The city of Kenmore and a developer have completed a major step forward in a decades-long effort to build a vibrant development on the city’s industrial waterfront known as Lakepointe.
Kenmore has been working to find a way to develop the 52-acre former Washington State Department of Transportation landfill since 1989, without success. A previous effort saw support dry up in the early 2000s following the dot-com crash and a portion of the land is currently being leased by the nearby concrete company CalPortland as a storage facility.
Lakepointe sits on a spot of land at the northern mouth of the Sammamish River where it runs into Lake Washington.
A recently finished study marks a step forward for the Kirkland-based developer Weidner Apartment Homes, which has been working with the city for three years to hash out a course of action. Greg Cerbana is the vice president of public relations for the company and said that given numerous difficulties, he is committed to seeing the project complete.
“Despite all the challenges, the simple fact of the matter is that it’s worth it. This project is worth it,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to do something.”
The feasibility and benefits study was conducted by HR&A Advisors, an economic development consulting company. The total cost to develop the Lakepointe property has been pegged at $1.5 billion, said Kenmore city manager Rob Karlinsey. Due to the high price tag, any development would likely be a public-private partnership. The study was the first step in creating a partnership by nailing down a solid price estimate.
Three alternatives were examined in the study with Weidner envisioning 2,000 housing units, 600,000 square feet of office space, 126,000 square feet of retail, a 150-room hotel and 5,000 parking spaces to be built out in five phases. Construction could create a one-time revenue boost of $16.5 million for the area, the study said.
Lakepointe sits on eight parcels, totaling nearly 52-acres with more than 3,800 linear feet of shoreline. Preliminary project plans include a 1.4-acre park, 1.2 acres of lakeside shoreline and nearly five acres of river shoreline.
According to the study, which weighed the total estimated economic benefits to the developers against costs, there is roughly a $155 million gap between the two. This means Weidner would take a $155 million loss if it developed Lakepointe on its own. Karlinsey said the city hopes to work with the developers to secure funding to fill the gap. He said the project could boost the standing of Kenmore and create the heart of a new downtown.
“That sense of downtown place that is so elusive in suburban cities like Kenmore,” Karlinsey said. “Lakepointe could just totally transform our downtown.”
The city could offer Weidner tax credits and exemptions to help offset costs. These include granting a multi-family property tax exemption where all city property taxes would be waived for up to 12 years, depending on how many affordable housing units were built. If streets and public parks are created, the city could award the developer credits to offset impact fees. It could additionally waive minimum parking requirements.
These would fill roughly half of the funding gap and Karlinsey said he hopes the state will step in and fund the rest. He said the state would collect sales tax during construction, as well as the former landfill site requiring extensive foundation reinforcement and support.
“The state would be the biggest winner, but also they have some historic responsibility for this,” Karlinsey said.
Traffic and transit impacts are being discussed by the city — issues Karlinsey said are firmly on their radar. Traffic impacts will be examined during the environmental impact statement process that, with the feasibility and benefits study completed, Weidner can proceed with after they submit more solid development plans to the city. Karlinsey is hoping Lakepointe could also have a bus rapid transit station as well as a passenger ferry station.
“I don’t want anyone in our community to think that we are sweeping this under the rug,” Karlinsey said. “All these types of impacts will get addressed in an environmental impact statement.”
Weidner development services director said if everything goes smoothly, they could begin construction within three years.