Everett riverfront developer gives project timetable

EVERETT — An Eastside development company assured city leaders Wednesday of its intent to remake barren, former industrial land along the Snohomish River into a new community — and quickly.

Polygon Northwest of Bellevue laid out an ambitious construction timetable for the Riverfront project during a City Council briefing. Company representatives predicted breaking ground next spring and closing home sales in 2015. A 400,000-square-foot shopping area should be ready to open by the city’s June 2017 deadline.

“We’re excited to be able to bring the Riverfront property to life,” said Gary Young, the company’s senior vice president.

Before any of those plans materialize, Polygon has to buy the Riverfront land from San Diego developer OliverMcMillan. About two months of due diligence remain before any sale can close.

The city in 2008 sold the site to OliverMcMillan for $8 million. The deal obligated the developer to construction deadlines, which will transfer over to any new owner.

Should a deal fail to gel, OliverMcMillan has told the city it will proceed with construction and meet all of its obligations, public works director Dave Davis said.

Polygon, traditionally a homebuilder, has branched out into retail, office and mixed-use projects. It has active developments in Mill Creek, Maple Valley, Kirkland and Beaverton, Ore.

Everett’s Riverfront project encompasses more than 100 acres of buildable land. There were two mills there and the old city dump that was the site of the infamous 1984 tire fire.

Over the past two decades, millions in public dollars have been invested to help transform the area. That money has paid to clean up the old landfill and prepare it for development. Some other taxpayer-funded upgrades are a new roundabout east of the 41st Street I-5 overpass, a north entrance road under construction off Pacific Avenue and walking trails near the Snohomish River.

The largest part of the property — about 60 acres — is the former city landfill. Zoning reserves the area mostly for retail businesses.

South of the landfill property lies the approximately 40-acre Simpson property. That’s where Polygon plans to build a low-density neighborhood of single-family houses as the first part of the project.

The Simpson area adjoins walking trails along the Snohomish River that are reachable by a footbridge over the railroad tracks from Lowell. Nearby wetlands provide rich bird habitat, similar to Spencer Island, and are off-limits to development.

“We want these amenities to be available to everybody,” said Lanie McMullin, Everett’s economic development director. “You hardly know how close you are to an urban center out here. It’s just a gorgeous site.”

North of the old dump is a 17-acre site of the former Eclipse Mill. Polygon sees that area as “well-suited for a higher-density product,” said Nick Abdelnour, who handles land acquisitions for the company. Townhomes there would fetch a lower price than those on the Simpson property.

Zoning allows for a maximum of 1,400 homes in Riverfront project. Polygon has yet to decide how many it wants, said Derek Straight, a vice president for the company.

“You need to build at a pace the market will allow,” Straight said.

City councilmembers on Wednesday quizzed Polygon about the company’s commitment to low-impact building standards, the strength of its finances and whether it would follow through with the retail area, once the houses are built.

Comments from the audience centered on flood danger from the Snohomish River. Young said the company already has started arranging to truck in 300,000 yards of fill to further elevate future homes on the Simpson property.

“We always like to have a little bit of extra security and safety,” he said.

The city expects Polygon to return in May with a more detailed update.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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