City of Kent Tees Off Again to Sell Riverbend Par 3 Golf Course Property

Friday, May 15th 2015

Now that the new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offices won’t be coming to Kent, city officials are back to the first hole to market the Riverbend Golf Complex’s par 3 property.

But shortly after news broke last month that the FAA offices would be built in Des Moines rather than Kent, developers started to contact Kent about the city-owned property. City officials are seeking a developer to put up a mixed-use project of housing, offices and retail.

“Within hours after the news came out our office started getting calls about other development interest in the property and asking us what are we going to do and voicing their interest in the property,” said Ben Wolters, city economic and community development director, during an interview. “I think one of the indirect benefits of us having pursued the FAA opportunity at the par 3 site is it really pre-marketed the property and got the marketplace to see the property differently as a high quality opportunity that the City Council and the mayor expected.”

The city wants to sell the property to eliminate debt at the golf complex and to fund capital improvements at the 18-hole course. Riverbend faces a $2.6 million debt, capital investments of at least $6 million and operating deficits of about $300,000 per year.

The council in January had approved a conditional sale of the 18.5-acre site for the FAA offices for $10 million to a partnership led by the Texas-based Trammell Crow Company, one of the nation’s leading commercial real estate developers and investors.

“A lot of people in the community worked really hard with Trammell Crow on positioning what was I think a really competitive project,” Wolters said about the FAA proposal. “But hats off to the city of Des Moines. Now, we just move forward with moving the par 3 property into the marketplace to attract a high quality developer.”

City staff met last week with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a commercial real estate services firm hired by the city last year to study the marketability of the property after the council asked staff to explore a possible sale.

“The zoning allows a variety of uses and the vision is mixed use with housing, office and retail and whatever mix the market will bear and do it in a high quality marquee presence that fits that very prominent, very attractive site,” Wolters said.

The city will seek requests for qualifications from developers and then pick a couple of the best applicants to submit a request for a proposal.

“We will meet with commercial brokers hired by the city to strategize and develop a roadmap about how to proceed and report back to you,” Wolters told the council on May 5.

“We are still in a solid market opportunity and will be for a while,” he said. “We didn’t miss any opportunities. The roadmap is to create a competitive process to allow the council, mayor and staff to evaluate a competitive proposal and limit it to a couple of competitors. Call it the semifinals and finals.”

As far as missing out on the FAA offices, Wolters said several things might have favored the Des Moines site at South 216th Street and 24th Avenue South.

“What GSA (U.S. Generals Services Administration) always made clear was that price was a very important factor there,” Wolters said.

Panattoni Development Co., Inc., also had worked hard to market the property just south of Sea-Tac Airport.

“Panattoni has been out in the marketplace for that area in general,” he said. “If you drive up there you can see all of the work being done to put in an attractive streetscape, so all of those factors played into it.”

The city of Des Moines has added lanes to the streets around the site to improve access.