One of University Place’s original leaders who supported its vision for Town Center said it’s time the city rethink its approach to the project’s retail component Monday night.
UP City Councilman Ken Grassi – a businessman himself who supported the mix of retail, civic and other services – said after Monday’s meeting that the city needs a new approach to secure developers for the $250 million project.
The city should try to attract outlet stores of major retailers – a cost-effective alternative to major retailers that isn’t readily available between Tacoma and Lakewood, the flower shop owner said.
Grassi made his comments the same night the University Place City Council extended its contract with a consultant to help find developers for the $250 million project another two months. Heartland LLC will work to secure a developer at least through May 31. In January, city leaders signed a $75,000 contract with the consultant through this month, although it has paid $23,321.
The measure passed on a 4-2 vote. Grassi, along with Councilwoman Denise McCluskey, voted against the extension.
“I think it’s time we take a really, really hard look at this project and what’s feasible,” he said after the meeting. “I think we need to stop trying to compete with the Tacoma Mall, or Lakewood, or Gig Harbor, for that matter.”
It’s a different approach than what the city’s original vision for Town Center called for, included high-end retail and condominiums.
But the recent economic downturn highlighted the reality that shoppers are looking to get the most out of their dollar, he said. Unique, high-end retail might give shoppers a reason to initially visit, but they might not return.
Quality outlet stores would fit into UP’s original intent to attract out-of-town shoppers, he said. Grassi referred to the Seattle Premium Outlet stores, which are routinely busy.
Grassi said he will continue to push for the idea, especially if Heartland still can’t find a developer.
Read more about this story later in the News Tribune.