The Sept. 17 Federal Way City Commission meeting came and went without word from Seattle-based Lorig Associates on whether or not it will develop a four-acre site on the southwest corner of 20th Avenue and South 316th Street. City officials continue to wait for word from the developer regarding the site, and while the wait continues, optimism remains.
The developer initially had a 90-day agreement with the city to study the site; that pact ended on Aug. 1. The City granted Lorig a 60-day extension on the agreement to give the company more time to make a decision.
“We have an exclusive engagement with them to do feasibility analysis on the project, do some basic concept design and site design – all those preliminaries that any developer would want to do,” said Patrick Doherty, community and economic development director at the City of Federal Way. “They're due to come back to us to present their position.”
The site in question, which currently sits empty, has underwent a series of false starts in development since the City first acquired it.
“We bought the site in December '07,” said Doherty. “It's a prime piece of property in the middle of our city next to the transit center, and it's a prime piece of property that you would like to see more robustly developed as an urban-type development than the sort of strip-type development that has preceded the current time in our city center.”
The City began to make direct inquiries to developers this year, with Lorig stepping up to the plate. The company has continued to informally indicate its interest in developing the property, so, for now, Doherty and the City continue to be cautiously encouraged.
“I think we're optimistic. I've met with them many times. I've talked to them many times. They seem to certainly be doing all the required steps in order and pursuing it with diligence.”
Doherty added that the City isn't being particular with regards to what it wants to see on the site, although it has a general idea of the kind of development it wants.
“We said in our RFQs originally that we weren't going to dictate specifically the use that had to be there or specifically the size,” Doherty said. “What we wanted was a more urban format, breaking away from the suburban strip mall, one-story-type development. We want a more urban format development with public open space and with a mix of uses, of a scope and scale that would be potentially catalytic in spurring other developments on nearby properties.
“It's rather open-ended, but with a specific sort of objective.”
The open space Doherty described will make up the part of the project that will be financed with public funds.
“We basically approached the developers and said, 'Who would be interested in this notion where we spend our money on a public plaza that also serves as a nice amenity to be located next to your private development?'” explained Doherty. “We were basically sweetening the pot in an area that needs a little sweetening right now.”
The plaza itself has yet to be designed, although Doherty confirmed that the city is looking to have a predominantly hardscape plaza as opposed to an open grass area. Regardless, he said, the City is prepared to pull the trigger to finance its end of the bargain; all that matters now is for the developers to make a commitment.
“Until they tell us they will or they won't, we're just kind of playing the waiting game,” he said. “We're confident. But we are still waiting.”