Work begins on 52-acre Mill Creek ‘urban village’

MILL CREEK — The church is staying put, but the nursery on the bustling northeast corner of town is coming down.

Where Henry’s Plant Farm stands now, a developer plans to build hundreds of apartments and townhomes along with a smattering of stores.

On nearby land, workers have just poured the foundation for a future medical office building.

These rumblings of growth along the south side of 132nd Street SE follow a plan Mill Creek outlined four years ago.

The vision was to encourage development along the lines of Mill Creek Town Center, but with more homes mixed in with stores and office space.

“It’s not necessarily a Town Center; it’s going to be its own thing,” Mill Creek community development director Tom Rogers said. “It’s a little bit larger, it has more of a residential component than Town Center has. It’s not meant to compete or do the same thing that Town Center does.”

The area, called East Gateway Urban Village, straddles 52 acres between 35th Avenue SE and Seattle Hill Road.

When the area on the south side of the highway gets built out years from now, the Advent Lutheran Church may be the only recognizable landmark. Beyond the new homes and stores, unfolding plans for the area include a one-acre park and possibly a new road connecting 39th Avenue SE with Seattle Hill Road.

Immediately to the west of the church, workers have started building a two-story, 24,000-square-foot medical office building. The city hearing examiner approved the building in 2011. It’s expected to open next year, Rogers said.

East of the church, plans are moving ahead to transform an 18.5-acre nursery into homes and business space.

Homebuilder Polygon Northwest Co. of Bellevue has submitted an application to the city for developing the site. If approved, it could go to the city hearing examiner next year for the final go-ahead.

“Its going to add some vitality and moment to the rest of the project being developed,” said Kevin Hanchett of Resource Transition Consultants, of Edmonds, which is overseeing the property transaction.

The sale is set to close at the end of February.

“It appears that everything is on track for that to occur,” Hanchett said.

Plans call for 210 apartments, 104 townhomes and some small stores located along a new access road onto the property, Hanchett said. Buildings there are likely to rise two or three stories. Polygon also has agreed to build a one-acre city park.

Under the proposal, a new traffic signal would go up at the intersection of 132nd Street SE and 44th Avenue SE.

The Polygon development will replace Henry’s Plant Farm. Owner Jim Nash said he’s operated the business there since 1984 and that it’s been a nursery since the 1970s. Nash plans to move his business to the Arlington area.

The city’s design guidelines for the area give developers some flexibility for what they build. In September, the City Council approved code amendments intended to encourage a large anchor store. The changes included allowing a large ground floor footprint for a commercial building, doing away with a requirement for a minimum number of homes and, on the western portion of the zoning area, allowing multifamily residential homes only above commercial space.

Wal-Mart at one point considered the area for a new store but dropped the plan in 2007. Target also has looked into locating a store there.

Rogers estimated it would take a couple of years to build out East Gateway Urban Village. How quickly that happens is beyond the city’s control.

“It depends on the market,” he said. “The city hopes it happens sooner rather than later, but we’re not the ones doing the developing.”

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

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