Seattle developer proposes high-rise housing project for downtown Kent

A rendering shows what developer Robert Slattery’s proposed six-to-seven-story apartment complex might look like. It would be located at the north side of East Smith Street between Clark and Jason Streets.

A rendering shows what developer Robert Slattery’s proposed six-to-seven-story apartment complex might look like. It would be located at the north side of East Smith Street between Clark and Jason Streets.

A developer’s proposal to build a six-to-seven story, mixed-use apartment complex could lead to the first major housing project in downtown Kent.

Seattle-area developer Robert Slattery wants to build as many as 170 apartment units on a 1.2-acre site on East Smith Street between Clark and Jason Streets. The complex, to be called Station 601, also would include a restaurant and coffee shop on the street-level floor. The complex would sit across Smith Street from the Kent Senior Activity Center.

“We’re trying to help downtown businesses and the core of Kent by bringing in an urban-style residential project,” Slattery said April 29 during an at a downtown coffee shop. “The big problem in Kent is there are not a lot of residents who live downtown.”

City officials have had a couple of meetings with Slattery, but no permit applications have been filed. Slattery hopes to break ground on the project within a year, if not sooner.

“Many of us are glad to see a residential developer interested in the downtown area,” said Fred Satterstrom, city community development director, in a phone interview Friday. “That’s the missing piece in our urban-village puzzle.”

City staff has proposed a new, eight-year property-tax waiver for developers of multi-family housing downtown in an effort to meet requirements under the state Growth Management Act to provide denser urban housing in the city’s core. The proposed ordinance would grant tax breaks to developers constructing apartments as well as condominiums. Previous city-incentive programs did not apply to apartment developers.

The Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee met Monday night to consider approval of the property-tax waiver ordinance. Results of that vote were unavailable at press time. The full Council would have final approval on the property-tax waiver. The waiver would apply to the value of the new housing units. Developers would still pay taxes on the land and any commercial space.

“Although we continue to be successful in attracting businesses and cultural facilities, we need to increase the number of permanent residents to support the viability of our urban center,” Ben Wolters, city economic development director, wrote in a May 5 memo to the Planning Committee in support of the property-tax exemption.

The market opportunity has shifted to rental units from owner-occupied housing, Wolters said at an April 13 Planning Committee meeting, regarding the reasons city staff wants to allow the tax break for apartment developers.

“We’re trying to open up the incentives to attract downtown housing,” Wolters said.

Slattery favors the property-tax waiver.

“That’s a big deal to us,” Slattery said. “It costs a lot of money to bring a building like this to a town. It definitely would help guys like me make a project like this possible.”

Slattery hasn’t finalized the cost of his proposed project. He is in the process of buying the four parcels of land where the apartments would be built.

If all goes as planned, Slattery expects to submit building permits to the city by the end of August. He would like to break ground as early as October or possibly wait until next spring.

“We’d like to get it out of the ground within a year,” he said.

The apartments would be studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units with an average size of 770-square feet. The largest units would be 1,250-square feet. Rents would be an estimated $1,200 to $1,500 per month.

“We’ll target people ages 25 to 35,” Slattery said. “And the market could be about 70 percent women. They’ll be able to use the Sounder (train) or the bus. They’ll own a car, but be able to park in the building.”

Slattery expects to build 200-plus parking spaces on one lower floor and the ground floor.

City officials say they like the idea of bringing more residents to live in Kent’s downtown.

“They would not just be living downtown, but spending money downtown,” Satterstrom said.

Not everybody happy

The Station 601 proposal has drawn its share of critics, though.

Mill Creek resident Carolyn Clayton told the Council at a Town Hall meeting last month that she opposed construction of the apartment complex.

“That does not fit in an older neighborhood,” said Clayton, whose circa-1953 house sits just north of the proposed complex. “It would be big and ugly and not fit in with the city at all.”

Slattery said he understands the opposition.

“It’s a big change,” he said. “But I don’t think a lot of residents are aware of the zoning from the mid-1990s for the urban core. The city rezoned a Downtown Commercial Enterprise (DCE) zone to allow mixed-use residential with an unlimited height restriction.”

That DCE zone generally extends from Willis Street north to James Street, and from Highway 167 east to Titus Street. The proposed apartment complex would be built on the east end of the zone.

Once the developer files a project permit application, the public will get its chance to comment to the city about Station 601.

“We haven’t approved anything yet,” Satterstrom said. “There are no applications at this point.”


A rendering shows what a developer Robert Slattery’s proposed six-to-seven-story apartment complex might look like at the north side of East Smith Street between Clark and Jason Streets. Courtesy, Mondo Land Development

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