Council says “Yes” to repurchasing undeveloped portion of Burien Town Square

Developer's letter creates agitation, dismay for city council

By Gwen Davis

Burien city council members were “dismayed” when Jim Atkins, manager of the developing company Urban Partners, read a letter at the June 4th Burien City Council meeting accusing the council of “refusing to cooperate” with his company.

The issue at hand was Resolution 344 – which unanimously passed that evening – that considered whether the city should repurchase three undeveloped Burien Town Square parcels.

As the City of Burien’s website explains:
“In 2002, the City purchased the Town Square property at fair market value of $4,050,000 and invested significant public resources in constructing and maintaining transportation and park facilities in the Town Square. Following a Request of Qualifications process, the City sold the Town Square property consisting of Parcels I, IV, V, and VI to Urban Ventures Burien, LLC ("Owner/Developer"), at fair market value of $4,666,016 pursuant to a Disposition and Development Agreement dated June 29, 2005.”

“The city refused to build a high quality medical office building in the downtown project,” Atkins’ letter read. “It also refused to bring a new gallery cinema to the downtown project.
The city is unwilling to work with us.”

Atkins complained that Urban Partners put a $20 million investment into the property with no return, losing $14.5 million.

“The city has refused to consider any modification that would allow us to build [differently].
Council members fired back at Atkins.

“I have sat on the council for more than 11 years and was part of this when Urban Partners was selected over its competitors to come in and was authorized to move forward,” said councilmember Joan McGilton. “I feel very strongly that Urban Partners has not been responsible in coming to the city with alternatives until we move forward with action.”
City Manager Mike Martin also weighed in on the controversy.

“The testimony is at odds with the facts of the case,” he said. “The cinema is a $14 million project. With [the city’s] $4 million deficit, the developer proposed that the city pay for it. I take great exception that we refused to negotiate.

“If we had heard something different from the developer as a reason why we should not go forward, we might be a little more sympathetic. But given the information we’ve heard tonight from Mr. Atkins I feel very comfortable that it would be a poor choice to go forward with this developer.”

Other topics covered at the meeting included testimony regarding CARES, the nonprofit organization that provides Burien’s animal control services.
Council members also heard a 14-page PowerPoint regarding the Burien’s future business development plan.

Several council members voiced thoughts on the city’s business future – from not wanting there to be empty windows downtown, to concern about an influx of low-income housing.
The council is expected to hire a consultant for the long-term project.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.