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Kent prepares to put par 3 golf course up for sale

Riverbend faces a $2.6 million debt, capital investments of at least $6 million and operating deficits of about $300,000 per year. City officials hope to sell the par 3 to cover the debt as well as the capital improvements needed on the 18-hole course.  - Mark Klaas, Kent Reporter
Riverbend faces a $2.6 million debt, capital investments of at least $6 million and operating deficits of about $300,000 per year. City officials hope to sell the par 3 to cover the debt as well as the capital improvements needed on the 18-hole course.
— image credit: Mark Klaas, Kent Reporter

The city of Kent will take the next steps to market its Riverbend par 3 golf course property after the City Council unanimously approved rezoning the 24-acre site along the Green River.

"The goals for the site are to generate sufficient financial return from the sale to meet the needs of the golf course for decades to come and to promote a quality marquee gateway development that's fitting of such a wonderful site," said Ben Wolters, city economic and community development director, during an interview after the Aug. 19 council vote.

Kent will work with Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate broker with Seattle offices, to assess the market potential for the property, Wolters said.

The rezone changes the property from open space to general commercial mixed use to allow a broad mix of uses. Any multifamily residential (apartments, condos, hotel) must include 5 percent commercial use.

The council voted in April to try to sell the course to a developer to help bail out the financially struggling golf complex, which also features an 18-hole course, driving range and merchandise shop.

Riverbend faces a $2.6 million debt, capital investments of at least $6 million and operating deficits of about $300,000 per year. City officials hope to sell the par 3 to cover the debt as well as the capital improvements needed on the 18-hole course. The debt is owed to an inter-fund loan, money that the city borrowed from its water and fleet funds to help pay off the bond for the golf complex.

"As a council we have been talking about this for quite some time to put the zoning in place for the Riverbend golf course," Councilman Bill Boyce said prior to the vote. "This has been a very, very long conversation among the council members and definitely not an easy decision. But we are very much aware of the need to be able to do something different to meet some of our financial obligations."

Wolters expects the analysis by the real estate broker to be done in the next five weeks or so. Then city staff must figure out the best approach to market the property.

The city will seek developers to submit a request for qualifications and then narrow that list to two or three for a more formal request for proposals, Wolters said. City officials used a similar process to determine the developer for The Platform apartments downtown at Fourth Avenue and West Smith Street.

"I think it's a process that will occur over the coming year," Wolters said when asked how long it will take before the city might select a potential developer.

Developers showed a high interest in the property even before the rezoning.

"There's already interest in the development community," Wolters said. "Oakpointe (a part of the Yarrow Bay group) is still very interested in the property and others have voiced interest as the word has gotten out there."

The par 3 course and driving range opened in 1968 along with the neighboring Colony Park apartments before the city later took over the course. Berry and corn fields previously were on the property.

City park officials proposed to replace the par 3 by building a 2-acre training facility with a couple of short holes next to the driving range as well as installing forward tees on the 18-hole course to make the holes shorter for senior and youth golfers.

As many as 1,509 units housing up to 3,470 people could be built on the site, according to city planning documents based on the King County buildable lands study. City planner Matt Gilbert, however, said based on that same study the more likely numbers are 422 residential units for 970 people.

Office and retail space could employ approximately 1,200 office jobs and 200 retail jobs

Residential buildings are likely to be similar to The Platform apartments under construction in downtown, according to an applicant form submitted by Kurt Hanson, city economic development manager, to the city planning department.

A fully built out residents and commercial complex could lead to an estimated 13,935 new daily vehicle trips, according to city studies.

Gilbert noted the mixed-use project is projected to be 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial.

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