‘Monumental Agreement’ Points to Resolution of Town Square Standoff

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Satellite view of the two empty parcels of land in Burien Town Square, which could serve as the locations for new apartment buildings. Click image to see larger version.

by Ralph Nichols

A “standstill agreement” – described by Burien City Manager Mike Martin as “monumental” – affecting the undeveloped properties at Town Square – comes before city council members tonight (Monday, Aug. 20; download the PDF packet here, see p. 69).

If the council approves this agreement with private developer Harbor Urban, it will eliminate the possibility of legal action should Burien buy back the three vacant parcels.

It also gives Harbor Urban additional time to propose a project plan – most likely a quality apartment building – that reflects current housing market realities.

“At the end of the day, we have the right to say we don’t like it and move on to something else,” Martin said.

In the meantime, the standstill agreement holds in abeyance the city’s option to repurchase these properties.

The clock for Burien to take action started running June 4 when council members voted 7-0 to initiate a buy-back of these properties from Harbor-Urban (read our coverage of that here).

Prior to that vote, Harbor Urban, which has a long-standing agreement to develop them, asked city lawmakers for more time to launch the second private project at Town Square.

“Regardless of the City Council’s decision tonight, the Developer will defend the investment it has made in the Town Square project and its record of good faith bargaining despite the commercial frustrations it has faced,” they were told by a Harbor Urban principal.

What then was Urban Partners had two years to begin construction on a second development after the first Town Square condominium-retail project opened in June 2009. That building is now owned by ST Residential.

Since then, however, the three properties still owned by Harbor Urban have remained vacant and no progress has been made toward the start of a new development.

Harbor Urban is now 13 months in default, and the original development agreement gives the city the right in that event to repurchase any undeveloped Town Square properties at 90 percent of what Urban Partners paid for them in 2005.

City Attorney Craig Knutson told The B-Town Blog this agreement, already negotiated with Harbor Urban, will temporarily stop the clock on the buy-back process and give them until Nov. 15 to propose a viable development that is acceptable to the council.

If Harbor Urban doesn’t meet the new deadline, Knutson noted, “then the city has the right to proceed with repurchase, or sell it to a third party” that could develop a second Town Square housing complex.

He said the city also “could withdraw its intent to repurchase” if market conditions look unfavorable for a new development. “If the market flips, the city would not want to be holding undeveloped property.”

Martin said the standstill agreement provides “certainty around the time frame and certainty that we can now move ahead without litigation.

“When we get to the end of this process, whether the city likes it [Harbor Urban’s new plan] or doesn’t like it, this agreement will avoid litigation. That’s why this is a big deal.”

Any new development almost certainly won’t be another condo-retail complex, as originally envisioned, he continued.

“In my opinion and the opinion of others, condos are not an option at this time. There is no interest in condos.” So Harbor Urban is looking at the possibility of building apartments in Town Square.

But three requirements by the city will come into play for development of an apartment complex, Martin said: density of housing units; “structured and largely hidden parking, not a surface parking area;” and “quality that is compatible with what we already have.

“Most likely it would not have retail” on the ground floor like the existing complex does. That retail space has remained vacant except for a Subway Shop now getting ready to open there.

“It’s important to us that we not compromise our vision” for Town Square, Martin added. “At some place this fall we’ll pretty much know” what happens next.

Here’s the full text as included on page 69 of Monday night’s City Council agenda/packet:

In 2002, the City purchased the Town Square property at fair market value of $4,050,000 and invested significant public resources in constructing and maintaining transportation and park facilities in the Town Square. Following a Request for Qualifications process, the City sold the Town Square property consisting of Parcels I, IV, V, and VI to Urban Ventures Burien, LLC (“Owner/Developer”), at fair market value of $4,666,016 pursuant to a Disposition and Development Agreement dated June 29, 2005.

Owner/Developer chose to develop the Property in Phases, substantially completed the first Phase on July 21, 2009, and was required to commence construction of the next Phase on or before July 21, 2011. On April 30, 2012, the City issued a formal written notice to Owner/Developer that an Event of Default pursuant to the DDA had occurred. Pursuant to Resolution No. 334, on June 8, 2012 the City issued a formal written notice of our intent to repurchase the remaining undeveloped parcels.

Owner/Developer has since merged with Harbor Properties to form Harbor Urban. After extensive dialog with Owner/Developer, the City and Owner/Developer have negotiated a Standstill Agreement that would suspend the repurchase process for a period of time no longer than November 15, 2012. The Owner/Developer would have an opportunity to propose a project and amendments to the DDA. If the project moves forward the repurchase would be canceled and if doesn’t move forward, the Owner/Developer agrees to transfer the Parcels to the City or a third party with out delay or litigation.

Staff is recommending that the City Council approve the Standstill Agreement.

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24 Responses to “‘Monumental Agreement’ Points to Resolution of Town Square Standoff”
  1. wheels says:

    Martin says it is important that we don’t compromise our vision for Town Square. That vision includes no rental units. People who rent don’t have an investment in the community, for the most part. If people don’t have a vested interest in keeping the Town Square neighborhood clean and quiet because of the impact on their property values, then Town Square will slowly, or rapidly, decline. Is there a shortage of apartments in Burien? It seems to me that Burien has a higher percentage of apartments than any other city around.

    The whole Town Square project got the green light based on No Apartments. This is bait and switch, and another example of Martin’s blatant dishonesty. Martin must go.

    • Down the drain says:

      I agree Apartments come on!!!! Who is this “City Manager” why can’t we vote for one? Towne Square is a big dissapointment as was predicted.The streets are already very filthy from the Farmers Market there,no one cleans it up but that another story!!! Make the place a little Village that other Citys have like Kent Commons or Westwood Village or The great little village in Renton.More Apartments equal more CRIME!!!!

      • John Poitras says:

        Apartments was NEVER in the vision for Town Square.. That plan flies in the face of everything the city promised it was planning on doing to REVITALIZE down town Burien..

        Can someone explain how Rental Apartments is going to accomplish that?
        Imo that will accomplish the exact opposite of the original VISION.

        If that’s the only option then MAKE IT INTO A PARK; like a mini central park in Burien … That would at least add some beauty to it and everyone could enjoy it.

      • Joe Wills says:

        As long as Mike Martin is the City Manager,, Burien will continue to “Go Down The Drain” our once nice city is being turned into a H”<L hole. Mike Martin needs to go!!

    • Coverofnight says:

      I agree 100%! Also, I thought I read that the council voted 7-0 to buy back the properties and now Martin has negotiated some other agreement……isn’t he supposed to follow the council’s directions? Is he going off on his own to make policy?

      Wheels is spot on with the lack of “investment” in a community with apartment dwellers (see also the article on the Courtyard Apartment shooting).

      Wish we had more transparency with this local government on issues like this and the annexation. When they keep acting against the citizens’ will, it makes you wonder what kind of shenanigans/conflicts-of-interests/etc. are taking place over there.

  2. Wowzer says:

    The original vision was clearly for retail and more condominiums. We would actually consider a condo in Town Square when we are ready to downsize, but would not with an apartment complex next door. Nor can I think that the new owner of Town Square is a fan of apartments next door. Apartments are an expedient thing at this very moment but not the best for the long term. They will probably drive the value of the condos down to the lowest common denominator. That’s really not what we wanted for our Town Square. How about the condos and town houses originally envisioned on the west ,with the movie theater on the east? Why did the theater concept go away? I think the city should wait this out. The rest of us are.

  3. Tired of transient poulation says:

    It seems to me the more apartments we have, the more we will experience a city that declines in single family owner occupied homes. It is already unfortunate that the general response to the fact that I live in Burien from colllegues ranges from ” YEW” to “Why do you live there” The perception of our city is already that of a downtrodden , section 8 kind of area .Those of us who do own homes will end up selling and moving, with the further strain/decline on our schools and infrustructure further compiling the concern is that these homes will end up becoming rental properties by investors. Please lets think of a quality solution . Lets look something more cultural like an open air concert venue . Heck, how about a garden area maintained by the great gardeners in our area on a volunteer basis . While I have your ears , how bout getting a compliance officer out to get people to clean up their yards , haul junk cars away, get rid of grafitti . I live in North Burien near Hazel Valley Elementary School and the culverts are often filled with trash that kids have to look at …beer bottles , condom wrappers , you name it . I have a full time job or I would be out there more frequently myself. Lets strive to be better not just doing something to look like we are “doing something”

  4. Athena says:

    Indeed, the prospect of apartments filling that space is disappointing. Have we so quickly lost site of our desire to stem the rampant development of multi-family developments, one of the main motivations for Burien’s incorporation? I think everyone following this issue understands that the city is between a rock and a hard spot, but are we really this desperate? Apartments, there of all places, would most assuredly “compromise our vision”.

  5. becky says:

    If the city of Burien does get this property back, has anyone thought about putting a nice dog park in those lots? I think that would be better than having another apartment building in the area.

    • Joe Wills says:

      A dog park would be great ! But keep CARES out of it !!! LOL….. another one of Mike Martin’s jokes on the city….when is this idiot going to be fired ????

  6. Shari says:

    Does anybody know if the Town Square condos have been aggressively marketed to the corporate relo teams for some of the bigger employers around here (Alaska; Boeing; HIghline Hospital; Highline School District; etc)? And if so, whether any of those employers are considering including these condos in employer assisted housing incentives that support their ability to recruit critical talent with money for downpayments, closing costs, monthly mortgage subsidies, forgiveable loans, etc etc?

    • Kim says:

      Hi Shari – yes, the marketing team for the condos has reached out to local employers including Highline Hospital, Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle (SeaTac Airport employees). We are not aware of any special housing incentive offered by those employers.

  7. Jane says:

    The last thing we need are more apartments.Most apartment dwellers are “transients”. Meaning that they’ll most likely be there for 6 – 12 months and then move on. We have the condos in town square, we don’t need apartments. Like “down the drain” says, let’s build something like they have in Kent. We need to bring in businesses so we can shop locally and not have to go elsewhere. A “nice” restaurant would be great; we really don’t have much to choose from. The couple of restaurants in Olde Burien are great – love them. But they are small. Retail shops are needed. No more dollar stores, second hand stores, etc.

    • VERY TIRED says:

      Excuse me.

      I have read these responses and it frankly infuriates me.

      I have lived in an apartment in this city for the past 3 years. I am not going anywhere. Just because I can’t afford a damned house here doesn’t mean I’m a transient. If you want to know the real meaning behind that word that you are misusing, go down to Nicklesville. I am so sick and tired of being defamed by people like you. This is my city too. I chose to live here.

      • Jane says:

        Very Tired:

        If you re-read my post I said MOST apartment dwellers are transients, not all. You are one of the few. My kids, who go to school in the Highline School District, make friends who live in apartments and before the school year ends those kids are moving, again.

        Not everybody wants to own a home. I understand that. BUT, I think by adding more apartments directly in the center of town is wrong. We have tons of apartments in Burien that have many availablities.

        Town square has condos. We need retail/restaurant space. Not more living space.

        By the way, Websters Dictionary’s definition for transient is : passing through or by a place with only a brief stay or sojourn. If somebody lives in a place for a short time, as I said above, they are transients.

        I’m glad that you have lived in the same place for 3 years. You are one of the few.

      • lic53 says:

        I agree with Jane! i rented an apartment in Burien for 18 years and the animosity towards renters in this blog shows I made the right choice when I finally bought a home – in Auburn!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Jane, I live in an apartment in Burien going on 6 years now. I don’t plan to move i like where I live and the community I live in. In fact I grew up here and when it was time for my son to start school I thought of no other place to live. I know many of the people in my building would be offended by your comment and frankly others comments about apartments be moslty transient….the majority of the residents in my building have been there for years!

      Others have also commented on the Renton landing….guess what it is a mix of condo’s and apartmenrs, same near University Village, Westwood village….I could go on.

  8. Brad T. says:

    God and you wonder why so many of us are upset with the Anexation thing! I mean really we could end up a 4th runway or a shopping mall with the way they listen to the people and what they sell them on.
    This council is based on lies and lives on excuses, I can’t wait until they are part of the past! Some one put those guys on a donkey and slap it on the rear, I think it’s get out of dodge time!
    How about baiting in some new stores shops etc with all those promises and lies lol at least it would build the tax base ;P

  9. TcB says:

    Dig up all the asphalt and plant grass. Wait until the market can support Condos, even if it 10 years. Don’t build apartments with no retail. This is what was proposed. This is what should be built, no matter how long it takes. Be prepared for a lot of people to be ready to block apartments in the downtown “core”. Do not do it.

  10. Uh oh says:

    What was the point of the town square of your going to let apartments go in? Get rid of mike Martin. The guy is ruining burien.

  11. Hotrodgal says:

    I see nothing wrong with apartments…one look at the West Seattle Junction blows the renters=transients=crime comments straight out of the water. They have a vibrant, thriving business community so maybe Burien city leaders should study that pattern rather than fussing and manipulating everything.

    If the cost of street level retail space had been more affordable and not surrounded by such a boondoggle, those spaces may have been filled by now.

    Failing that, why haven’t portions of this complex been marketed for office space with ample employee parking near by? Burien seems to feed a lot of it’s wallet on the back of its business community anyway, so the concept should certainly have provided quite the cash cow.

    BTW-why is everyone so opposed to having a big parking lot? I’d sure rather park in a parking lot than squeeze into a space in Ol’ Burien’s street side slots; just to collect door dings or chance getting my arse run over when trying to leave.

  12. sallie tierney says:

    To give up on Burien and turn it into more of a wasteland than it already is would do us all a disservice. Why on earth would we need more apartment complexes? We can’t fill the retail or condos – what makes Martin think renters want to live in a ghost town? Burien needs to define its personality and offer something unique to draw people’s interest to the community. When someone mentions Burien wouldn’t it be wonderful for the response to be: “Burien – such a darling little town!”

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