Highlands human services campus could join theater complex

October 27, 2008

By Jon Savelle

NEW — 12:54 p.m. October 27, 2008

A human services campus proposed for Northeast Park Drive in the highlands might now be built as part of a new movie theater complex instead.

At least, that is the current thinking among those working on a complicated land swap involving the city, Port Blakely Communities and the owners of the Park Pointe property on Tiger Mountain. The idea was described Oct. 27 by Port Blakely President Alan Boeker at a meeting of the City Council’s Major Development Ad Hoc Committee, established to work through the many complexities of the swap.

Originally, the campus was proposed for a parcel directly across the street from Fire Station 73 on Northeast Park Drive, but that idea ran aground when Port Blakely revealed that the property had been sold. Now, Boeker has proposed building it on 10th Avenue Northeast, just north of Park, as part of a new 500-car parking structure for an adjacent movie theater. The service providers would have warehouse space in the building, plus storefront offices at street level.

The idea received a favorable reception from committee members John Traeger, Maureen McCarry and Fred Butler, but is far from a done deal. They, Port Blakely, City Administrator Leon Kos and Keith Niven, manager of the Major Development Review Team, have a lot of work to do before a thoroughly vetted proposal comes before the City Council next month.

As it stands now, Port Blakely Communities would buy the 104-acre Park Pointe parcel from First Wellington LLC, which had plans to develop it with multifamily residential units. Port Blakely would then deed that land and some it now holds to the city as permanent open space and parkland.

In return, the city would allow Port Blakely to increase its area of commercial or retail development by 1.1 million square feet and add 550 residential units. The highlands developer also would be able to develop 36 of the 78 acres it owns south of Park Drive, commonly known as the WSDOT parcel.

There are some strings attached. The deal calls for Port Blakely to build park improvements and the human services campus, plus pay mitigation fees for traffic, fire, police and general government services. Such fees are intended to reimburse the public for the additional costs of new development.

Parks would benefit to the tune of about $3 million, which is envisioned as going toward more and better sports fields in Central Park. Niven brought to the meeting a draft map showing the ideas in play — which, again, are not final — and they center on Pad 5.

Now forested, that parcel is just west of Pad 3, where the city will build a lighted, all-weather sports field on what is now a soggy expanse of grass. Niven said Pad 5 could be cleared and filled with excavated topsoil from other Port Blakely work in the highlands, and its surface would serve as a general purpose play area.

This idea, however, raised questions from the committee. Butler noted that poorly drained grass fields are not something he wants to see, given the history of unplayable fields in Issaquah parks and the Herculean efforts under way to replace them.

Traeger said he wondered why, if fill dirt needed disposal, it couldn’t simply be added to Pad 3 prior to development of the lighted field.

“Then, you don’t have to cut down the trees,” he said.

That idea will be explored, Niven said. But it will require Port Blakely to move 150,000 cubic yards of dirt before construction of the Pad 3 field begins in summer 2009, and that is not necessarily possible.

In the meantime, he and McCarry will meet to edit the development agreements that must be amended before any land swap can proceed. The one that governs development in the highlands is called the 2-Party Agreement. It is distinct from another one — the 3-Party Agreement — in which the city, Port Blakely and the state Department of Transportation govern Department of Transportation land into which the highlands would expand.

The proposed changes to the 2-Party Agreement cover land uses, design guidelines, expansion parcels (including designation of a potential new one, “Lakeside North-North,” to the north and east of the highlands park & ride garage), affordable housing, parks and open space.

Work on the 3-Party Agreement requires the involvement of King County officials.

City Council action on the swap is expected in December.

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

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