On Jan. 16, the city of Bothell hosted an information session in its council chambers regarding the future of the former Wayne Golf Course property.
In total, the property, which the city recently acquired from previous owners Forterra Northwest, is 89 acres. It encompasses three major parts: the 45-acre west side (or “Front Nine”), which can only be used passively; a four-acre active-use area; and the 40-acre east side (or “Back Nine”), which includes a salmon habitat and can only be passively used.
The city bought the west side from Forterra for about $3.4 million, with the four active-use acres at full market value. For the east side, Bothell partnered with King County, which purchased it through two transactions.
Ultimately, the city paid some $3.8 million toward all 89 acres, with the county contributing $7.7 million.
City manager Jennifer Phillips likened the purchase to buying a home, noting the toll it has taken on the city.
“We took on a massive financial obligation,” she said. “It’s just like when you purchase a house and you decide, ‘I’m going to purchase a house on five acres,’ and you’re suddenly responsible for caring for five acres…We’ve now taken on the responsibility of 89 acres. We’re still a very small community. We are a residential community and our financial situation is not as strong as some other communities.”
Eighty-five of the 89 acres have been characterized as environmentally sensitive. As a result, they can only be used for passive-use activities like running/walking, picnicking, recreational sports and other activities that do not pose a threat to the surrounding environment.
Currently, Bothell is in the process of narrowing down what can be done with the four-acre active-use section of the property.
Recently, the city received the results of a financial feasibility study conducted by Hunden Strategic Partners. The study pares down what kinds of developments would be both suitable and economically viable for the property.
Phillips noted that even though the study “got some folks worked up, and [she knows] that there was some negative reaction to it,” it was important to the city to clarify that the study is only a step in the process of figuring out what to do with the four acres of active-use space.
No final decisions have been made.
Phillips added that by looking at opportunities for the four acres, Bothell moves closer to helping generate revenue to care for the remaining 85 acres.
The city is currently being affected by a structural deficit, meaning it’s spending more than it’s making.
An estimated $180,000 needs to be spent every year on operation and maintenance of the park property.
Feasibility study findings
After Phillips provided more background on progress, and after parks planning and grants manager Tracey Perkosky delved into the history of the property, the president and CEO of Hunden Strategic Partners, Rob Hunden, shared with session attendees what had been concluded in the feasibility study.
Fifty percent of the study was paid for by a Port of Seattle grant.
“The situation that we have here, really having anything that is economically feasible for a private-sector developer to do, is not a piece of cake,” Hunden said. “That’s always the challenge that we’re faced with.”
In the company’s study, items like parking, employment, accessibility, the success of other projects with similar limitations and more were considered. The full 160-page report, according to Bothell officials at the information session, will soon be available to residents on the city’s website.
The property’s deed restricts housing, storage and office developments.
Hunden Strategic Partners is recommending that the four acres support an 80-plus-room boutique, “destination” hotel serving as its “anchor development.” It is advised that it come with a ballroom, meeting rooms, a bar/speakeasy, a restaurant, wellness opportunities and other amenities.
The company is estimating that this sort of project would cost between $32-40 million. Hunden clarified later at the information session that the study does not include an analysis of environmental impacts.
“We do believe that this recommended project will not be inexpensive, but in the long run will be highly valuable,” he said, adding that “it would likely require some upfront public support” given that with the new property, sales and hotel taxes would be generated if the city were to move toward a similar option.
Next, Bothell will start applying to grants to assist with the development of a Request for Proposal document and other needs. Once the document is finalized, Bothell will begin the process of soliciting proposals for potential public-private partnerships.
Phillips said the city won’t be asking for any kind of project in particular.
Aside from active-use-area planning, the city, according to a session document, is also working to assess drainage issues on the property, trailhead amenity construction and future master planning, how to best care for two historical landmarks, the possible evaluation/demolition of nine structures and the potential remodeling of four bridges.
“This is what collaborative, engaged community work looks like,” Phillips said of the process. “We didn’t mean to work anybody up when we did the feasibility study. This is about getting information for all of us, so we can all together, through your city council, make a good decision that’s right for our community.”