By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek, June 19, 2016.
What is the East Gateway Urban Village?
The East Gateway Urban Village is a planned shopping and residential center in the northeast corner of Mill Creek east of 35th Avenue SE, south of 132nd Street SE, and west of Seattle Hill Road.
When the master plan was approved back in 2008, the vision was to have a Town Center-like urban village with a mix of professional offices, retail shops, and residential units on 52 acres of land that was then essentially undeveloped.
How was the East Gateway Urban Village conceived?
In 2005 the Mill Creek City Council approved an annexation of 553 acres in the northeast portion of the city. One of the intended purposes of the annexation was to include land that had development potential for increasing the City's retail sales tax base. At the time Wal-Mart had indicated interest in siting a store in that area.
The city council approved the original master plan for the pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use East Gateway Urban Village development to serve that purpose in early 2008. This plan disallowed big-box stores such as Wal-Mart and included a “spine road” paralleling 132nd Street SE much like Main Street parallels the Bothell-Everett Highway in Mill Creek Town Center.
Due to recession-caused market changes, developers expressed little interest in the original plan. In 2010 the City of Mill Creek organized an advisory committee comprised of developers, architects, retailers, real estate market experts and brokers to review the master plan in light of the current market. The advisory committee suggested changes to the master plan in April 2011 as follows:
- Create a bold plan. It must be different than the Town Center and other local shopping/residential centers and should have long-term sustainability.
- Define to what level the City of Mill Creek will participate financially to encourage development.
- Make sure the development creates a “There” there.
- Rethink some of the zoning restrictions to make the site competitive.
- Include infrastructure to create momentum – public plazas, a public park, and a wetland-viewing platform.
- Consider a larger format anchor (100,000 sq. ft. +), if the design is consistent with the vision.
- Consider reducing retail square footage.
- Consider a movie theatre, community facilities and senior housing.
The Mill Creek City Council never formally approved a new master plan incorporating the advisory committee’s ideas, but city staff contunue to work with potential developers with the understanding that serious proposals would be reviewed with open minds.
How much of East Gateway Urban Village has been developed so far?
The Great Recession, which officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, slowed development activity all over so it’s no wonder nothing happened in the East Gateway Urban Village until 2012 when the two-story, 24,000 square foot medical/office Gateway Building was approved. Construction was completed the next year.
In 2013 the Mill Creek City Council and Hearing Examiner approved Polygon Northwest’s mixed-use development agreement and site plan on 18.5 acres. The 300 unit residential portion of this mixed-use development including a public park was completed toward the end of 2016.
Construction of the approximately 20,000 square foot commercial portion of Polygon Northwest’s development began this year and should be complete in 2017.
The Mill Creek City Council and Hearing Examiner approved the Vintage at Mill Creek mixed-use development this year. This affordable senior housing development will consist of two five-story mixed-use residential buildings and three single-story parking/storage buildings on about four acres.
Altogether the development will include 216 senior housing units, 15,000 square feet of commercial space, a 2,800 square foot senior center, and a 500 square foot police satellite office.
Construction of the Vintage at Mill Creek mixed-use development should start this summer.
What comes next?
In 2015 Mill Creek City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto hired a consulting firm specializing in land use economics to figure out what development scenarios were currently feasible for the remaining East Gateway Urban Village.
The consultants determined that the nearby population density and median household income would most likely attract a higher end retail strip mall or a mixed-use residential development, but not a hotel or big box store such as could be developed in a higher density area such as Redmond.
At the March 22nd city council meeting East Gateway Urban Village land owner Roger Sortino said his new plans include a restaurant, a CVS drugstore, and another yet to be named retail business on six of the twelve acres he owns, and a mixed-use commercial and residential development on the other six acres with partners Vintage Housing and Polygon Northwest.
Stay tuned! We’ll try our best to keep you informed.