Photo by Steve Shay
Burien City Manager Mike Martin sent a letter to Harbor Urban agreeing to extend the closing date for the city’s repurchase of undeveloped Town Square parcels.

No divorce yet for Burien, Town Square developers

Burien and its Town Square developer may not get divorced, afterall.

Or, at least, final dissolution has been delayed until July 18.

Burien City Manager Mike Martin sent a letter June 19 to Harbor Urban agreeing to extend the closing date for the city’s repurchase of three undeveloped Town Square parcels.

On June 4, the Burien City Council voted to exercise its option to buy back the parcels at 90 percent of what the developer paid for them. The original buyer, Los Angles-based Urban Partners has been renamed Harbor Urban after it bought Seattle’s Harbor Properties.

The developers had proposed erecting a cinema and one-story medical building on the parcels. They said the market has changed and could not support condos and small retail spaces. They pointed to the first Town Square phase where condos have sold slowly and only one business, Subway, has committed to opening a retail store.

Burien officials countered that the cinema would have cost the city $4 million while the one-story medical building was not what the city had in mind for the urban development.

After the threatened divorce, Martin says Harbor Urban is now suggesting residential apartments for the site.

Harbor Urban has prepared a preliminary design, possible budget and proposed amendments to the previous development agreement.

In the letter, Martin wrote, “The City will consider your proposal in good faith and will decide, in its sole discretion, whether it is willing to enter into a standstill agreement to give the parties time to negotiate a new agreement or, whether it will proceed to closing the repurchase on July 18.”

The city also agreed to meet with the developers on Wednesday, June 27 and try to inform Harbor Urban of Burien’s decision by July 6.

A compromise could get the project back on track and avoid litigation that would be costly for both sides.

At the June 18 city council meeting, Councilman Jack Block Jr. indicated that, because of declining property values, Burien may have to raise taxes to maintain its current level of services. Burien is also planning to take on White Center if North Highline voters approve annexation on the November ballot.

Martin said the negotiations between city officials and the developers are at a delicate stage but conceded “litigation is always a possibility.”

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