by Jack Mayne
The Des Moines financial malaise appears to be nearing an end with approval of the first phase of the city’s business park master plan and developers nearing actual construction of upwards of nearly 160 housing units.
City Manager Tony Piasecki says “some real interesting things are going on” on older potential developments that have been on hold during the financial crisis but now are coming back to life.
“The … big and exciting” development is at the Des Moines Business Park by Panattoni, a California based private real estate company that will develop the 87-acre Des Moines Creek Business Park.
Three housing subdivision plans, sidetracked by the financial crash of 2008, have been brought back to life by developers, yielded the real chance that housing units could be built by summer of 2015.
Piasecki says about adding up those projects means “next summer there (could be) 160 building lots that are eligible to have homes built on them as fast as the developers want to build them.”
“That is a huge deal for the City of Des Moines. We haven’t had that amount of single-family homes building activity in any single year that I can remember. It brings population, it brings customers for our businesses in town ”
Business Park development
The $125 million project could create 1,000 jobs, which Des Moines Mayor Dave Kaplan told the Puget Sound Business Journal could be “the most important single economic development project in the city’s 55-year history.”
Piasecki said the City Council two weeks ago approved Panattoni’s master plan for the first two phases of the business park, which is the northern 75 percent of the 89-acre site across the street from the city post office.
The first phases will include 1.2 million square feet in five buildings to include light manufacturing, office, research and development spaces.
The southern one-third of the property has not been master planned yet, he says.
“What we are hoping to see in there is higher intensity, higher value-added retail type shops – big box stores like Target, Costco, even Wal-Mart – those type of businesses that do $30 million worth of sales every year.”
A project downtown, by JC Marble, at 25447 Pacific Highway, will see construction of a 9,940 square foot warehouse building addition to an existing retail space.
Another downtown project is the Kato-Ochi, a mixed-use development at 22222 Seventh Avenue South, which will consist of a living unit and a shop to build and repair ukuleles, he says.
Plans for housing developments, lefts hanging for over six years are springing back to life. Piasecki said developments that were approved by Des Moines several years ago and “that basically died on the vine when the economy went sour in 2008.”
Many projects proposed in that time period went into bankruptcy or into bank receivership. Now there are developers willing to take up the projects “and do those subdivisions,”
Piasecki says there are signs the building industry is coming back to life in Des Moines. Homes being built at a nice, steady clip is “very indicative of the housing industry growth in the Puget Sound region.”
One project plan dates from April of 2006 and is known as Landmarque. It is a 67-lot plat at 262nd and Pacific Highway South. Now plat improvements are complete and the city has approved permits for 36 homes.
Until the Washington Legislature changed the law, Piasecki says a developer had “five or six years” to do preliminary work then actually do construction. Beyond that time, if nothing were done, the property would revert back to pre-permit status and would have to be reapproved by the city for any development. The Legislature extended the development time so he Des Moines projects retained their original city approvals, he says.
Another of those stalled projects is a 67-home development called Blueberry Lane, at 19659 Des Moines Memorial Drive.
Still another is Highline View Estates, a 21-lot development at South 240th Street originally begun in 2006 and the applicant is “looking to reactivate the project” which received preliminary plat approval back in July 2008. Preparations on this project is likely for this summer, the city manager says, with actual construction of homes possible in 2015.
Pacific Heights, at 1500 South 279th Place, dates from June 2011. The city has conditionally approved the project pending a right of way permit from the Army Corps of Engineer to fill certain wetland areas and Piasecki says the project applicant contacted the city in December to discuss the restarting the project. It was approved as a “planned unit development” which allows the developer to deviate from the approved subdivision requirements “as long as the city council judges those deviations will result in a better project.”
The developer is looking at a 77-lot subdivision with some slightly smaller lots around the wetland on the property and work is expected this spring or summer, he says.
‘Eyes perk up’
When Piasecki looks at the numbers for building permits, he also refers to the previous year and says 2013 shows a similar seasonal variance with lower numbers in the winter months and higher numbers in the summer.
“But the 101 for January this year makes me perk my eyes up a little bit (because) that is indicative of a trend we are seeing of more building coming on line – more people wanting to do things in the community.”
He points to 101 mechanical, electrical and plumbing permits were issued this January but building permits issues were down a bit from the previous year (17 in 2014 vs. 28 in 2013), but building permits were way up during last summer over 2012.
The way the progression works is that first the building permits are obtained, then a developer or homebuilder goes after the mechanical, electrical and plumbing permits.
“I am not surprised that with building permits up last year that mechanical, plumbing and electrical permits are starting to go up in 2014.
Piasecki says the economy of the city is “very definitely” improving.
A further indicator was that building inspections during January were way up over the previous year (398 in 2014 vs. 89 the previous year).
“That means people are doing their thing and we are going out there to make sure they are doing it right. I am very encouraged by those numbers.”
Another indicator of the fact that construction is resuming in the city is the increased use of a private company the city uses when it cannot do all of the building inspections in a reasonable time.
“We have been making more and more use of them over the last few months,” he says.
Some larger projects are underway, including the Artemis Hotel on Pacific Highway, which is now about one-quarter completed. The contractor is pouring the footings for the first two floors, which will be cement construction and the higher floors wood framed, which has not yet been permitted by the city.
SeaMar Medical Office Building and Family Housing Project, 24215 Pacific Highway, is a large-scale multi-building project was submitted for plan review in January 2013. The medical office building will be a 16,340 square foot steel and concrete building. The family housing building will be a 43,064 square foot wood framed structure. Construction on the site and utility work for this project began in September and, weather permitting, “construction should go pretty quick,” Piasecki says.
SeaMac Expansion Project, 25619 Pacific Highway S: The Mack Truck Service Center is under a new ownership and is expanding, plus adding some auto dealerships. A permit to expand the building by 9,700 square feet was issued last July. The site and groundwork for the project is well underway, with the structural steel frame of the building now almost complete. The business, he says, is “doing very well.”