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January 30, 2023

Puyallup seeks developer for downtown site

Real Estate Editor

Photo via city of Puyallup [enlarge]
Looking southeast, the main property is in the left foreground. South of that is an outparcel likely to remain surface parking.

The city of Puyallup has long owned about 1.5 acres, including a full city block, in the heart of downtown. It's known as the Cornforth-Campbell property, named for the former car dealerships that operated there from 1941 to the early 2000s.

Part of the surviving complex at 115 Second St. S.E. is currently leased to the YMCA. But the city recently began contemplating a mixed-use redevelopment of the site, now mostly parking. It could potentially be expanded south to the Hill Funeral Home block, still separately owned, with another half acre or so. That would likely remain parking, now with 41 stalls.

Last week, the city issued a request for proposals from potential developers; the notice appeared first in the DJC. Qualifications are due by March 9. The city will also conduct a site tour on Thursday, at 1:30 p.m.

The city isn't dictating the exact project size or numbers. But it did commission a study last year from Leland Consulting Group and Portland design shop First Forty Feet, which offers three varying models of development.

That area of downtown is zoned up to 65 feet. The city would like some retail component, preservation of the surviving auto showroom and affordable apartments. The latter could be aided by the city's multifamily tax exemption program.

Units might range in number from around 58 to 112. The building types could be some mix of townhouses for the sales market, low-rise condos and low-rise apartments. Or a more ambitious developer could go midrise for all or part of the site. That would likely be a five-story project with structured parking, with over 100 units.

The retail component, possibly to house the city's popular nearby farmers market, might have 6,000 to 10,000 square feet.

To aid development, the city has already prepared a SEPA planned action ordinance for downtown. Both a favorable ground lease or sub-market-rate sale would be considered. The city's MFTE program offers eight- and 12-year terms. The latter requires affordable housing, in a range from 80% to 115% of area median income; the former does not.

City code now has a residential parking ratio of one-to-one for downtown, but that could be negotiated downward.

The Cornforth-Campbell property is also walkable to the Sounder heavy-rail station, which offers service to Seattle. (Sound Transit is now building a large new parking garage near Puyallup Station.)

At the same time, the city is seeking a team to improve East Meeker — on the south side of the block — into what it calls a “festival street.”

Given the main block's automotive past, there are naturally pollution issues. The city says that old underground fuel tanks have been removed, and PBS Engineers says the city can apply to the state Department of Ecology for a determination of no further action (NFA).

But, east of the Cornforth-Campbell block, there's pollution from a former dry cleaner on a separately owned property. The plume reaches west across Third Street Southeast. Cleanup there is less advanced, and there's still no NFA.


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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