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Kirkland Parkplace project suit settled; building permit next?

A lawsuit that was among the things stalling what's probably Kirkland's most significant proposed development has been settled, but what's to follow remains unknown.

The project is Parkplace.

It's the biggest thing in downtown Kirkland, arguably dominating the city's core, maybe even eclipsing the waterfront, which while forming a major city attraction, also is largely hidden behind downtown buildings.

Parkplace, at the intersection of Sixth Street and Central Way, is nearly the first thing people see as they take the main exit to Kirkland at Northeast 85th Street.

It's also generally regarded as being outmoded, dating to 1982, trailing such competitors as Redmond's Town Center, and once housing a long-gone Frederick & Nelson discount outlet as among its main tenants; F&N went out of business in 1992.

There have been plenty of ideas for how to update the center. In 2000, a former owner, Michael Shulman, was proposing spending as much as $50 million for things like an underground parking garage and a national anchoring tenant.

But those plans never materialized, the center was sold, and in 2007, the new owners, Seattle's Touchstone Corp., brought out their own ideas.

The Touchstone plans called for 1.65 million square feet of space, total demolition of existing buildings, two hotels and 3,349 parking spaces.

Such proposals didn't please some people, while others cheered. At a 2008 hearing, for example, more than 60 people spoke, with opponents questioning such elements as heights and setbacks and supporters lauding features like an expanded tax base and more shopping destinations.

There were ongoing reviews and appeals to such bodies as a city Design Review Board, hearing examiner and the City Council.

There also was a lawsuit, filed in October 2010, brought by Davidson Serles & Associates and TR Continental Plaza Corp., representing commercial property owners near the proposed project.

Named as defendants were the City of Kirkland and Touchstone.

Nearly a year of legal maneuvering followed, generating lots of paper; by August of this year, one Touchstone filing included a 194-page declaration, while the city earlier had come up with 155 pages of its own arguments.

But in the end, no one apparently really wanted to go before a jury.

On Sept. 27, a stipulation and order of dismissal was filed in King County Superior Court, settling the lawsuit and avoiding trial.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The plaintiffs didn't respond to questions about whether they had anything to add.

Touchstone issued only a brief statement:"All appeals on the merits have been adjudicated in favor of Touchstone," the company said. "Touchstone has settled the outstanding lawsuits and appeals with Davidson Serles and Continental Plaza. This eliminates all remaining legal hurdles for the Parkplace project and it can now proceed with permitting."

Touchstone also added that the city "participated in settlement discussions but made no financial contribution."

As for where that leaves Parkplace, considering Touchstone's indication it can move to permitting, city records contain a brief notation, suggesting what comes next:

"1,200,000 square feet office

"Commercial square feet — 300,000

"325 hotel rooms

"Zoning permit approved — no building-permit application."

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