burien’s growth and economic development. Many notable names spoke and praised the city for all it has achieved. New condos stand just to the west of the city hall building, towering with possibilities for those who can reach into their pockets and afford a lifestyle that promises to offer comfort, convenience and a sort of laid back luxury for its owners. With about one third sold as of June 2009, the condos, once only viewable via one floor plan in a model version are now open to be explored.

But what about the “mixed use neighborhood” feeling that is being promised? The stores that will offer residents the chance to leave their car at home (or in the garage in this case) and leisurely stroll along the city streets with virtually everything they will need within a comfortable walking radius?

Don’t get me wrong – I, as a resident of Burien (not of the new town square) already enjoy our local restaurants, stores and services, but there has long been an expectation and promise of more to come for not just the town square residents, but the rest of us as well. This is where the new leasing agency Leibsohn & Company stepped in after a recent switch in representation of the retail spaces available in the new town square. With spaces available from 1, 128 up to 7,315 square feet, there is really an unlimited amount of opportunities for any potential retailer from the smallest boutique to chain restaurant.

According to Ron Waldbaum, the current listed prices are shown at $28-$32 per square foot, however; “We are ready to talk and make deals.”

Mr. Waldbaum has a personal connection to the city of Burien and is very enthusiastic to see it succeed. When asked what types of business he would like to ideally see move into the vacant spaces he said: ones that would be of benefit to the residents making it nearly unnecessary for them to have to do more than walk down the street for all of the things they might need. Coffee shops, paper products, salons and spas and a variety of culinary options would be the ideal candidates.

“For interested retailers being the first to lease a space would be of great benefit. We are willing to customize the space as needed for their business,” said Waldbaum. “We can break up the larger spaces or design something that works to fill them, whatever the client may need.”

For the time being however, no official leases have been signed, but serious interested parties have been in contact with the Leibsohn & Company agents. We as residents will have to keep our fingers crossed that our beautiful new town square does not become reminiscent of a ghost town.

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6 Responses to “Burien Town Square – Success To Be? Or Future Ghost Town?”
  1. warren says:

    I have been considering a condo at the new town square. But the vacant retail is not a good sign. As far as what types of business would lease a space? I don’t know, but a stationary store and spa aint going to give me what I need. A new coffee shop opened across the street, where rents are more affordable. The coffee shop is great by the way, I go there all the time. I have been told by a local business owner that the spaces are too large and too much $. 32 dollars a square foot are Bellevue Square prices. If you want to fill it up the price must come down, both residential and retail. Some visionary got Burien, Bellevue, and Bell Town mixed up. Those prices just wont work here, sorry.

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  2. mark says:

    Burien town square has been the proposed crown jewel by Burien City council for years.
    A ambitious project, it ran into a number of problems, first and foremost was the down turn in the economy and secondly was the high prices asked for both retail and residential space.. I believe that there would have been more purchases in the beginning if pricing had be more resonable. I have stated before that I never understood why prime realesate had to be used for a cityhall, which could be placed almost anywhere and also why library had to relocated from its previous wonderful location. I find it ironic to think about how much money would have been saved (renting of a temporary location for BCC) that could have been used elsewhere in this project. Despite these drawbacks, I believe that the town square will be asset to the community especially when the remainder of the property isdeveloped. I believe that market forces will eventually prevail, that prices will fall, and buyers will come.

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  3. Rob says:

    I still say the olf bells building(bells, lamonts, gotschalks) would have made a great convention center for the city- and it was already built. As for the condos= I am not selling my 1500 square foot home to buy a 600 square foot condo. And I agree with mark- the cofee shop across the street is wonderful and smart for their remodeling. And he pays less to be in the neighborhood.
    Be that as it may- I have to say the space is wonderful, the park is nice. So I am joping for much success to it.

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  4. brooke says:

    i think the town square’s is going to make a fine city center…as long as burien finds businesses to populate it. if the town center gets more, and desirable, businesses…the town center will have no problem filling the condos.

    look at renton, they tried this is reverse. build a bunch of condos, fill them, then get business. it haven’t had a lot of success.

    business will bring in people!

    we’ve got a great brewery, a new great coffee house, and plenty fo resturants; now let’s try for a record store, a bookstore, and other amendenties that will keep residents shopping [and spending] locally!

    burien, let’s not lose momentum!

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  5. moverlake says:

    I just performed a quick rental calculation for a representative small retail Town Square space: 1200′ sq. X $28 divided by 12 months = $2800 per month. That seems like a lot of money in low-traffic downtown Burien in the midst of the “Great Recession.” Basically, no startup could risk it and no existing retailer needs new, risky, low-traffic space in this economic downturn.

    I think Leibsohn’s Mr. Waldbaum made a mistake to even refer to their listed rates. I’d guess that they’re not going to get anything like that right now for most of those spaces. I hope the property owners are willing (and able per the financing contracts) to accept much less rather than get nothing at all.

    Otherwise it WILL remain a ghost town. Anybody notice how much vacant space remains in the new Normandy Park/First Avenue South retail mini-mall development? I fear that even if Town Square cut the rental rate by half, they’d still have trouble finding tenants in this time, when commercial property all over the country is going begging, and more retailers and other businesses are closing than are opening.

    But, if they did that, they might have a chance. Otherwise, we’ll be seeing empty storefronts for the next year or more.

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  1. […] Please enjoy these links to recent articles on the status of Burien Towne Square. The first was published in The Seattle Times June, 2009,  the second is from our friends at the B-Town Blog […]

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