200 Mill project still expected for downtown Renton

Despite the economic difficulties with COVID-19, only main difference is uncertainty of hotel

New renderings of what Renton can expect for the future of the old city hall at 200 Mill Ave. were premiered to the city this week.

At the Aug. 31 Committee of the Whole meeting, about a year since Cosmos International Corporation and the city finally agreed to a contract for the project, the same group that developed the Second and Main Apartments in downtown Renton.

Despite COVID-19 expected to delay the project another year into August 2023, the demolition and construction at 200 Mill is still planned. It’s expected to create a new public space along the river and three buildings that include apartments, potential hotel space, retail, as well as two floors of underground parking.

The project will include 618 units, 3,000 sq. ft. of retail space, and 680 parking spaces. Majority of the units will be one-bedroom.

The current building at 200 Mill will be demolished during construction. In today’s standards, you couldn’t construct a building like the old city hall that close to the Cedar River, as previously reported in Renton Reporter. Instead, Cosmos will work with the city to design an open public space, that might be used for events, public gatherings while also providing access to the riverside.

Today’s standards are so different, in fact, that even with the buffer of a public space, Cosmos is still dealing with two of it’s buildings creeping into the river setback zone. Cosmos Development’s Oscar Del Moro said they are already working on mitigating that with the city council.

“We remain very interested in completing this project,” Del Moro said. “For us, 200 Mill is a keystone project. It has a lot farther reaching impact than the project itself.”

At the meeting Del Moro also explained the phases of construction and demolition to be expected from the project.

Phase one will start with construction of the two buildings along the river and Houser Way sides of the current parking lot, and demolition of the old city hall. The trees along Mill Avenue will remain during this phase and be temporary greenscape plaza.

In phase two, the remainder of the trees, but the south corner of the parking lot, will be replaced with the third building along Mill Avenue. Eventually, the space between the three buildings is expected to be an internal pedestrian plaza that can remain open during retail business hours.

Councilmember Angelina Benedetti asked Del Moro if the 200 Mill retail space will allow for restaurants, as Second and Main was not able to house restaurants due to code issues. He said as this project is much larger in scale, it will fit at least five restaurant-capable spaces, for small to medium businesses.

“I’m hoping when we get (the pandemic) under control we will have this space to go out to and also expand outside dining,” Del Moro said.

The city put out a request for proposals (RFP) on the site in late 2016, which resulted in a plan for an international school and senior housing. That developer then dropped out after internal disagreement. The city then put out a new RFP in 2017, and received results in early 2018 for Cosmos. Mayor Armondo Pavone and Councilmember Randy Corman were on the selection committee both times for proposals at 200 Mill.

“I think (Del Moro) has been true to the concept you brought to us back then, and I can see you’ve made some updates,” Corman said at the Aug. 31 meeting. “I remember one of the most important elements was your willingness to remove the existing building… you’re taking out a building that’s practically sitting in the river right now.”

The leases for organizations currently in the 200 Mill building are set to expire before construction begins. Cosmos is keeping the parking lot at Downtown Renton Library with an additional entrance on the north side.

Del Moro shared a 3-D flyover of the outline of the completed project with the city council, which can be viewed below.

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