Aurora Square Redevelopment Plans Move Forward

Council unanimously approves establishment of Aurora Square Community Renewal Area

In an effort to spark economic renewal of the 70-plus acre Aurora Square commercial area, on Tuesday, Sept. 4,  Shoreline’s City Council adopted Resolution 333 by a 6-0 vote creating the Aurora Square Community Renewal Area (CRA).

With the CRA, the City is freed to work in cooperation with the Aurora Square property owners and developers to draft an economic renewal plan for the area.

"I do support this measure," Councilmember Chris Eggen said. "(Economic developement director) Dan (Eernissee) gave each Councilmember a chance to talk to him privately and in a group. It was not a heavy handed effort that forced people to do things they didn't want to do. It is intended to be cooperative and improve the economic condition of Aurora Square."

What exactly this redevelopment turns out to be remains to be seen—the vote Tuesday was a step forward toward development of a plan that aims to involve more stakeholders as it moves forward.

Washington law (RCW 35.81) allows cities to establish a community renewal area along with a community renewal plan to help areas that need renewal. In the case of Aurora Square, the Council and many community members believe economic renewal is needed. Once a CRA is established, the City gains a toolkit designed to help it facilitate renewal. For example, while Washington law typically limits cities from working with private enterprise, cities are encouraged to partner with private enterprise to rejuvenate a CRA, a tool than can be particularly effective at helping Aurora Square reach its potential.

Among the criteria, to be considered for a CRA, Aurora Square is considered to be blighted, not in the health hazard sense, but because it is economically blighted.

Eernissee said Aurora Square economically underperforms, generating about $6,000 in sales tax per acre compared to Aurora Village, which generates $39,000 in sales tax per acre, with anchor tenants Costco and Home Depot.  

The Aurora Square commercial area is comprised of 10 separate pieces of oddly shaped property creating disconnected islands of buildings that are difficult to navigate. What’s more, current building and stormwater laws add more challenges for individual property owners in the area who wish to redevelop their site. Together, these challenges have stymied redevelopment, limited reinvestment and produced poor sales, values and rents.

Rick Stephens, of the Shoreline Merchants Association and owner of the Highland Ice Arena, critiqued the plan saying that the city should do more to support and help grow existing businesses.

"It makes your business community nervous," he said. "Right now they're ready to turn corner you don’t want them to leave."

Some have had concerns about property rights and the possibly of the city declaring eminent domain, but Eernissee said there's no plan to pursue that option. Language was added to the resolution at the request of Councilmember Chris Eggen to emphasize that property rights would be respected.

Councilman Jesse Salomon proposed motions to exclude the Northwest School of the Hearing Impaired and the state Department of Transportation from the process, but the motion involving the Northwest School failed 4-2, with Councilmember Chris Eggen joining Salomon to exclude the school. Salomon's motion to exclude WSDOT failed to get a second. Both the Northwest School for the Hearing Impaired and WSDOT have buildings south and west, respectively of Aurora Square.

"Choosing to be left out is a choice, but it may have unintended consequences," said Mayor Keith McGlashan.

The representatives of Northwest School were undecided on if they wanted to be involved with the project, but the school's top administrator was clear that the school wanted to be impacted as little as possible to continue with its mission.

The City regularly surveys its citizens about ways to improve Shoreline, and better shopping, entertainment, and destination restaurants are constantly mentioned, according to a city press release. Aurora Square has the potential of accomplishing all of these opportunities. By creating a CRA, the City will be able to work directly with property owners to plan improvements that benefit all property owners. Aurora Square can become a model of “lifestyle Shoreline,” with smart-built infrastructure, residences, offices and generous open spaces tied to transit, neighborhoods, and the Interurban Trail.


Les Nelson September 07, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Interesting that this area can be considered for "Renewal" when it is one of the better combination of businesses in the City. Central Market is more like a community center and meeting place (Friday night concerts, pumpkin carving....)than anything in the "Towne Center area or elsewhere. Maybe the calculation of revenue per acre is swayed by including WSDOT and the hearing school to intentionally make this area look as an underperformer. Sounds like dan is trying to sway the facts to allow some Big Developers to get their hooks into this property. Also interesting that the City established this area as part of a future subarea plan to be known as "South of Bridge" but now seem to be ignoring the proposed planning and coordination that Joe Tovar intended when the Council previously established several future subarea planned portions of the City. The objective of a subarea plan was to provide area specific planning. Now it appears we are no longer doing planning at Shoreline, but reacting to developers drooling over large parcels of property that they do not own. "Renewal area"? I doubt this really meets the intent of the RCW.
Les Nelson September 07, 2012 at 05:56 AM
I always like to deal in reality....following is the wording from RCW 35.81....does this fit Sears, Central market, big lots, Bank of America, Marshalls, WSDOT etc? Read on.... RCW 35.81.005 Declaration of purpose and necessity. It is hereby found and declared that blighted areas which constitute a serious and growing menace, injurious to the public health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the state exist in municipalities of the state; that the existence of such areas contributes substantially and increasingly to the spread of disease and crime and depreciation of property values, constitutes an economic and social liability,...... hinders job creation and economic growth, aggravates traffic problems and substantially impairs or arrests the elimination of traffic hazards and the improvement of traffic facilities; and that the prevention and elimination of such areas is a matter of state policy and state concern in order that the state and its municipalities shall not continue to be endangered by areas which are focal centers of disease, promote juvenile delinquency, are conducive to fires, are difficult to police and to provide police protection for, and, while contributing little to the tax income of the state and its municipalities, consume an excessive proportion of its revenues because of the extra services required for police, fire, accident, hospitalization and other forms of public protection, ....
Shoreline Resident September 07, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Yes, this does fit the RCW. Remove the offensive word "blight" & reread. Many criteria are met. It's not the individual businesses that are the problem. The area as a whole doesn't work & has could better serve Shoreline through services & job creation. It's a drag on property values & is an economic & social liability. It feels empty & unwelcoming, is not creating jobs/economic growth, businesses are failing, traffic is dangerous. Pedestrians & cyclists can't get from the interurban trail at 155th into Central Mkt parking lot w/o entering traffic or going onto dirt. The huge pkg lot is empty. Sears has large unused sections. So why are current property owners so threatened by the CRA? Wouldn't they welcome more visitors? Are they perhaps worried that their businesses are not what people want these days? I'm weary of needing to drive to N'gate/Edmonds/Lynnwood for a bookstore, decent non-chain/non-junk food restaurant, or non-chain clothing. I love Sears, but I can't shop there for my professional wardrobe. I welcome redevelopment. Because this area is one of the better combos of businesses in the city doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered for renewal. Comparing this area with the rest of Shoreline is setting a low bar. There are many types of businesses that we need that aren't here. I wonder why we don't have them and would prefer to spend my $ in Shoreline. The personal interests of a few business owners should not override the interests of the community in general.
Les Nelson September 07, 2012 at 10:27 PM
As far as employment goes have you seen another location in Shoreline that employs as many as WSDOT? I would like to see other businesses in Shoreline as well, and the corridor along Aurora would be great, but see comments from John Behrens and you will realize that the expensive zoning that Shoreline created to get more money backfired and is the reason we don't see a businesses moving here. There are more words than blight...look at fire danger, drug dealing, personal safety etc. The access for pedestrians from the Interurban is something I asked the City to deal with when they designed the Interurban trail and bridges, and what they did was to move the guardrail so pedestrians could walk on the traffic side with increased space to access the crosswalk on 155th/westminster. The original bridge design had the steps heading West until they "discovered" the wetland. Not a lot of optimism on my part for City of Shoreline "planning".
Tracy Tallman September 08, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I think there are more blighted areas in Shoreline such as the shopping center where JoAnn Fabrics sits - or the area of Aurora just south of Costco and west of Echo Lake. It will be hard to compete with Costco and Home Depot for tax dollars - especially since there are some big chains with stores already in the Aurora Square area. Apparently those stores aren't being patronized steadily. Certainly the "Aurora Square" area could use a better system connecting the upper parking to the lower parking. The worst section of what is town termed "Aurora Square" is the area closest to the Denny's where the Dairy Queen was shuttered. I'm also unclear on why we always need to add more "residences" to these projects. I'd rather see fewer people in Shoreline. Why can't the Seattleites come here to shop and not live here? And if the redevelopment is planned to look anything like Echo Lake or that monstrous development at Bitter Lake I vote no. Such development just destroys the neighboring communities. I'll bet the people who live near Echo Lake would rather have the trailer park back instead of having their neighborhood overshadowed and overrun with traffic. One thing the critics are overlooking when saying that the upzoning is causing the lack of development is that if your property is upzoned you instantly gain property value - it is like a gift from the city. My guess is that the economy has hampered development in these upzoned areas, not the upzoning itself.


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