It has been four years since the Valley 6 Drive-In theaters came down, a harbinger, it was said at the time, of a large-scale commercial and residential development by then already 11 years in the planning stages.
But after all that time, the Robertson Property Group (RPG), having determined that the Auburn market is ready to absorb a full-scale commercial and residential development, last week announced pre-leasing opportunities on its 70-acre site on the city’s north edge, which it has renamed Auburn Gateway.
“It’s been a long pull with them,” said Auburn’s Economic Development Manager Doug Lein. “I know the mayor and myself have continually stressed with them that this is a prime piece of property on the north end of our city, and it’s one of those pieces that can be a solid game changer for us as far as that kind of new development.”
RPG has contracted with First Western Properties as its leasing agent for retail space. The proposed site plan calls for box retail, junior anchor retail, restaurants, office space and residential development.
In February, Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus and Lein flew to California to meet with the top brass of RPG and presented them with a due-diligence package on their property. A month ago RPG sent a team of corporate officials to Auburn met with brokers, builders, contractors and others.
“Last week they came back to us and told us they’d picked a brokerage they wanted to work with that understood the South Sound and regional market and that they were convinced that it was time to pull their property to market,” Lein said.
In 2011, the Auburn City Council approved an ordinance and a development agreement between RPG and the City that allowed RPG to begin offering about 70 acres of property, including the Valley 6 and several adjacent properties at the city’s north end, for office, retail and residential development.
The Auburn Gateway Project site plan included in the development agreement shows a multi-phased development of 720,000 square feet of retail, 500 residential units and/or up to 1.6 million square feet of office space. It calls as well for an extension of I Street Northeast to South 277th.
For several years, the City had negotiated with RPG on future development of the acreage, touching on preparation of an environmental impact statement, changes to the comprehensive plan and zoning code to authorize a mixed-used commercial zone, and preparation of a draft development agreement and a draft planned action ordinance.
In the development agreement, which lays out development guidelines, the RPG agreed that the layout and uses of the Auburn Gateway Project would follow these strictures:
• Other than common areas, parking and access, no multiple family residential uses will be allowed on the ground floor of any building but only in upper stories of multi-story buildings.
• It shall contain more full-service, sit-down restaurants than fast food, including drive-thru restaurants
• Gas stations and car repair service and parts business will only be built as part of a larger retail operation.
Lein estimates the project will take 7-to-8 years to complete.