After a slight detour last year, the city of Renton is now back on track to redevelop the plaza at 200 Mill Avenue.
The city has been working on redeveloping the old City Hall building that sits beside the Cedar River and neighbors the Renton Library for the last few years. The site is costing the city more in maintenance and is being underutilized, according to city officials. It is currently home to a mix of public, private and nonprofit tenants, but is only at 72 percent capacity. The property — which has been city-owned since the 1960s — is costing the city millions of dollars to keep up with the continued maintenance and upgrades.
A 2009 building study estimated the necessary maintenance and upgrade could cost the city more than $10 million, according to Cliff Long, the economic development director. To optimally utilize the property, the city decided to seek a public-private partnership to redevelop the area.
In 2016, the city selected Winson Investment of Bellevue to redevelop the 3.79 acre site to contain an international school, senior housing, outdoor civic plaza and a riverfront public park with an amphitheater in three new buildings.
However the partnership dissolved last year due to internal disagreement within Winson, according to Long.
After finding itself back at square one, the city sought out requests for proposals from interested developers once again in 2017. Of the interested parties, three firms were invited to submit requests for interests.
The city decided to move ahead and review two developers who expressed interest — Cosmos Development and LMC Development.
Both developers submitted applications and were reviewed by an internal review team, which included council members Armondo Pavone, Randy Corman and officials from the departments of facilities, finance, legal, economic development, planning, as well as a consultant from Lotus Development.
Both proposals focused on transforming the site into a residential site, but differed in its approach to “utilizing the site to meet a broader array of important community interests and maximizing the development potential of the shoreline as a public asset”, Long said at the Feb. 12 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Cosmos — which developed Second and Main, the apartment complex on Main Avenue South — proposed 450 rental housing units completed in three buildings, 30,700-square-feet of retail space and 35,000 square-feet of office and educational space.
It also proposed a 500-space parking garage structure where one level dedicated for retail, library and office patron and the other two levels for residents.
Cosmos is offering $7.3 million for the site and an additional $2 million to offset the costs for a Cedar River waterfront park.
The proposal also took into account the current tenants of the 200 Mill building and phased construction so tenants could stay in the current building until their leases expired.
The LMC proposal focused on 321 residential units that ranged from studios and two-bedroom lofts in a single U-shaped building. It also included 8,700 square-feet of space for additional coffee shops, walk-in medical clinic and service-oriented use units, as well as a pocket park and a public pedestrian connector for the Cedar River.
It is also proposing 350 parking spaces in a three-level structure parking garage that does not disturb the current library parking.
The total proposed purchase price is $2,655,000. Under this proposal, the estimated value to the city is around $5.2 million.
The internal review team scored Cosmos higher than LMC as it “proposed a more diverse array of uses that would serve to energize the site and create a sense of place” and because it “anticipated and added value to the river frontage as an asset to be preserved and brought into more accessible use as a public amenity,” according to the Long’s presentation.
Council member Carol Ann Witschi inquired details about who would be in charge of security in the waterfront park space.
According to Long, details about security are not finalized and will be hammered down during the final stages of negotiation. Those details would depend once the final uses of the spaces were determined, he added.
Council member Ruth Perez raised concerns about parking, especially considering the property’s proximity to the fire station.
Long said Cosmos is working with a parking engineer and that the city has required Cosmos to come up with a detailed parking plan for during and post construction. He also said Cosmos wants to resurface the library parking to match the surface of the plaza, while maintaining the trees already present in the area. The parking garage will be a “great expansion” for library patrons and would serve retail patrons and tenants, he said.
Council member Ryan McIrvin inquired about the cost of building a park, outside the $2 million from Cosmos, however Long said there was no estimate at the time.
Council president Ed Prince signed the committee report concurring to the staff recommendation to enter into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Cosmos. No objections were raised by council members during the meeting.
Moving forward, Cosmos is expected to provide a earnest money deposit by next month. After completing a due diligence and feasibility analysis period, the city and Cosmos will negotiate and draft a disposition and development agreement.
The City Council is expected to review and vote on the agreement in October or November of this year. The agreement would then be executed in December.