17-story towers in Southcenter = a Tukwila downtown?

A pair of attached, 17-story buildings featuring a hotel and either apartments or condos could be coming to Tukwila’s Southcenter District.

The City Council’s Community Affairs and Parks Committee discussed at its Jan. 28 meeting a proposed development agreement for the property at 223 Andover Park E., the former Circuit City site.

The full council will discuss the proposal Feb. 25 at the Committee of the Whole, because the buildings would exceed current zoning height limits of 115 feet and contain residential units, which are not allowed under existing zoning.

The buildings would be the highest in the city at about 180 feet tall and comprise approximately 170 hotel rooms and 280 residential units, according to city documents.

“This would really give us a downtown,” said Derek Speck, city economic development administrator, in a phone interview. “The Southcenter District would have residents and it would feel like a downtown and a neighborhood.”

Speck said the development would help existing businesses.

“Hotel guests and residents would be doing more shopping,” Speck said.

Developers Omar and Christine Lee, managing members of South Center WA LLC, purchased the property in 2010. They have conducted a preliminary feasibility analysis to redevelop the site but want approval of residential use and additional height before spending money on further analysis.

City staff supports the proposal for the high-rise buildings, just east of Westfield Southcenter Mall. Speck said the Doubletree Suites south of the mall reaches about 90 feet, so the proposed new hotel would be twice as high.

“It’d be visible to Interstate 405 and improve the region’s perception of Tukwila,” Speck said. “The high-quality residential units and hotel would help us show this is a market for higher-end development.”

Staff will recommend that the Committee of the Whole set a public hearing date of March 11 about the proposal and then vote on the issue at the March 18 council meeting.

The council could go with a development agreement to approve the residential units and 180-foot height, instead of a complete zone change, Speck said.

Developer Omar Lee has other projects in the area, including the Great Wall Shopping Mall on the East Valley Highway in Kent.

“We transformed what used to be an abandoned hardware store into a thriving Asian shopping mall that provides hundreds of jobs and is now used as a central location for food, entertainment and shopping,” Lee said in a Jan. 17 letter to Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton.

Lee expects the project to be a boom for Tukwila.

“This project will create many jobs and attract more customers to local businesses,” Lee said. “Furthermore, it will improve Tukwila’s image by demonstrating its status as a desirable location for large development projects and pro-growth attitude.”

The development agreement could include a clause that the developers must submit a building permit application to the city before the end of 2015 or the rights to build expire.

Public meeting

A public meeting and open house about the proposal for the 17-story buildings is set for 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, in the meeting room at  Albert Lee Appliance, 404 Strander Blvd.

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