Mayor ‘Optimistic’ about Future of Downtown Burien, Town Square Buy Back
by Ralph Nichols
Burien Mayor Brian Bennett is optimistic that a proposal for the city to repurchase the vacant properties in Town Square, then sell them to a new developer, would help rejuvenate the local economy.
The city council will consider at Monday’s meeting (June 4) buying back from Harbor-Urban (formerly Urban Partners) three still-undeveloped parcels.
Under the terms of their Town Square development agreement, Urban Partners was required to begin construction of a second building by July 2011- yet still hasn’t submitted a plan for city approval.
“I think it’s important to try to help the businesses in Burien to succeed, to get more foot traffic downtown,” Bennett told The B-Town Blog. “So if we can get more residences downtown, hopefully that will help the local businesses there.”
But if they build more condos will more residents come? Only about 30 units in the lone Town Square condominium/retail complex have been sold since that building opened in 2009; however, sales were on hold for two years while it emerged from a bank foreclosure.
“Personally, I’m optimistic about the attractiveness of our downtown area and the potential there,” Bennett said. “My understanding is that as the economy picks up the real estate market is picking up everywhere – including Burien.”
Noting that the initial condo/retail complex was impacted by the “great recession” shortly after its completion, he added, “I think it’s just a matter of time and marketing before they [the vacant units] get sold.”
Has Harbor-Urban’s failure to timely begin a second Town Square development contributed to downtown Burien’s sluggish retail activity?
“Certainly if they’d stayed to the timeline they agreed to there would be more residents downtown for the first-floor retail there. A lot more people. The delay certain hurt Town Square development.”
Although initial development of Town Square was complete before Bennett’s election to the city council, “this is a very important issue for Burien,” he observed. “It will be interesting to see how [Monday’s] discussion goes.”
He also acknowledged that if the city repurchases those properties, “we’ll take on risk” they didn’t have before.
“But it should be a short-term risk because the goal will be to sell them to a new developer or developers. Certainly we don’t intend to develop any buildings. I’m optimistic that there will be interested buyers who will do this.”
The existing development agreement will be transferred to any new developer or a new agreement will be negotiated, depending on how the buy-back process goes with Harbor-Urban, he said.