Sammamish begins study for new economic development plan
March 20, 2013
By Ari Cetron
New: March 20, 1:41 p.m.
By the end of the year, Sammamish could have a new plan for economic development in general and town center in particular. Some citizens, however, question if the city will actually put the plan into use.
Members of the City Council and senior staff met with Chris Mofford, president of Community Attributes, March 12 at a meeting of the Community and Economic Development Committee. The Seattle-based consultant will be assisting the city in developing the plan. The council has budgeted $65,000 to complete it.
Citizens John Galvin and Michael Rutt, both of whom own property in the Town Center area, questioned the value of the upcoming plan. Rutt, in particular, was concerned that he would spend his time assisting in the process, but not see any results from it. He pointed to a previous study from about 10 years ago, which he said has not been implemented.
“Is the city going to be sincere and serious this time?” he said.
Councilman Tom Vance, chairman of the committee, noted there had been a giant recession, which curtailed development across the country and changed the economic landscape.
Rutt countered that the first plan was flawed, the economy notwithstanding.
Before those comments came, Mofford laid out a timeline for how and when his company will gather data for the report and present that back to the city.
He said in the initial steps, he’d like to hear from councilmembers, staff, the business community and others about what they hope to get out of the plan. Those first ideas should be brought in without regard for cost, Mofford said.
“At this stage, we want to hear, unfettered, what you want,” he said.
Then his team will bring back options for how, and if, the city can do it. They will return with data and analysis to assist the council in making choices about how to proceed.
“We want this to be an action plan that is clear. A road map,” Mofford said.
Kamuron Gurol, community development director for the city, said he hopes to have some early recommendations the city might be able to begin working on earlier in the process. He also noted that changes in state law may allow the city to make use of a new financing tool, and Mofford’s firm will analyze if it would be feasible for the city to do so.
Mofford said the study would include an analysis of the city’s retail market. They will try to discover who is and is not shopping in Sammamish and why. They can then look at how much commercial activity the city has, how much it wants, and if it is possible to close the gap between the two.
While the city did a similar study about 10 years ago, the economic landscape has shifted dramatically since then, Mofford said.
“Those data have a certain shelf life, and it doesn’t cost much to refresh them,” he said.
Councilman John James started throwing out ideas for projects he’d like to see Sammamish attract. He noted developers in other areas are putting up mixed-use buildings like five stories of housing over ground floor retail, and he would like to see those in Sammamish.
The study, Mofford explained, will show how feasible that sort of project would be in Sammamish.
He said they planned to talk with a few developers who might have the capability to build a large project like a chunk of Town Center and ask them for ideas about what it would take for them to build it.
James noted they shouldn’t ask developers who are currently working on projects in other cities, since they might be considered competitors.
The committee is scheduled to meet with Mofford again April 9 when he should have some data to share.
Reach Editor Ari Cetron at email@example.com, or 392-5434, ext. 233.