Mayor Suzette Cooke joins Cool Bird, the Seattle Thunderbirds’ mascot, in celebrating the announcement that Dick’s Drive-In is coming to Kent’s West Hill on Highway 99. COURTESY PHOTO, Dick’s Drive-In

Newest Dick’s Drive-In coming to Kent | UPDATE

A new Dick’s Drive-In is coming to Kent’s West Hill.

The popular burger chain plans to open its latest drive-in – the company’s seventh – late next year on Pacific Highway and South 242nd Street in Kent, just south of Kent-Des Moines Road, not far from Sea-Tac International Airport. The location was revealed on a live Facebook announcement Thursday morning.

Jim Spady, president of Dick’s Drive-In and the son of the late founder Dick Spady, said the eatery will sit on a vacant lot near the Lowe’s store next to Highway 99. Construction, once the project clears the building permit process, could begin in the spring with the drive-in opening next fall, the company said.

“The Kent property is in a great location on Highway 99, five miles south of Sea-Tac Airport,” Jim Spady said in a statement. “It’s a half-mile south of the intersection with the Kent-Des Moines highway and very close to Highline College in Des Moines. We look forward to bringing great food and great first-time jobs to the communities of South King County.”

The choice for Kent comes after Dick’s asked voters to decide earlier this year what area they would like the new restaurant to be in – east or south of Seattle. The online poll attracted about 170,000 votes, with the south of Seattle destination getting 60 percent of the count.

Kent beat out other contenders – Auburn, Renton, Burien, Des Moines, SeaTac, Tukwila, Federal Way, West Seattle and Normandy Park – for the restaurant, Spady said.

The addition of Dick’s represents a victory for Kent’s West Hill community as it continues to grow commercially, said Ben Wolters, city economic and community development director. City staff and Dick’s owners examined other sites along the Pac Highway corridor before discovering the right spot.

“We’re certainly thrilled with a company with such a wonderful reputation and a great following has decided to grow in Kent,” Wolters said. “It really speaks to a bright future for west Kent, that area along Pacific Highway, which hasn’t seen a lot of investment but is beginning to see it.

“The Dick’s investment is kind of a harbinger of what’s to come as Sound Transit moves forward with beginning construction of new light rail stations … on the West Hill,” Wolters said. “I think we’re going to see more growth and more folks and businesses moving to that west Kent area in the coming years.”

City officials worked long and hard to gain the drive-in.

“I so appreciate the can-do attitude by our economic development staff in addressing Dick’s criteria to invest in Kent,” Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke said in a statement. “What a great example of public and private sectors working together to bring an iconic family business for the public to experience and enjoy.”

The expansion is the first for the company since the Edmonds location opened in October 2011. Dick’s has five Seattle locations, including the original site that opened in 1954 in the Wallingford neighborhood.

According to the company, plans are for the Kent location to fashion the look of the Seattle outdoor drive-ins.

Sonic update

On the other side of the valley – on Kent’s East Hill – plans are moving slowly ahead for Sonic to build its drive-in, Wolters said.

“It’s just taken longer because of more challenging financing and development issues,” Wolters said, “but it still looks to be on track to move forward.”

Wolters anticipates the developer will begin work before the end of the year. The drive-in could possibly open later next year at the northeast corner of 116th Avenue Southeast and Kent Kangley Road.

Sonic, which features the television commercials of two men chatting in a car, started in 1953 in Oklahoma and has more than 3,500 locations in 45 states. It serves about 3 million customers daily and features carhops at many locations. The nearest locations to Kent include Bonney Lake, Puyallup, Tacoma, Poulsbo and Lacey.

– The Federal Way Mirror contributed to this story.