By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek, May 27, 2012.
What is the East Gateway Urban Village?
The East Gateway Urban Village is a planned shopping and residential center in the northeast corner of Mill Creek east of 35th Avenue SE, south of 132nd Street SE, and west of Seattle Hill Road. The vision is to have a Town Center-like development with a mix of professional office, retail shopping, and residential units on land that is now essentially undeveloped. When fully built out, the East Gateway Urban Village could include approximately 350,000 square feet of retail space, 60,000 square feet of office space, and a combination of 394 town homes and apartments.
What is the history of the East Gateway Urban Village?
In 2005 the Mill Creek City Council approved an annexation of 553 acres in the northeast portion of the city. One of the intended purposes of the annexation was to include land that had development potential for increasing the City's retail sales tax base. The Mill Creek City Council approved the original master plan for a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development to serve that purpose in early 2008.
In 2010 the Washington State Department of Revenue selected Mill Creek as one of five cities to receive funding through the state’s Local Revitalization Financing program. The Local Revitalization Financing program allows the City of Mill Creek to recapture a portion of the sales tax collected by the State to pay for East Gateway Village infrastructure such as roads. The State will pay up to $330,000 per year for 25 years. A necessary spine-road through the development is estimated to cost $9 million.
Due to recession-caused market changes, developers expressed little interest in the original plan. In 2010 the City of Mill Creek organized an advisory committee comprised of developers, architects, retailers, real estate market experts and brokers to review the master plan in light of the current market. The advisory committee suggested changes to the master plan in April 2011 as follows:
- Create a bold plan. It must be different than the Town Center and other local shopping/residential centers and should have long-term sustainability.
- Define to what level the City of Mill Creek will participate financially to encourage development.
- Make sure the development creates a “There” there.
- Rethink some of the zoning restrictions to make the site competitive.
- Include infrastructure to create momentum – public plazas, a public park, and a wetland-viewing platform.
- Consider a larger format anchor (100,000 sq. ft. +), if the design is consistent with the vision.
- Consider reducing retail square footage.
- Consider a movie theatre, community facilities and senior housing.
The City of Mill Creek has not formally approved a new master plan incorporating the advisory committee’s ideas, but the City’s staff have been working with potential developers with the understanding that the Mill Creek City Council will review serious proposals with open minds.
Are any developers interested?
Yes. A 24,000 square foot medical office building has gone through the approval process and will begin construction this summer. As well, Target representatives have been working with Mill Creek City staff on a preliminary design, which they plan to present to the Mill Creek City Council soon.