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Showing restraint, UP City Council OKs deals for mixed-use building, cafe at Town Center

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on Sep. 27, 2011 at 12:05 am with 11 Comments »
September 27, 2011 12:05 am

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.

Twitter: @TNTchill

Leave a comment Comments → 11
  1. harleyrider1 says:

    How embarrassing. Gone are the days where a retailer is not high-end enough to be “allowed” to locate in U.P.

    Taxpayers will spend an additional 2-million to get apartments that Obama will require 10% of them to be federal subsidized for low income folks; they will allow cheap rent to get a bizarre coffee shop; and hope this will make people want to build in such the “downtown”.

    I just don’t get it. I mean, I really do not understand why all the existing businesses were forced out and we went into debt for 50-million dollars for this.

  2. old_benjamin says:

    Harleyrider, you also probably don’t understand why the U.S. Guvment gave Solyndra $500 million in loan guarantees. Some things are so idiotic, they can be understood only by politicians.

  3. Theiconictree says:

    Roman is burning all around us.

  4. OpinionsAreFree says:

    There are literally thousands of apartments within 1 mile of this location. UP Council : Please explain the value added to our community in 100 more apartments. Please explain how people prone to frequent relocation will care about bettering and contributing to the richness of our community. Please explain how you are going to keep this from becoming another crime ridden apartment complex. It seems to me you have screwed us again. You have many of us asking why we continue to live here and suffer your ignorance and incompetence.

  5. BigBlockChev says:

    Remind me, again, how much tax revenue was Mama Stortini’s returning to the city annually??? How many people were they employing??? How many years ago did they leave???

  6. tacomajoe says:

    If I were trying to run my coffee shop business into the ground, I could not come up with a better biz to partner it with than a day-care. But my ineptitude would be matched by the UP council – make $35k in improvements, get back $800 a month (plus a percentage of the gross – hint: 6 per cent of nothing is nothing). This deal pays for itself in only 3 1/2 years, long enough for REI and Crate & Barrel to arrive as tenants.

    It’s only a matter of time before there is a medicinal marijuana dispensary operating out of the Towne Center.

  7. IcantbelieveiliveinUniversityPlace says:


  8. IcantbelieveiliveinUniversityPlace says:

    Ok, so our school district already has 400 out of district students, classes already full, but let’s get 100 more apts!!!!!! I’m glad my homeowner property taxes are paying for this, but I still can’t get sidewalks in front of my house so my own kids can walk to there schools….!!!! Oh yeah, and still can’t get sewer in front of my house, but let’s make a desperate deal to spend a dollar to make a dime. Oh my gosh……I can’t tell you about the conversations I have with people about UP, I’m embarrassed …….

  9. thewestside says:

    Isn’t that the type of tenants that occupied the same space before the “town center” idea? Good idea!

  10. Regfool2 says:

    Oh boy. Yeah. The library is already a day-care anyway – noisy, filled with children running and screaming, playing their electronic games, playing on the computers, parents yelling away at them. Have to force myself to go there now. So let’s add in more kids, people bringing their food into the library, transient apartment dwellers, and the attendant problems. Excellent.

  11. TacomaRick says:

    WOW a coffee shop? Remember they kicked out one of those when this all began! hahahahahaha…UP should be embarrassed. They shouldnt even go public with all their stupid decisions.

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