Mayor Pete Lewis had kept the smile in wait for three years, but he wore it Tuesday after Auburn Regional Medical Center informed him of its plans to start work on its parking garage north of City Hall this summer.
That is significant because as the garage rolls, so will roll several key downtown projects, most immediately the redevelopment of the tavern block into the Key Bank-City Hall Annex-Medical Office building. Developer Jeff Oliphant, owner of JLO Washington Enterprises, needs the parking the hospital garage will provide for his project, but he has been unable to start without assurance it will be there.
Lewis met Tuesday afternoon with Steve Patonai, chief executive officer of Auburn Regional Medical Center, and Ivan Hilton, senior vice president of Ensemble Real Estate Services, the hospital’s development group.
“They told me they have come up with a good developer, and they are moving forward right now with the parking garage and plan to have their architectural plan package in by July 1,” Lewis said. “What they told me is if they turn in permits on July 1, they hope to start construction the next day.”
Hospital Spokeswoman Pat Bailey cautioned that it may take slightly longer than July 1 for actual work to begin.
“It’s wonderful news,” Bailey said.
The hospital’s plans call for a 28,000-square-foot cancer center and medical office building with the attached parking garage. The complex, which will offer medical oncology, radiation oncology and a community outreach and educational component, will be affiliated with the Tacoma Radiation Oncology Center.
Auburn Regional Medical Center acquired the property, formerly the location of the Auburn Police Department, from the city for about half of its $1.2 million market value in July of 2005, in exchange for agreeing to build a parking garage the hospital and city would share.
Bailey said the 3-story garage will offer 292 spaces, 145 of them reserved for city use.
“Hopefully, we can do the medical office building and parking garage at the same time,” Bailey said. “We’ve got pricing to take care of. We are still working on the medical office building. Believe me, nobody wants to see this happen more than us.”
Not only would construction on the garage empower Oliphant to go forward with his block, Lewis said, it would also spur development planned for several blocks south of Main Street: the Marvel Grocery block, the Krites-Huff block and the city-owned Gambini block on South Division Street.
“This even includes our interest in the Cavanaugh block, now that it appears to be coming out of partnership,” Lewis said. “We’ve known that you always have to have a first project start in any downtown development that moves everybody else forward, and we knew that the hospital parking garage and facility was going to be our first project. That’s why we moved on the original sale to begin with. We were always planning on it being the hospital.”
The city is busy negotiating with Alpert International over Auburn Junction, a proposed 5.39-acre mixed-use, urban village that would be spread out over 27 parcels between the Sound Transit Station, City Hall and Safeway, featuring underground parking and walkways.
Calls to Oliphant and Pat Cavanaugh were not returned for this article.