Are Reports Of The Demise Of Burien’s Town Square True? Take Our Poll

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by Ralph Nichols

Borrowing a phrase from Mark Twain, reports of the demise of Burien’s Town Square condominiums, which opened for occupancy in June, are vastly exaggerated.

So declares Dan Rosenfeld, principal of Urban Partners, developer of the privately owned condo and retail complex in Town Square at the corner of SW 152nd Street and Sixth Ave SW.

“We are holding on,” Rosenfeld said this week, responding to a rumor that Urban Partners is barely hanging on. “We are very proud of the quality of our project and the effect that it’s having on the revitalization of downtown Burien.”

Together with the public part of the Town Square project, he added, which includes the new King County Library/City Hall building and a downtown park.

“We couldn’t have built a better project,” Rosenfeld continued. “We did this in a very challenging market. We are working buyer by buyer on closing sales. We are making progress. In the long run, I think we will be very successful.”

Un-leased retail spaces sit empty at Town Square.

The Town Square complex includes a mix of one- and two-bedroom condos, two-story Homes on the Park, and live/work lofts. There is 20,000 square feet of ground-level retail space in addition to 122 condos.

None of the retail space has been leased to date. And, said Burien economic development manager Dick Loman, five of the condos have been sold and closed to date, according to the most recent number provided him.

“They’re selling slow for reasons we all understand,” Loman said. “No development company is making money today but they have the resources to hang on.”

Rosenfeld underscored Loman’s assessment, stating that Urban Partners plans “to stay the course – literally 20 potential buyers are having trouble selling their (existing) homes. Everything’s difficult. That is not a reflection on what we have (at Town Square). Quite the contrary. We’ve received many compliments on the project.”

Underwriting standards have been tightened as lending markets adjust to new criteria, he noted. Urban Partners is “fine tuning our lending program and our marketing activities in response to changing circumstances in the capital markets. We are constantly trying to find ways to do it better.”

Burien City Councilman Gordon Shaw quashed another rumor, which suggested Urban Partners was considering renting some of the condos as apartments. The developer is prevented from doing that in their agreement with the city, which states they must be”for sale” units, he said.

With only five condos sold, and all retails spaces still "for lease," it's no surprise that rumors have started.

But, Shaw said, “It’s concerning to me that more of the residences have not been sold and closed. I’m also distressed about no retail leases – I just don’t know how (Urban Partners) can weather this storm.”

As a councilman, he continued, “I’m just sitting here holding my breath. Urban Partners is telling us nothing about their financial condition.”

For his part, Rosenfeld says they still hope to build the other two condo/retail complexes long-planned for Town Square, “but we have to sell the first phase first. The mortgage markets are challenging, the appraisal markets are challenging. The good news is, there are real signs that a turnaround in housing markets is beginning to appear. Things are edging upwards.”

So…what do YOU think will happen to Burien’s shiny new Town Square? Please take our poll, or leave a Comment below…

What do you think will happen with the Town Square project?

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11 Responses to “Are Reports Of The Demise Of Burien’s Town Square True? Take Our Poll”
  1. Jim Branson says:

    According to public records, only 2 units have sold, and that was back in May. One unit sold for $359,950 and is now appraised at $56,730. Another sold for $634,950 and is now worth $92,070. Who could get financing for that? Who would want to?

    • Conn McQuinn says:

      Those figures are for the taxable value, not the assessed value. Property taxes on the structure are waived for ten years, and the condo owners only pay property taxes on their share of the land value. (You can also figure that into the value of the units – even one of the lower-cost condos will save $30-40,000 in taxes over the ten years.)

  2. Conn says:

    The records show the taxable value, not the assessed value. Because of the private/public partnership, the property taxes on the units are waived for ten years. The units only pay taxes on their share of the land, which is the figure you see in the King County records.

    Many people fail to factor in the value of the waived taxes in looking at the costs of the units. It’s worth many of thousands of dollars over those ten years.

  3. It seems that the taxable value must have been determined based on the unfinished product. They can’t be worth less than my dated 1 bedroom condo on Ambaum (now located in Burien!!). If so, I wanna trade!!

  4. Jim Branson says:

    I’m not a real estate expert. Just going by what the public documents say, and they say appraised, not assessed. You can read it yourself on the link provided.

  5. Rob says:

    Personally, I think the city should partner with someone like SHAG to build low rent apartments for the elderlyin ohase two or three, who would be the best base for downtown business.
    Right now it is embarassing to see the condos/retail sit empty. Probably would be a good idea to rent out the rest of the condos.

  6. Bonnie Taub says:

    They should lower the price on retail space. If they did, I think there would be some wonderful Entrepreneurs that might take a chance on the new building. When I checked into retail prices, they wanted 4K for a 1000 square foot shop. Burien is not Belltown or Pioneer Square.

  7. Tom Harmon says:

    As long as they continue to price the condos like they are in downtown Seattle or Kirkland, they are going to be a tough sell.

    It cannot possibly help sales to have a public art project in their back yard that, despite some nice pieces, consists primarily of piled up broken asphalt and huge concrete feet.

  8. warren says:

    The price of the condos has come down. As much as $80,000 on at least one unit. They are now priced closer to what they should be. I made an offer on one, but rescinded it when two things happened. First the real estate company said they were not impressed by the amount of earnest money I put down. $5000! Then I learned how few units have actually closed. The lack of leased retail space is a real drag on the project. If they had some tenants such as a restaurant and drug store things would take off. The project itself has a lot of positives. I like that the library and art space are next door. Access to Buriens restaurants and business’s is terrific.

    But here is the bottom line. They need me, more than I need them. If they cant lower the price, lease some retail, and not insult prospective buyers, they got problems. I think I’ll just wait for the bankruptcy proceedings, and buy one for a $100,000 less at the auction.

    • Emelie says:

      I agree with you. I would love to open a smoothie/coffee shop, but not for the lease they are asking. I’ll wait or walk away. I would also like to buy a condo, but the price needs to come down about 30% before I get serious.

  9. mark pitzner says:

    I Have for long time been concerned about the inflated prices of both the residential and commercial spaces. Especially since comparable footage was availabe nearby for consideralbly less, I simply didn’t see the attraction. Now with the trying economic times, urban partners has to make some serious decisions and probably lower prices quickly before going into serious economic troubles, these spaces can stay vacant for only so long. I would hate see the whole venture go into bankruptcy and to auction, that would really not benefit anyone. There could be an offer of various incentives to encourage occupency even attractive tax waivers, whatever it takes to get the ball rolling so to speak…..

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