Plans to construct an apartment-retail building at University Place’s Town Center project are moving forward.
The Tacoma-based developer and builder, SEB Inc., deposited $24,000 in earnest money last week, and co-owner Steve Berg said he was “very confident” it will complete the project.
“Everything that we can manage points to a 100 percent go on the project,” he said Monday.
The movement on the project is encouraging news for city officials who have long sought the first private sector tenant for its 17-acre property along Bridgeport Way – and for a return on the tens of millions in public dollars invested in the project.
An earlier deal to bring an Applebee’s restaurant to Town Center fell through earlier this year.
Residents have expressed frustration with the sluggish pace of the project, intended primarily to to build the city’s tax base and provide its citizens a walkable downtown. The University Place Pierce County Library is the only tenant so far.
SEB will pay the city $800,000 to develop the building atop the parking garage on the north side of the civic and library building.
Separately, the city leased one of two retail spaces inside the civic and library building to the Frog N Kiwi Cafe, a coffee shop that will feature an indoor children’s play area. Tacoma residents Marc and Kelly Grau will own the café.
City Attorney Steve Victor, the city’s chief Town Center negotiator, said in an e-mail both SEB and the Graus are “pursuing their respective projects with full diligence.”
“I will be very surprised if either does not come to fruition,” he wrote.
The initial 20-day review period under the development agreement expires Thursday. SEB can also terminate the agreement without penalty during a subsequent 90-day period to design the project and file a development application.
Berg said SEB began discussing its mixed-use project with the city last summer. The company hopes to break ground in early spring, he said. Construction will take a year.
The building will feature 100 apartments and 12,000 square feet of ground-level retail space. Berg said he expects to sit down with Jeff Kraft, the commercial broker the city hired to market Town Center, to discuss filling the space.
SEB sought to build in University Place because it’s a desirable community with quality schools and a low apartment vacancy rate, Berg said, and Town Center is in close proximity of retail and other services.
Rents would range from between $1,000 to $1,200 a month, Berg said.
The apartment building, yet to be named, will have a gym and home theater for residents’ use, Berg said. Each unit will be equipped with its own laundry, and most units will have decks.
Berg owns SEB with his brother, Kevin. They started the company more than 20 years ago with a focus on affordable housing. They eventually shifted to developing and operating upscale apartment complexes. SEB owns five apartment complexes in Pierce and Thurston counties.