Report details best uses for Everett mill site

EVERETT — Dry bulk storage, fish processing, ship building and other marine industrial uses are some of the businesses likely to be successful at the Kimberly-Clark mill site, according to Greg Easton of Property Counselors, a Seattle land use consultant.

“This is a very strong industrial site, given its size and the availability to rail,” he told the Everett Planning Commission on Tuesday.

The Kimberly-Clark pulp and paper mill has been shut down since April, and the company plans to demolish buildings and sell the site.

It’s a rare piece of real estate: a 66-acre, industrial tract with access to a deep-water channel on Puget Sound, a wharf, a railroad, truck access and a huge, dedicated water supply pipeline.

The city hired Easton to take a look at what kinds of businesses possess both the market demand and the need for a large waterfront site.

The consultant found that other mill site redevelopment projects nationally often involve multiple industrial tenants. These new uses usually provide fewer jobs than the previous industrial use, he said.

In Western Washington, former mill sites have found new uses as marine terminals in Tacoma and Vancouver and as a boat building and repair facility in Anacortes.

The site of the former Georgia Pacific paper mill in Bellingham was purchased by the Port of Bellingham and a redevelopment plan with multiple uses was developed by the city.

Not surprisingly, many marine industries such as ship building would make a good fit with the mill site.

The site isn’t easily accessible enough for commercial retail, he said. It would work for office space but then those offices would compete with buildings in nearby downtown for tenants, he said.

Easton advised against mega cargo terminals, which can span 125 acres. That’s larger than the mill site and Everett would face stiff competition against the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, both of which offer multiple large terminals. The Port of Everett is located next to the Kimberly-Clark site and has expressed interest in the property. The Navy also borders the Kimberly-Clark, but said it’s not interested in expanding.

Auto exports or other wheeled machinery might be a good fit since these could operate on the site. However, the ports of Portland, Gray’s Harbor and Tacoma already offer these services from larger facilities.

Liquid bulk commodities, such as petroleum, require specialized storage and aren’t a good fit because of the cost of the facilities.

Easton also suggested a multi-use development focused on clean technology, for example renewable energy, or other green industries. He added the caveat that these types of developments are “more popular in name than in practice” and a public agency usually takes charge of the project.

The site might provide an opportunity to expand the city’s already thriving aerospace cluster with businesses that assemble large airplane parts, for instance. The mill site is the second largest industrial parcel in Everett — the first is owned by Cemex near Merrill Creek Parkway — and provides easy rail access for Boeing.

The consultant also examined the number of jobs certain industries would likely bring as well as what those jobs would pay.

Cargo handling businesses have the lowest number of employees per acre but high wages. Water dependent uses have more employees and moderate wages.

Other manufacturing uses have lots of jobs and high wages. Research-related businesses, such as those that might come with a clean tech industry, have the highest number of employees and the best wages.

The city is deciding if it should craft rules to limit the type of development allowed at the mill site and on adjacent properties. It’s put a moratorium on any new development.

Ultimately, it’s Kimberly-Clark that will choose a buyer.

Kimberly-Clark hired real estate brokers Kidder Mathews and Binswanger in April to market the property.

Tuesday, Dave Speers, a senior vice president with Kidder Mathews, told the Planning Commission so far his company has heard mainly from companies with marine and rail uses. The more than 2,500 linear feet of pier the site offers is “absolutely rare, especially on salt water,” he said.

There was no compelling reason for a technology park at that location, since it would not use the rail or water access, he said.

Speers added that the site might not be as appealing to aerospace companies, which could find “1,000 acres in Arlington for a third of the price.”

The results are preliminary and the consultant said he expected to provide more information at the 6:30 p.m. July 17, Planning Commission meeting at the Everett Transit Station.

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com.

Read more

A report on potential uses for the Kimberly Clark mill site is available online with this story at www.heraldnet.com and at the city’s website.

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