The Kent City Council unanimously approved Tuesday night a development agreement to allow nearly 500 apartments to be built in place of the city-owned Riverbend par 3 golf course.
Auburn-based FNW, Inc./Landmark Development Group plans to start construction next spring of the Marquee on Meeker mixed-use complex. The council voted 5-2 in May to sell the property for $10.5 million to the developer.
“We have been on a long journey looking at what to do with the par 3,” said Council President Bill Boyce, who first started to look at the golf complex financial struggles when he joined the council in 2012. “We looked at a number of ways to make it work for the golf complex. When we realized it couldn’t work, we put it out to bid.”
The council approved trying to sell the par 3 property in 2014 to help eliminate the city’s enterprise golf fund debt of nearly $4 million and allow for about $6 million in capital improvements to the 18-hole course across Meeker Street from the par 3 as a way to draw more players to boost revenue at the complex, which includes a driving range and pro shop. Riverbend loses about $300,000 per year.
Boyce came away impressed with the developers as well as their Trek Apartments project that opened two years ago in Auburn. He said he expects this development to have a major impact on Kent similar to the ShoWare Center and Kent Station.
“This is state of the art,” Boyce said. “I hope seven years from now people will say this council made the right decision and this is good for the city of Kent. I went to the Trek in Auburn and really liked what we saw down there. That took me over the edge. I’m very excited about this project.”
The first phase of Marquee on Meeker will include 288 apartments, the second phase 204 units. Some apartments could be ready to rent as soon as spring 2019.
The 10-year development agreement with FNW/Landmark specifies exterior and interior design standards, retail and commercial space requirements, fees and other development conditions. The project will include a public pathway that connects the Green River Trail to West Meeker Street.
Councilwoman Dana Ralph, who along with Councilman Dennis Higgins voted against the property sale in May, said she preferred to keep the 24 acres as open space.
“Once the will of this council to sell the property became reality, my job became making sure this was the best project that we could get,” Ralph said. “There was no question in my mind that FNW was the only project we looked at that met the standards we had set. … This is a quality project. … I’m convinced that this agreement is the best thing we can come to on this project, and it ensures a quality development that we will be able to look to in the future as setting a new standard in the city of Kent.”
Higgins pushed to get King County and others involved in keeping the property as open space, but the council majority in May favored selling it to a developer.
“I’m not going to be an obstructionist at this point,” Higgins said. “These are really good people with a really good product. I’m glad we chose them.”
Councilman Jim Berrios also came away impressed with the Trek Apartments in Auburn during a recent visit. He raised a question with city staff about the multifamily housing property tax exemption the city plans to give to FNW/Landmark for eight years. The developer wanted the deal in order to move forward with the project.
“My concern is when we look at the tax exemption, I need to be real clear about what this means in terms of what we are getting now and what this will mean down the road,” Berrios said.
Kurt Hanson, city economic and community development deputy director, told the council that Kent received no taxes on the property when it belonged to the city. Now the city will get taxes on the property value and when businesses open in the 12,000 square feet of retail space as part of the project.
The eight-year property tax break will be on the residential part of Marquee on Meeker. The council will vote on the tax exemption in November or December when FNW/Landmark applies for the break.
“This would not happen without the incentive,” Hanson said. “But eight years and one day from now we will have $100 million plus of a development that we tax.”
Berrios said he visited the developer’s Auburn apartments to see what kind of project Kent will get.
“Part of the conditions is we are looking at a market rate product,” he said. “Based on what I saw, I am convinced that is what we will get.”
Councilman Les Thomas questioned whether the planned 750 parking stalls would be enough for the 492 apartments and for the retail spaces.
Hanson said there would be parking spaces out front for retail as well as parallel parking spots on West Meeker Street.