By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
City of Mill Creek officials have pretty much given up hope that a big box store will come to town in the foreseeable future. As disclosed in recent public discussions, the amount of remaining land in Mill Creek not under development or contract is probably too small to support such a large store.
Economic development of underutilized areas of Mill Creek has been the City’s focus since the adoption of Mill Creek’s Strategic Plan on April 10, 2012.
Mill Creek’s Strategic Plan and Comprehensive Plan both highlight the East Gateway Urban Village as a main source of new tax revenue for the City. Both documents are modified on an ongoing basis to meet the City’s changing needs and the City Council’s vision.
In 2011 Target began discussions with Mill Creek planners about a potential store in the East Gateway Urban Village and received encouragement that regulations would be changed to allow the development, but they could never come to terms with landowners.
According to an email from Mill Creek Community Director Tom Rogers, Target was originally interested in the 18 acres on the east side of East Gateway Urban Village where Polygon Northwest is currently building their mixed-use development.
In 2012 Polygon Northwest also expressed interest in this East Gateway Urban Village property for a mixed-use development that met Mill Creek’s code requirements.
Director Rogers said that the free market ultimately determined what would be developed on this property, “The property was under receivership and the representative was looking for a deal to make the holders of the loan whole as soon as possible. During the discussion with Target, Polygon made a firm offer that exceeded what Target was willing to pay.”
When Polygon made their land purchase Mill Creek continued to encourage a big box store on the west side of the East Gateway Urban Village.
Director Rogers said, “In response to the purchase by Polygon, staff took a code amendment to the Council eliminating the minimum requirement for residential units and eliminating the maximum size for a store.”
“The amendment also said that any future residential development west of 44th would be required to be on the second floor or above, with commercial below. The hope was to set the stage for Target, or another large anchor store, to be able to locate on the west side of the EGUV area. Staff also expressed the flexibility to bend the road down to the south property line to accommodate a larger store.”
In December of 2013 Target’s credit card data breach caused them to lose focus on expansion. Director Rogers said this was about the time Mill Creek stopped hearing from them, “My understanding was that Target was exploring options to locate in EGUV when internal issues at Target resulted in them backing off pursuing the Mill Creek site.”
At the February 10th Mill Creek City Council meeting Director Rogers said that they haven’t heard anything from Target for a long time and that a portion of the property they were interested in west of 44th Avenue SE is now “under contract” for another use.
Since a formal land use application has not yet been submitted to the City, the specifics are not public, but the size of the property under contract is much too small to support a big box store.
Rogers said he is not optimistic that there is enough land left in the East Gateway Urban Village for a big box store, “To be really honest, the other parts (property in the EGUV) on the west of 44th, really aren’t for a store as large as Target was, 130,000 or so square feet, it was really squeezing it in there.”
Mayor Pam Pruitt summarized, "So promoting the development of a big box store (in East Gatway Urban Village) isn’t going to happen."
Mill Creek continues to work with interested partners to encourage East Gateway Urban Village development.
For example, Sno-Isle Libraries is looking for places to build a larger Mill Creek Library to ease overcrowding and the East Gateway Urban Village is a potential site.
The Mill Creek Planning Commission unanimously approved an amendment to the East Gateway Urban Village municipal code allowing “multifamily use above public facilities on the ground floor” at their regular February 19th meeting after a public hearing and a subsequent discussion.
This code change allows Sno-Isle Libraries to enter into a public-private partnership saving the library district development costs and allowing Mill Creek to collect some property tax revenue on the resulting development.
The proposed code change now goes to the Mill Creek City Council for them to decide whether or not it meets their vision for the City’s future.