Will A Real Hotel Ever Check-In To Burien?

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by Ralph Nichols

Although vacant commercial properties in downtown Burien are beginning to fill up with new and returning businesses, as we reported last week, a couple of big pieces still are missing.

None of the street-level retail space in the Town Square condominium complex at SW 152nd St. and 6th Ave. S. is occupied five months after the development opened, with no indication that any businesses are likely to move in anytime soon.

And a twice-anticipated hotel, which just a few years ago was expected to have welcomed its first guests long before now, still is just a dream.

So, despite all the encouraging news, what’s going on with these stalled commercial ventures?

According to Dick Loman, the city’s economic development manager, a combination of factors beyond the control of the city, Town Square private developer Urban Partners and other investors are at play.

But Loman is optimistic that these pieces will fall into place “hopefully sooner rather than later.”

With a number of hotels clustered in SeaTac and more in Tukwila, Burien, which is less than four miles from the airport terminal, seems like an ideal place for the next hotel development in this area, he said.

But while being first in a new location is seen as a marketing advantage for lots of businesses, the hotel industry – in which several properties often are located close together – considers “a pioneering effort” as having “a higher degree of risk,” Loman explained.

So Burien continues to wait for a hotel to come here. Still, there have been promising signs of interest.

In December 2005, Loman recalled, a Tacoma group signed a development agreement with Burien to build a hotel on the vacant city property at SW 150th St. and 2nd Ave. SW. Less than two years later, however, they ran into serious problems with a hotel already under construction in Lakewood and had to withdraw. The city released them from the contract.

A few months later, another group signed a letter of intent with the city to build a hotel at the same site. “But during the course of that process the financial markets began to drift,” he said. “They couldn’t proceed. There was too much risk.”

Despite these setbacks, Loman is optimistic. “I’m very confident that we’ll get a hotel here as soon as the market changes,” he said, noting several hotel chains have expressed interest in building in Burien in the future. “The demand is here. (A hotel) is needed. It will be a wonderful piece of our redevelopment.”

The wait to fill Town Square retail space may not last as long, but in the short term it’s a more complicated process. The primary problem is that leasing retail space in the complex involves working through the same maze with the construction loan that Urban Partners must navigate before condo units can qualify for financing.

“Urban Partners needs to talk to the bank, but they don’t know who (in the banking group) to talk to” right now, Loman continued. In the meantime, the developer tells him “yes,” businesses are interested in leasing this space. “But potential tenants want to know who (will hold the lease) before making a commitment.”

Although he has “no idea” how long it will take for Urban Partners to work things out with the banking group that now holds its construction loan, “I can’t imagine it will last more than 90 to 120 days. It’s too important an asset just to sit there.”

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2 Responses to “Will A Real Hotel Ever Check-In To Burien?”
  1. Greg Fox says:

    No idea?
    Let’s get real. First the condo and retailspace of the new developement are way over priced. Some prices that only Seatlle could carry (and this is not Seattle) and there is currently no need for another hotel/motel. There are plently of vacancies in the existing hotels-just go to Pac Hiway and take a look on any particular evening. Lot of vacancy signs lit up (and yes any new hotel would still be competing with Pac Hiway).
    So what is the answer? Lower prices for the new developement (which is out of the cities control) and waiting for the economy to fatten up which will probably not happen in 2010.
    It’s wait and see (while crossing your fingers)….

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  2. Tcb says:

    I’m kinda not stressing about it. The retail spaces are built, and they will fill up someday. I’m pretty happy with the mix of businesses that exist in Burien, I’m excited to see when a new one opens up, if there isn’t something here then it’s at Southcenter or Downtown (I don’t mind actually leaving Burien to get something I want). i’m kinda meh.

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