A Hilton Garden Inn in Boise, Idaho. COURTESY PHOTO, Braintree Hospitality

A Hilton Garden Inn in Boise, Idaho. COURTESY PHOTO, Braintree Hospitality

Kent City Council approves property sale to hotel developer

Plans to build Hilton Garden Inn on Willis Street

The city of Kent’s plan to sell a portion of its Naden property to a hotel developer moved another step closer.

The City Council unanimously approved Tuesday night a purchase and sale agreement with Boise, Idaho-based Braintree Hospitality to sell 2.2 acres on the south end of the 7.7-acre city property for $2.6 million so the group can build a four-story, 136-room Hilton Garden Inn on the vacant property.

But many details remain before the deal closes next year on the property just north of Willis Street (aka State Route 516) and east of Highway 167. A closing date of March 25, 2021, has been set. Braintree must receive franchise approval from Hilton, go through the city permit process and negotiate a development agreement with the city that will include specific hotel design, specific road design, a construction timeline and easement to the city for the road.

As part of the purchase and sale agreement, Braintree will construct a new Naden Avenue along the east side of the hotel that will connect to a new right-in, right-out at Willis Street, which the developer also must build.

“We are one more step closer,” Mayor Dana Ralph said after the 7-0 vote.

The council’s Committee of the Whole heard a staff report about the sale Dec. 17 and moved the matter forward to the Tuesday vote.

The city started to purchase property along Naden Avenue in 2006 with plans to build an aquatic center. But after spending $8 million to acquire properties, 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 opened in September. The council agreed in 2016 to try to sell the Naden property.

Construction will start this year on 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. The state Department of Transportation also required the city to build the roundabout in return for the right-in, right-out access at Willis Street from the Naden property.

In addition to steps Braintree must complete, agreements between Kent and Puget Sound Energy for easements to build a new Naden Avenue could delay the project, Bill Ellis, city economic development manager, told the council.

“They need to come to a understanding about the benefits of the revitalization of this area. …and the access they need to grant us for future development,” Ellis said about PSE, which owns property just west of the proposed hotel.

“The city has been attempting to work with PSE over the past many months, and while the city is hopeful that it will resolve this matter soon, the city has recently been forced to deliver to PSE a strongly worded letter regarding the importance of its cooperation in this matter in order to revitalize this area,” according to city documents about the purchase and sale agreement. “The city remains hopeful that PSE will engage and take reasonable measures to resolve these issues.”

PSE officials had little to say about the negotiations with Kent.

“All I can say is that PSE is looking into these issues and looks forward to working collaboratively with the city on a solution,” said PSE spokesperson Andrew Padula in an email Thursday.

Councilmember Bill Boyce questioned Ellis about the delays in reaching agreements with PSE.

“We had some progress in getting the triangle property,” Ellis said about a piece of PSE land that took the city a long time to acquire (in early 2019) because of negotiations with the power company. “There are continuing issues with slope easement, and access rights.”

Because of the uncertainty with PSE negotiations, city staff added updated language to the sale and purchase agreement that the city shall extend the deadlines for Braintree if a third party (PSE) is delaying the company’s performance of meeting a development milestone in the schedule.

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