At its Monday night (May 20, 2024) meeting, the Burien City Council is scheduled to receive a presentation on the results of a feasibility study for a proposed International Public Market (IPM) near Sea-Tac Airport.

The Council will hear from Port of Seattle and King County economic development staff about the study’s findings. The Port and King County partnered in 2023 to commission the study, conducted by New Venture Advisors.

The vision for the project is an IPM “that will attract tourists and visitors, provide a gathering space, showcase local cultural attributes, and support economic development and entrepreneurship for small businesses in south King County (with an emphasis on supporting small ethnic businesses).”

Input received during the analysis phase identified three cities as desirable for the potential IPM:

  • Tukwila
  • SeaTac
  • Burien

Currently, this study is in the review phase, with consideration to five parcels in the city of SeaTac, five in the city of Tukwila, and four in the city of Burien.

The City of Burien was added to the study after our story with a link to a feedback form was published on Nov. 18, 2023 (way to respond readers – 71 of you voted for Burien, putting us in second place to Tukwila!).

“The project team and advisory discussed this and concluded that the city of Burien should be included in the considerations and evaluations as that was the guidance provided by the outreach and input of the community,” the study says. “Again, NVA is not recommending a specific site or municipality but evaluating the primary options available during the course of this study to determine if there are sites compatible with the concepts in development and how the proposed sites could support facility needs.”

The proposed market – which could be built in a Downtown Burien grocery/bank parking lot, city parking lot or vacant lot – would aim to serve as a tourist destination, community gathering space, and incubator for local and ethnic food and product vendors.

Sites were evaluated using a scoring system, as seen below:

“This facility has the potential to advance King County as a tourism destination and expand economic opportunities in near-airport communities and within the County as a whole,” the agenda item reads.

Sites Under Consideration

Site visits to the municipalities under consideration (in Tukwila, SeaTac, and Burien) identified that all three proposed host municipalities may offer potential collaborative or partner opportunities, which could include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • an affordable housing development that could co-develop and inhabit a larger building, specifically using a 4/5-over-2 podium design with retail functions on the lower floors and residential above, as seen throughout the region
  • additional square footage partitioned to operate independently for an operational partner(s) who wished to have space to support complimentary service or functional offerings such as a daycare center, office space, or municipal or community services department

Cost of the IPM would range from $28.5 to $112 million dollars depending on the model, whether a partner is included, location, design and more.

“A City that hosts the marketplace must be able to offer some type of financing support for the overall project,” the study says. “The cost of developing the international market is beyond the capacity of any individual sponsor (ex. Port/King County) or participating city. It will take funding from a variety of sources to develop a successful market.”

“It is fair to say that without some unforeseen partner, Burien may find itself unable to do this project, cool as it sounds,” Councilmember Sarah Moore said in her May 20 email newsletter.

Next Steps

  • Briefings of Burien, SeaTac and Tukwila City Councils on study findings and recommendations.
    • Ask cities to determine which site and market model works best for them (if any).
  • Interested cities explore specific market options.
    • Port and County discuss options with interested cities once site and potential market options have been identified.

The completed feasibility report can be found here, or in pages 7–123 in the Burien City Council May 20 agenda packet here.

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