The City of Lake Forest Park approved Resolution 1746 on October 10, adopting the Town Center Vision Statement. The City published the amended Vision statement online here.
Merlone Geier Partners supports the idea of having a Vision to guide the future of the Town Center. As owners of the property, we’ve remained engaged in the City’s process over the past 24 months – commenting on the many documents produced by the City and its consultants. See a timeline of our engagement here. In that time, we have learned quite a bit about your unique community, and we find ourselves fortunate to own an asset at the heart of your City that plays such an important role in your lives.
We’ve also been actively engaged with Sound Transit and their plans to locate a parking garage at the Town Center. We’re asking many of the same questions as the community: where’s the exact location and what’s the design of the facility?
In July of this year, we held a town hall meeting, which many of you attended. At that meeting, we shared preliminary and conceptual plans to demonstrate options of phased redevelopment. Our intent was to advance a meaningful dialogue with the community and the City Council. At no time have we made a formal submittal to the City with a plan for redevelopment. By combining the community’s passion and the City’s prior studies with our expertise on the ownership and development of retail and mixed-use properties – we can work together and find meaningful solutions to the challenges and changes that lie ahead.
After the open house, we asked for another meeting with City officials to find a way to better work together to address changes that they would like to see in the form of redevelopment and changes that will result from Sound Transit. Their response was not what we expected: a surprise moratorium on development at the Town Center. When asked how we should plan to participate in the upcoming process – which has yet to be articulated – the Council unenthusiastically suggested to simply communicate with the City through public comment, while the City Council and Planning Commission decide what they think is best for our property. We think this flies in the face of collaboration and partnership.
As owners of the Town Center, we are concerned that if competent land use planning and process are not demonstrated at the City Staff, Planning Commission and City Council level, their seemingly well-intentioned actions will do more to limit the ability to realize this Vision document rather than to encourage it.
That being said, we were encouraged by the Council’s discussion on October 10, where Councilmembers appeared to have acknowledged the need to communicate more closely with both us and the City Planning Commission. Time will tell if that happens and in what manner.
Hopefully, the Planning Commission, and ultimately the Council, will take our comments into account and begin working with us as a partner in crafting city code that does not tie our hands and result in unintended consequences. The City cannot simply dictate a list of demands on our property and expect us to fit a successful redevelopment project into an overly prescriptive box. There must be a balance between the realities we face as a property owner and the worthwhile concerns and objectives of the community. We are ready and willing to work through that process, but it cannot happen without meaningful dialogue.
Town Center can have a wonderful future, but Merlone Geier must have a seat at the table to advance any meaningful conversation about how we can get there.