Jason Fiorito predicts his Pacific Innovation Center will become a hub for industry research into alternative fuels, autonomous vehicles and future automotive technologies, a home for innovative automotive companies and ambitious industry startups.
Another magnet, Fiorito said, president of Pacific Raceways – the popular, multi-use motorsports facility east of Green River College and across Highway 18 – to draw big-idea people to the Puget Sound region to speed up the development of breakthrough automotive technology.
Indeed, research facilities and skilled labor have already expressed interest in partnering with innovation tenants, Fiorito said.
Last week, Fiorito announced the pending launch of the nearly 20-years-in-waiting, multi-phased construction of the Pacific Motorsports Park and Pacific Innovation Center at the Kent raceway site.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be in a position in 2019 to be able to break ground on what will be the economic engine that supports the pretty aggressive upgrades of the facility.” Fiorito said,
Plans show that work on the first phase, which calls for 200,000 square feet of garage and mixed-use construction, will start later this year and create buildings that range from 1,000 to 40,000 square feet. The buildings will be a available for lease through CBRE Seattle.
In three years, Fiorito said, the project will realize a $25 million build-out of prototype manufacturing and garage space alongside $2 million of substantial improvements to the track and grounds.
Future development phases in the master plan call for 1.2 million square feet of commercial, lab, garage and prototype space, which could cost upward of $200 million, Fiorito said, but all of it will be privately funded.
Miles Resources of Puyallup got things moving this spring by repaving selected portions of the historic racecourse.
The second phase will end in the completion of the Innovation Center addition, the motorsports club and the racing school.
Phase Three calls for a new club drag strip, a motorsports club addition and a retail center.
Fiorito said he and his team have recruited top industry architects, engineers and consultants to bring the planning and execution of PMP/PIC to life. Indeed, his team recently appointed Anderson LLC, a highly-respected, Tucson, Ariz.,-based track designer, to direct the architecture and master planning phases for the build-out.
ESM Consulting Engineers LLC in Federal Way will head up civil engineering, while Motorsport Consulting Services of Tucson leads the course planning and safety.
Fiorito recalled how things got to this point.
“It became abundantly clear after the first couple years of operating this place that sustainable models nationally that involve tracks of this size were either a NASCAR-type event, which admittedly, is very unlikely to occur in our region, or a commercial development that provides space to track people,” Fiorito said.
“The light at the end of the tunnel has always been the commercial development. So, more than 15 years ago, we approached King County with the idea of developing the property commercially – and ran into what seemed like an insurmountable set of hurdles over the last decade and a half,” Fiorito said.
A bumpy road beset planning and development delays, steep property tax increases, sky high insurance and financial hardships.
“Buildings at tracks make money, tracks don’t make money,” Fiorito said. “We’ve dumped a lot of the family resources into this place over the last 20 years to keep it going while we fought this battle, knowing that if we ever won, it would become profitable.”
There’s also the flinty fact that in such a cost-heavy, competitive business, Fiorito said, tracks like Pacific Raceways struggle to make a go of it in the damp climate of the Pacific Northwest, where, it seems, every time he schedules a drag race, it rains.
“So, yes, we’re absolutely thrilled to be where we are at, and we want to thank all who have been involved and our loyal Pacific Raceway attendees for their years of unwavering support,” Fiorito said.
Don Kitch Jr., owner for 32 years of the ProFormance Racing School, one of Pacific Raceways’ major tenants, is sporting a big grin these days.
“I’ve been here 32 years, and there have been challenges, to put it mildly,” he said. “But I think we’re pointed in the right direction now, and I am excited about what it’s going to do for the community.”