Kenmore downtown plan undergoing changes

Kenmore’s first downtown renovation project is changing like a chameleon to match economic conditions.

Kenmore’s first downtown renovation project is changing like a chameleon to match economic conditions.

The city’s chosen development team, Urban Partners, has chopped away at its conceptual drawings three times, making them less grandiose with each case.

Current renderings show fewer residential units, lower buildings and less retail space than the group has ever proposed for the 10-acre site.

The designs match up with new concessions that the development team has asked for with amendments to the disposition and development agreement.

City Council approved the initial contract last July.

Among the changes Urban Partners has requested are: a six-month delay on the original closing date, a reduction in minimum housing units and a provision for surface parking in all retail portions of the project.

That means a longer wait for project completion, fewer residences and more parking lots.

City Council was scheduled to discuss the proposed amendments during a public meeting May 12.

A final decision is expected by May 19 to avoid a default with the current development agreement.

Urban Partners blames the economy for its design depletions.

“If things did not change in the financial market, we would not be having this conversation,” said Julie Benezet, the group’s managing director.

The plan for Kenmore’s downtown renovation begins with a multi-use development known as Kenmore Village by the Lake, a project that stretches from the corner of Northeast 181st Street and 68th Avenue Northeast to the nearby Park-and-Ride near Northeast 185th Street.

Urban Partners had planned to kick off construction early this year, with the first homes and retail spaces available for occupancy in 2009.

The group still hasn’t closed on its first section of downtown property, and wouldn’t have to do so until Dec. 15 if council approves the amended disposition and development agreement.

Many in the community are growing weary of delays.

“How come we can do a $22 million City Hall, but they can’t do their thing?” said Kenmore resident Carl Michelman after a recent council meeting. “We already gave them a tax abatement, and they got the property at a bargain rate.”

Kenmore agreed to sell the downtown property for around $10 million.

City Council also approved a tax-abatement measure that will make residents of Kenmore Village exempt from property taxes for up to 12 years.

It was a controversial move that some, including King County Assessor Scott Noble, say will cost existing residents.

Estimates show that the city would miss out on up to $900,000 in property tax revenue with the abatement.

But Kenmore Village will generate $9.6 million in other forms of revenue during the exemption period, according to analysts. This suggests that the project would be a financial gain for the city, notwithstanding any increases in services or infrastructure.

Urban Partners still plans to deliver on its affordable-housing requirement during the first phase of development for Kenmore Village.

The overall project would include 77,000 square feet of retail space, and gathering places amounting to 14,000 square feet.

The proposed amendments to the development agreement would not change minimum retail requirements, although there could be 100 fewer residential units.

Urban Partners could also reduce its retail anchor space from a minimum 24,000 square feet to 10,000.

“It’s all still in line with the approved range, and in compliance with the uses,” said Kenmore Development Director Debbie Bent.