Kirkland Parkplace project moves forward as final building approved
By KEVIN OPSAHL
Kirkland Reporter Contributor
September 8, 2010 · Updated 2:43 PM
The new Kirkland Parkplace project is closer to becoming a reality.
The final building in the proposed Kirkland Parkplace redesign was given provisional approval by the Design Review Board (DRB) at their Aug. 30 meeting. Building F, which has approximately 20,000 square feet of retail and is most visible from Peter Kirk Park, will feature a rooftop garden.
The Design Review Board (DRB) will make the final decision on Parkplace, according to Senior Planner Angela Ruggeri. But the Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board could have the opportunity to appeal the decision. Once the DRB process is complete, City of Kirkland staff will review building permits to ensure compliance with the DRB decision and other zoning regulations.
“With Design Review we’ve reviewed the specifics of each building’s design, so now we know what all of the buildings are going to look like,” said A-P Hurd, vice president of Touchstone Corp.
The new Parkplace, developed by the Seattle-based Touchstone Corp., would include technology-office space; 300,000 square feet of retail space; a full-service hotel; 3,500 underground parking spaces; and about 160,000 square feet of public space, according to Touchstone’s Web site.
Margaret Bull, of Kirkland, who has been vocal at many DRB meetings, said the DRB has “made a big effort to make (Parkplace) as aesthetically pleasing as they can.”
Now, the Kirkland City Council will consider readopting the ordinances that would allow Touchstone to build the 1.2 million-square-foot complex their way. A study session to discuss the readoption will be held Sept. 1. Eric Shields, director of Planning and Community Development, said an additional study session is scheduled for Sept. 21 if needed.
He expects the council to take action by Oct. 5 to meet the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board's deadline.
Some residents were in favor of an eight-story complex as opposed to a five-story because they said they were "promised" several amenities if an eight-story complex were approved, including an 8-12 screen theater.
A-P Hurd said it is unlikely there will be a multiplex theater. Once construction begins on the project, the Kirkland Parkplace Cinema will close.
The developers are, however, looking at options for integrating visual and performing arts into the mixed-use project.
A new QFC will also open as part of the project. According to Hurd, it’s an old building that will be upgraded to 50,000 square feet. The current store will remain open until the new QFC is opened at the corner of Sixth and Central Way.
“We are actually working to bring back as many of the tenants that are there right now,” Hurd said. “We have a full-time property manager that works with all the tenants around the plan to either stay or relocate somewhere else or relocate to (another) part of the project ... and then come back.”
Hurd doesn’t know how many tenants have agreed to stay.
One of the few Kirkland residents who has attended most of the DRB meetings, Bull is concerned that many of the stores will go out of business. She also believes that most tenants will not move back because the rent will likely increase at the new Parkplace.
But she encourages the public to comment on what kind of stores they would like to see. Bull says neighborhood shopping should be a priority and she hopes to see a Bartell’s, a Barnes and Noble bookstore and a Michael’s craft store.
“Many of us don’t shop in downtown Kirkland now because it is filled with little stores selling things that most of us don’t need,” she added. “The question regarding the retail in the new Park Place is whether or not it will be filled with shops that sell things I don’t need and shops with things that I need but are way out of my price range. Will it be a downtown for the rich?”
Other residents are concerned about the project being out-of-scale with downtown Kirkland.
Ken Davidson, a Kirkland attorney, said he is very concerned about the project turning into a “piece of Bellevue right in the middle of Kirkland.” At the Aug. 26 Planning Commission meeting, he urged the commission to recommend that the council go back and rewrite the zoning ordinance to reduce the bulk and scale of buildings allowed under the regulations.
“It is likely to be the largest project for the next 100 years in Kirkland,” said Davidson, a member of Kirkland Citizens for Responsible Development. “Nothing coming before this commission during your tenure will have a greater impact on the City of Kirkland. It is important to get it right.”
Zoning setbacks and moving forward
Since the Planning Commission’s other meeting on June 24, staff has worked to comply with an order issued by the Central Puget Sound Growth Manage Hearings Board last year. The board ruled in favor of the city and Touchstone on nearly all of the questions that were brought fourth in the appeal by the petitioners. The board said the city should consider additional alternatives to see if they would have less impact on the environment. They also said the 2008 ordinances Touchstone was working under were still valid.
The petitioners originally asked to revoke those ordinances.
After the city and Touchstone came up with additional zoning alternatives to review, the city released a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Aug. 20. It concluded that putting the new Parkplace in place of the current site is a reasonable alternative.
“We feel good about the fact that we’ve gone down that path under the current zoning,” said Hurd.
Touchstone is now working on a development agreement with the city to work out a number of details about the project, including processing of building permits, coordination and financing of utility and street improvements.