Economic development plan touts Burien as ‘International City’

By Eric Mathison

A Burien economic development strategic plan that calls for the city to be marketed as an “International City” was unveiled to lawmakers on March 3.

Burien’s 2013-2014 budget included $50,000 for the development of the plan. Economic Development director Dan Trimble, facilitator Brian Scott and consultant Terry Moore presented the plan. Paul Smith, chair of Burien’s Business and Economic Development Partnership advisory committee, indicated his members recommend the plan.

Once adopted by the City Council, the plan will become Burien’s strategy for economic development. Moore said the plan was divided into basic actions, preliminary actions and advanced actions.

The report noted the emerging view of economic development adds a community’s “quality of life” to the traditional view of helping to create and retain good jobs.

According to the report, Burien’s most important advantages are location and access. The city is centrally located between Seattle and Tacoma and is adjacent to major freeways.

The city is also “4 miles and 7 minutes from the Sea-Tac International Airport (the largest west coast U.S. airport north of San Francisco) and Southcenter Mall (the largest shopping center in Washington, and recently renovated),” the report states.

The advisory committee said, “Burien citizens enjoy the benefits of both a small-town setting and quick connections to regional and international business centers.

“It has a small-town sense of community while offering urban attractions typically only available in cities several times its size.”

However, some of Burien’s advantages have offsetting effects, the report warns. The airport brings noise, its central location makes it more congested, Burien’s cultural and language diversity is often correlated with lower incomes and education levels., and affordable housing is a result of the average economic means of its citizens.

The report also notes that there is a short supply of large available business parcels and downtown parking is perceived as a problem.

As part of the preliminary actions, the advisory committee suggested adding a full-time technical position to support Trimble, who is the city’s lone economic development staffer. The committee also advocated the city’s current part-time public information specialist become a full-time position.

Among basic actions recommended were tuning up the permitting process, inventorying the buildable land supply, creating information packets for businesses and developers and providing cost-efficient infrastructure for development.

The proposed plan also suggests evaluating downtown parking, supporting development of walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented neighborhoods, working with education districts to improve education quality and adopting policies that support quality of life.

To find funding, the plan suggests possibly creating business improvement districts (BID) and identifying possible business grants.

The plan notes marketing and branding could describe Burien’s positive business climate and available amenities for residents.

Advanced actions would center on making Burien an “International City,” including developing sister cities and partnering with trade oriented agencies.

According to the draft report, Burien’s most marketable claim to being an international city is its closeness to Sea-Tac Airport.

“To be the International City it aspires to be, it has to continue to strengthen ties with the airport,” the report notes.

To entice international tourism, the plan suggests hotels, a performing arts center and a restaurant association.

Highline Public Schools superintendent Susan Enfield also gave lawmakers a report on the district’s plans to handle an anticipated jump in enrollment.

Enfield said the district is looking at moving sixth-graders to middle schools, building a new middle school in the south end of the district, converting Glendale Elementary into a middle school, building an elementary school at the Salmon Creek site, building a new Des Moines Elementary in Zenith, rebuilding Highline High School, and making major repairs at the Evergreen and Tyee campuses.

Voters would need to approve a construction bond to rebuild the schools. Enfield said the school board will decide in June on placing a bond measure on the ballot later this year. A maintenance and educational programs levy measure is expected next year.

Burien is in the preliminary stages of discussing the construction of a new recreation center estimated to cost $35-$44 million. Burien voters most likely will be asked to approve a construction bond to fund some of the costs.

What was expected to be a “housekeeping measure” sparked considerable discussion.

Public Works director Maiya Andrews presented a proposal to adopt a speed limit of 35 mph instead of the posted 40 mph on First Avenue South between Southwest 128th Street and Southwest 116th Street and adopt the city’s default sped limit of 25 mph instead of the posted 35 mph on Fourth Avenue Southwest between Southwest 128th Street and Southwest 116th Street.

Councilmember Gerald Robison suggested the city’s solicit public input on the proposed changes.

Andrews countered that changing speed limits is usually based on engineering studies and not public comment.

The lawmakers decided to place the speed limit changes and proposed truck route changes on the March 17 council consent agenda.

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