“We received an offer from a developer and we made a offer back,” said Bill Ellis, city economic development manager, in a phone interview. “We are still negotiating.”
City officials and the developer hope to attract a chain such as Hilton Garden Inn or Courtyard by Marriott to come to Kent. Hotel developers showed interest two years ago in 2 acres on the south end of the 7.7-acre site along Naden Avenue South. The city hired a real estate broker to help find a developer.
The city started to purchase property along Naden Avenue in 2006 with plans to build an aquatic center. But the council later abandoned that proposal because of the bad economy and high costs of a new pool. City leaders later worked out an agreement with the YMCA to build a facility on the East Hill that just opened Sept. 14. The City Council agreed in 2016 to try to sell the Naden property.
Work will start soon on relocating utilities to make room for a roundabout at Willis Street and Fourth Avenue South, part of a decision by the council to improve access to the Naden property and attract developers.
City staff halted talks with developers for a while until the city wrapped up negotiations earlier this year with Puget Sound Energy to purchase a triangle piece of property from the utility. That purchase allows construction of right in, right out access to the large property that sits just north of Willis Street, aka State Route 516, and east of Highway 167.
The state Department of Transportation, however, still needs to sign the final documents to allow property access off of the highway. Ellis said state DOT staff won’t give the city a definite timeline about when those documents will be signed. Once that happens, the city can finalize an agreement with a developer, a hotel chain could be found and construction could start.
“We do not have that yet, but we are proceeding as if we will get it pretty soon,” Ellis said about the state DOT approval at a recent city Economic and Community Development Committee meeting.
In addition to financial terms, city staff also is working with the developer about where the northern most boundary of a hotel should go as well as the location of a new road to be built.
City officials want to attract a higher-end hotel to the city to help boost tourism as well as traffic to downtown businesses. Developers have told city staff they like the location of the property near Highway 167.