A builder and a planner from two firms with national and worldwide experience told a group of Shoreline business supporters that the road to major development can be a long and sometimes bumpy one.
Warren Johnson, of Bayley Construction, and Michael Lee, of Callison Architecture, spoke May 13 to the Forward Shoreline board meeting at the Shoreline Historical Museum.
Johnson and Bayley just completed the renovation and expansion at Alderwood Mall. Lee and Callison are involved in a number of area projects including the Issaquah Highlands and Kent Station. The companies have worked together on Nordstorm stores across the country.
“Callison started doing a remodel of John Nordstrom’s house,” Lee said. “Now we’re in Kuwait, Dubai and Moscow.”
Lee said that a successful development in an area such as Shoreline is a three-legged stool including the city, the developer and the residents.
“Everybody needs to be on the same page,” he said. “One of the things we do is to use a visioning exercise.”
Lee said Callison is working with University Place city officials on a project there. “They said, ‘We want a town center,’” Lee said. “We said, ‘OK, why?’”
Once a vision is established, Johnson said it still has to make economic sense to a developer.
“Retailers like to see growth in an area,” Johnson said. “The city of Lynnwood has opened up the downtown triangle area with almost no restrictions. They’re letting the market drive it.”
Johnson pointed out that many developers of large retail spaces such as malls are now including housing as part of the plan to create the critical mass of density needed to support the shops. He said Simon, which owns Northgate, and Alderwood’s owner, General Growth Properties are both looking at such retail/residential projects.
Lee said a key quality for anyone involved in a development project is flexibility.
“I can’t stress that enough,” Lee said. “What gets planned today may not be what gets built.”
Lee said large developments take time and sometimes the people involved, especially in city government, change. “These processes take a long time. Look at this as a long-term marriage.”
As an example, Lee said a project that was recently completed in Lake Oswego, Ore., was started more than 20 years ago. Lee said he worked on the project three different times, while he was with two different companies.
Lee said public officials should look toward doing groundwork before a project starts, such as anticipating zoning and permitting needs and even building some infrastructure such as roads or sewers. Lee had a strong caution, however, on one infrastructure need.
“Don’t let traffic drive everything,” he said.
He pointed to the Issaquah Highlands project where city officials created a plan and poured new streets and sidewalks. He said the plan now may not allow for changes that could be needed by businesses that would help the project toward success.
David Endicott, executive director of Forward Shoreline, said his sense was the group thought the presentation was valuable.
“We discussed it afterward,” Endicott said. “This is great opportunity for people to come together and talk about ideas.”
Shoreline city manager Steve Burkett also attended the presentation.
“It was completely consistent with my experience in Shoreline and other cities for development, or in our case, redevelopment,” Burkett said.
“One of the key things they said was the community being unified on a vision, that’s critical,” Burkett said. “Other communities have had that and been successful.”
Burkett noted one factor that wasn’t mentioned: the market and making sure there is one for the vision.
Burkett said he’s considering asking Johnson and Lee to make a similar presentation to key city staff members and that he’s encouraged by the interest shown from such firms.
“There’s nothing specific, but it is a good indicator,” Burkett said.