There was no celebration and sparkling apple cider this time around.
The University Place City Council cleared the way Monday night for construction of a five-story building with 100 apartments as well as ground-level retail at the Town Center mixed-use development.
With a second unanimous vote, the council also leased one of two retail space inside the new civic and library building, Town Center’s centerpiece, to a new local business that will offer coffee and a children’s indoor play area.
Council members have waited a long time to see a return on the tens of millions of dollars in public investment to develop Town Center. But the reaction among council members to this news was deliberately muted.
“I’m trying to not get too excited about this because we’ve been led down this path before,” Councilwoman Caroline Bellici said.
Memories haven’t faded of the premature exuberance displayed by council members late last year. They hardily celebrated an agreement to bring an Applebee’s restaurant to Town Center as its first private tenant only to learn of the deal’s collapse this summer.
Council members praised the latest agreements as another step in realizing the community’s decade-long vision to establish a walkable downtown. The new tenants also will bring more energy to the 17-acre property whose only tenant so far is the University Place Pierce County Library, they said.
SEB Inc. of Tacoma plans to construct a five-story building with 100 market-rate apartment units and 12,000 square feet of ground-level retail space. Under the agreement, the city will sell the development rights atop the parking garage on the north side of the new civic and library building to them for $800,000 in cash. Both the city and developer will make $1.5 million in improvements to the parking garage to accommodate the building.
SEB would have two opportunities to walk away from the deal without penalty: during an initial 20-day review period, and during a subsequent 90-day period to design the project and file a development application, according to the agreement.
Subtracting park impact fees and its broker’s commission, the city is expecting to net about $560,000 from the sale, said City Attorney Steve Victor, the city’s chief Town Center negotiator.
Mayor Debbie Klosowski said some residents may criticize the city for not receiving more money from the sale.
“This is a long-term investment in our future and I think that when we look at the Town Center area 10 years from now, it’s going to be an incredibly successful, thriving downtown area, and this is the start,” she said.
Beyond the cash, Councilman Eric Choiniere said the project will bring into University Place sales-tax revenue from construction and future retail sales as well as new jobs. He anticipated it will drive more interest among prospective tenants who “know this is a real kick start, and they don’t want to be left behind.”
Next door, Tacoma residents Marc and Kelly Grau plan to open the Frog n Kiwi Café inside the civic building in February.
The café will offer a full-service coffee shop and an indoor children’s play area featuring a large wooden playset. The two areas will be separated by a soundproof wall. There will be a fee to use the play area and parents must supervise their children.
Marc Grau told the council the café will bring families together and offer children a safe, fun venue to play during rainy weather.
“We’d like to bring something that’s very unique, … that’s going to bring a lot more people to Town Center and not just from University Place,” he said.
The city will make $35,000 in improvements to the 2,700-square-foot space, including installing a bathroom. The tenant will pay for any remaining costs.
The cafe will pay $800 a month for the lease, in addition to other fees. The city will receive 6 percent of the café’s gross sales. The initial term of the lease is five years, and it can be extended up to 15 years.