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Nat Levy
Real Estate Reporter

June 18, 2015

Real Estate Buzz: Sammamish is growing up

Real Estate Reporter

Karen Dahners lived in Sammamish before there was a Sammamish.

In 1970 Karen and her husband Joe moved to the then-unincorporated area. They traded a home on Lake Boren in Newcastle for 10 acres and a fixer-upper on what would later become Southeast Fourth Street.

Throughout the years, three generations of the family have called the land home. Karen and Joe built a house for Joe's parents, and later Joe's brother married a neighbor and moved in. The block has been home to several big extended families and chicken farms.

Things started changing in the 1980s and 1990s, Karen Dahners said. The rise of Microsoft brought more residents who commuted to work. Many homes, schools and shopping centers were built. There was a push to incorporate, but the vote failed several times. In 1998 the people finally agreed, and Sammamish became a city a year later.

For much of its existence, Sammamish has been trying to plan a downtown. It rezoned more than 240 acres in 2008 to encourage dense residential and retail development, but the plan stalled during the recession.

Developers started to come back to the table in 2013, and several projects are set to break ground this year.

Dahners' land sits right in the middle of the Town Center area and is up for sale. Rather than fight change, Dahners said she is embracing the plan to build a dense, walkable downtown area in Sammamish.

“It's just time to make a change, and I am excited about (the Town Center) coming,” Dahners said. “I think it's a good plan. I'm a little sad it had to affect our property.”

Courtesy Lance Mueller & Associates [enlarge]
The Village at Sammamish Town Center will have 159 apartments and 113,000 square feet of commercial space, including a Metropolitan Market grocery store.

Sammamish Town Center could have as much as 600,000 square feet of office and retail space and 2,000 housing units, said Evan Maxim, a senior planner at the city of Sammamish who is managing the town center project. The city has done its part by building a new City Hall, library and 30-acre park and it funded an aquatic center run by the YMCA that is under construction. The city recently acquired a former Mars Hill Church and is talking to three different community colleges about putting a satellite campus on the site, Maxim said.

Residents of nearby Klahanie recently voted to annex into Sammamish, adding about 11,000 new residents to the city of about 50,000. The city expects to see $6.5 million in new revenue annually, with a yearly $1.4 million surplus, after the costs of services for new residents.

The biggest private project in the downtown plan is The Village at Sammamish Town Center. Seattle-based TRF Pacific is planning 159 apartments and 113,000 square feet of commercial space — including a 36,000-square-foot Metropolitan Market grocery store and a 32,000-square-foot medical office building.

Douglas Exworthy of TRF said the company plans to sell the apartment portion to a residential developer.

The site at Southeast Fourth Street and 228th Avenue Southeast is a prime retail spot. The Town Center is mostly residential, and all those people are going to need a grocery store. Exworthy said Metropolitan Market is on the level of upscale stores like Whole Foods, but it also sells national brands.

“That's a market that is untapped,” Exworthy said. “Sammamish doesn't have that type of grocery.”

Lance Mueller & Associates is designing the project, and Abbott Construction is the general contractor.

Exworthy said TRF plans to start site work in July. The site is on a steep incline, so there is a lot of soil to move around. TRF wants all site work finished before the rainy season. The goal is to open the project in early 2017.

The first project likely to start construction is a townhouse development called Southeast Village. That project will have 75 townhouses, 13 of which will be live-work units and 6,500 square feet of commercial space. Ichijo USA is doing that project, and construction could begin in a couple weeks, Maxim said.

The third project planned in the neighborhood is called Plateau 120. Mercer Island-based American Classic Homes wants to build 92 apartments above 14,515 square feet of ground floor office space. Maxim said Plateau 120 could break ground in August or September.

At least 10 percent of units in every Town Center project have to be affordable to people making 80 percent of area median income. Additional density bonuses are available if developers are willing to make more units affordable.

Maxim said this level of density is different for Sammamish, but something the city needs as it continues to grow.

“We're trying to get a little further from the car-centric feel in Sammamish and trying to get a little more walkable center,” Maxim said.

Dahners' land sits just west of TRF's project. It is part of two sites totaling approximately 8.5 acres that Mark C. Anderson and Bill Cooper of Colliers International are marketing for sale. The sites are attracting attention from developers including Toll Brothers, Quadrant Homes, and TRF, Maxim said.

Anderson said the city has done a good job teeing up land for developers. The zoning and land use plans are all in place, so developers know what they can do. The only thing left is for a private developer to start construction. Anderson mentioned the TRF project as a possible catalyst for future development.

“They are the big anchor that kicks it off and starts,” Anderson said. “Now all the sudden, all the risk is gone.”

Dahners said she plans to stay in the area. She wants to live as close to her current home as possible, possibly at an old farm site.

She said she is glad the city took the time to work on zoning and create baseline development standards for her land and the rest of Town Center.

“I think that's a good thing because we will actually get a cohesive city center up here,” she said. “It hopefully won't end up being a lot of little strip malls that don't really fit together.”

$12 million for 125 acres near Bellingham

Courtesy Cushman & Wakefield | Commerce [enlarge]
The owners want $12 million for this 125-acre site south of Bellingham.

For anyone who has ever wondered what $12 million could buy, here is one possibility: about 125 acres of waterfront land south of Bellingham.

Governor's Point, an area six miles south of Bellingham on Samish, Pleasant and Chuckanut bays, has been up for sale for about nine months. The sellers have added a $12 million price tag. Before it was unpriced.

The number comes from an appraisal done on the land. A nonprofit that wanted to preserve the site had it under contract but wasn't able to get the money together, said Gary Danklefsen of Cushman & Wakefield | Commerce, who is marketing the site.

The nonprofit buyer is still in play, but the owners, the Sahlin family, wanted to put it back on the market. The family had three wells dug on the property, which could make it more conducive to development. Danklefsen said the site could be preserved, or used as a family estate or it could be divided into lots where 25 houses could be built.

Danklefsen said he would like to close the deal by the end of the year.

Got some interesting news for the Buzz? You can reach Nat at nat.levy@djc.com.

Got a tip? Contact DJC real estate editor Brian Miller at brian.miller@djc.com or call him at (206) 219-6517.

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