A developer wants to build a “Kent Technology Center” on the city-owned Naden Avenue property that could include aerospace manufacturing and job training, a cider brewery and a bakery.
The Kent City Council authorized staff on March 15 to negotiate a development agreement and purchase and sale agreement with Seattle-based Avenue 55. The agreement is expected to come back to council in about 60 days or so for review and approval.
Drew Zaborowski Sr., Avenue 55 development manager, told the council it will call the development the “Kent Technology Center.”
“We have tenants interested,” Zaborowski said.
Stoke Space Technologies, based in Kent, signed a letter of intent for interest in occupying anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 square feet at the facility. Stoke Space Technologies has raised $65 million to deliver satellites directly to their final orbit by using reusable rockets, according to its website. Stoke’s co-founders are Andy Lapsa and Tom Feldman.
Out of the Box Manufacturing, a Renton-based electronic parts supplier, signed a letter that it is willing to sublease space to nonprofits.
Kent-based Blue Origin and Skookum Aerospace also have shown interest as has Seattle-based engineering company First Mode.
“These are high-tech manufacturing, engineering jobs that are high paying to bring to downtown Kent,” said Nick Yawman, Avenue 55 development associate.
Seattle Cider Company signed a letter of intent to open a brewery and tap room. Seattle-based Schwartz Brothers Bakery also indicated interest.
Several nonprofit groups that offer machinist shop training are interested in having classrooms at the center.
“These are nonbinding letters of interest, but it’s enough to justify a great product to bring back to you,” said Bill Ellis, city economic development manager, to the council.
The council approved a zoning code amendment in 2019 to allow light manufacturing near downtown in an effort to bring more jobs and revenue to vacant sites, including the Naden property located just north of Willis Street, south of West Meeker Street and east of Highway 167.
The council has done these development and purchase and sale agreements before with city property. Most recently the council sold the former Riverbend par 3 golf course for $10.5 million in 2017 to an Auburn developer to build the Ethos Community apartments along West Meeker Street.
City leaders worked with Tarragon in the early 2000s to develop the Kent Station shopping center through a private-public partnership. Kent Station opened in 2005.
Joe Blattner, who founded Avenue 55 about eight years ago, is a former managing partner with Tarragon, including when it developed Kent Station. Blattner was in the audience during the March 15 council meeting.
“We’ve been talking quite some time to bring this forward,” Council President Bill Boyce said. “We’re getting closer to home. I’m really pleased to see this coming close. …I’m really excited about this piece of property.”
The council approved a memorandum of understanding in February 2021 with Avenue 55 to market the 7.7-acre vacant site over the next 12 months and help find the best uses for the property and a potential public-private development.
Avenue 55 will continue negotiations with potential tenants while city staff and Avenue 55 engage in negotiations to sell the property, according to city documents.
The council had approved a hotel to be built on 2 acres of the Naden property, but that deal was terminated in the fall of 2020 when Boise, Idaho-based Braintree Hospitality failed to pay a $150,000 franchise agreement with Hilton to construct a Hilton Garden Inn due in part to the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry.
The city began to purchase the Naden properties in 2002 with plans for an aquatic center. But city leaders later abandoned that plan because of the high costs and then agreed to partner with the YMCA to build a fitness facility on the East Hill that opened in 2019. Kent bought the Naden properties for $7.2 million using $5.8 million in bonds and $1.4 million from other city funds, according to city documents.