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DJC: Bothell hopes road projects will bring new investments to town April 7, 2010

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April 7, 2010

Bothell hopes road projects will bring new investments to town

By MARC STILES
Journal Staff Reporter

Hopes are high in Bothell, as the city begins work on $150 million in public projects that officials say could lead to as much as $750 million worth of investment downtown.

This week the city broke ground on two road projects that will cost a total of $83.7 million. The next step is to hire a developer to oversee design and construction of a new city hall; the request for qualifications for that project is scheduled to hit the streets tomorrow.

The goal is to stimulate private development throughout downtown, including on 18 acres owned by the city. Mayor Mark Lamb says investors are showing “an enormous amount of interest” in the land. Assistant City Manager Terrie Battuello said it probably will be sold in phases.

If the city pulls it off, Bothell’s character — now suburban with a hint of rural — will become “distinctly urban,” with taller buildings and higher density, according to a city plan. The plan calls for a mix of uses and much more pedestrian activity than elsewhere in Bothell.

Freedman Tung & Sasaki, a San Francisco urban design and planning firm, helped the city come up with the vision.

City officials say Bothell is among the first municipalities to try “form-based zoning” on a large scale to make the plan a reality. Form-based zoning is different than conventional zoning, which focuses on where different uses are allowed. It is more flexible and more focused on how buildings relate to the street and each other.

The city’s community development director, Bill Wiselogle, said this is the approach the city will take in trying to redevelop the area it calls Bothell Landing, which covers about 200 acres downtown. Wiselogle said this will be “form-based zoning writ large. I don’t know of any jurisdictions that have embraced this to the degree that we have.

“When you come to Bothell in 10 years, (the city) will look like it all makes sense,” he said.

‘A killer’ plan

Time will tell if this pans out the way city officials hope. The Concord Group, a real estate consulting company, looked at post-recession market trends and said even without the city’s investments, Bothell Landing could capture 1 million square feet of residential and commercial development valued at $220 million.

A different consultant, ECO Northwest, projects that upgrades by the city will stimulate 650,000-square-feet of commercial space, 2,700 housing units, 8,400 temporary construction jobs and nearly 1,370 permanent jobs. ECO Northwest calculates the value of all this at $750 million.

Bothell has a population of 33,000 and 23,000 jobs. It’s home to firms that make medical devices, software, pharmaceuticals and high-tech gadgets. That job base provides “a huge appetite” for lodging, entertainment and housing, Lamb said.

Another plus is the campus of the University of Washington Bothell/Cascadia Community College. Enrollment, which had been capped at 3,000, can now expand to 10,000 full-time students following completion of a $55 million transportation project that improves access.

The campus is about a 10-minute walk from downtown, Lamb said, and represents a “huge pent-up customer base” for merchants.

One developer, PJ Santos of Lorax Partners, says Bothell has done “a killer job” laying a foundation for redeveloping downtown. Santos was formerly with Opus Northwest, where he worked on a similar project in Bremerton, and said Bothell officials have sought advice from him and other Seattle-area real estate experts, including Bruce Lorig of Lorig Associates, Maria Royer of Real Retail and Eric Cambell of CamWest.

Santos said he received no payment for his input. “I’m just an active developer out there sniffing it out,” he said, adding he plans to pursue the Bothell city hall project with LMN Architects.

Chiropractor Dusty DuBois said she recently moved her practice to Bothell’s Main Street. “I just wanted to be in the heart of that, [and] not constantly have to drive to all the strip malls.” She already can walk to small businesses, but expects the area to become more accessible to pedestrians.

She’s eager for the change. “I feel [it] was Christmas with the groundbreaking ceremony,” she said.

Payment plan

To fund the investments, the city four years ago shifted its capital facilities plan, increased its cash reserves and scaled back on public spending when labor and material costs were rising. Bothell also set aside tax revenues from building projects and earmarked the bulk of the money for infrastructure projects.

If you treat that income as recurring, “you are setting yourself up for a fall,” said Lamb, who added that Bothell’s building program “was not so aggressive” when the economy was strong. “Now we believe is the [right] time to move forward on our projects that we think will revitalize the community.”

Bothell has acquired property, and relocated 27 businesses and three families to make way for the two road projects.

The first one, Crossroads, is estimated to cost $62.1 million. It will realign state Route 522, also known as Bothell Way. The project will create new intersections at state Route 527 and 98th Avenue Northeast. SR 527, or the Bothell-Everett Highway, and 98th Avenue will be extended from Main Street to Bothell Way. The realigned road will be two lanes in each direction with turn lanes, sidewalks and landscaping.

In addition to aiding economic development, the work will ease traffic congestion and improve transit.

Overall construction cost is just over $32 million. Right-of-way acquisition is pegged at $13.7 million, and the design cost is nearly $3 million. Perteet and PB designed the project. Titan Earthwork is demolishing buildings under a $333,000 contract. A request for proposals for two years of construction work is expected to go out in June.

The city secured or is pursuing grants and other funding from state and federal sources, including the state’s LIFT program. The Local Infrastructure Financing Tool will provide Bothell a rebate of state property and sales taxes up to $1 million annually for a maximum of 25 years.

The second project, Wayne Curve on Bothell Way, is expected to cost about $21.6 million. Work includes installation of curbs, gutters, sidewalks and transit lanes; upgrading stormwater facilities and street lighting; and realigning the approach of one street to the highway. The city budgeted just under $13 million for construction.

KPG led design of the project, and Marshbank Construction will build the project under an $8.4 million contract, excluding contingencies.

Federal, state and city funds are paying for the project, along with funds from King County Metro and Sound Transit.

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