City could wrap lease negotiations for one-stop shop by year’s end

The city of Auburn announced months ago its hope for housing a consolidated resource center at the site of the long-closed Sports Page Tavern on Auburn Way North.

Yet, negotiations over a long-term lease between the owners of the site at 2802-2826 Auburn Way North and the city of Auburn have been a bit more tangled than city officials had expected.

But this week, the City Council undid a crucial knot by giving Mayor Nancy Backus the go-ahead to enter into a lease agreement with property owners Benson and Kaye Lui, an agreement that as of Monday night contains a first-right-of-offer clause rather than a first-right-of-refusal clause.

Backus said the new verbiage was important to Mr. and Mrs. Lui.

“Now I think it could even be done by the end of the year,” a relieved Backus said of the negotiations.

Technically, here’s what this is all about.

A right of first offer is usually written into a contract such as a lease agreement or business partnership and triggered when the owner wants to sell. Under the terms of the contract, the Luis would be obliged to give the holder of the right of first offer — here, the city — the first chance to buy the property. The city would have a a specific amount of time in which to make an offer before it expires, and the owners would be free to accept or reject the offer.

The desired effect is both to protect the City’s interest and position should the Luis want to sell the property, and to fulfil the Luis desire to have a formal lease agreement.

Crucially, having the right-of-first-offer language in the contract speeds up the process.

City officials note the building’s proximity to DSHS, WorkSource, Sound Mental Health, We Care Day Clinic, and Valley Cities.

There’s a Metro bus stop at the site.

Likewise, the potential is also there to physically expand the center into a number of the empty, adjacent empty storefronts at the site.

Auburn’s vision for its one-stop shop embraces the following:

• Relocating the day center on I Street Northeast

• Providing a space for King County to fulfill its goal of establishing a once-a-week Community Court in Auburn;

• Providing space for 20 or more service providers to be present and available when court is in session – that is, addiction resources, housing placement, mental health providers, employment services and more.

And when court is not in session, the facility would provide classroom, educational and meeting spaces and room for service providers to have temporary space on a regularly recurring schedule;

• Providing a space for emergency food services and to enhance opportunities to make healthier food options more available; and

• Providing ongoing space to a handful of community, social and-or human service providers that advances the mission of the hub and the individuals and families that rely upon those services.

The city is modeling its project after another “well-oiled machine” in Redmond called the Together Center.

Backus said Auburn is at a pivotal moment and eager to shift to the next phase of immediate needs.

That is, the city eager to find funding partners and search for potential tenants that can help offset rental costs, and:

• Laying out building and site plans; and

• Proceeding with construction buildout.

Likewise, the city needs to draw up a business model, which would be influenced by the tenant mix of service providers, and to develop and flesh out an ongoing service model.

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