City begins marina floor development plan


by Jack Mayne

The Des Moines City Council has taken the first tentative steps toward developing the city’s marina floor from a collection of older buildings, boat storage sheds and parking lots into a year-around destination event and small marketplace.

After a presentation by Good Fit Development and its partners, Councilmember Melissa Musser moved that the city staff begin negotiations to work out a development agreement and a ground-lease contract for the marina.

Musser said she had become involved with the development of a plan four and a half years ago when she was appointed to chair the Municipal Facilities Committee that began considering how the city should maximize the asset of the marina.

“Our marina is a very unique asset that no other cities have and yet it could be so much more,” Musser said.

Study started in 2012
The council heard about the preliminary research of a marina development plan at the Council session on March 27.

“Back in early 2012, this City Council began a public process to consider the feasibility of development at the Des Moines Marina,” said Marion Yoshino, the city’s economic development manager.

She said the Council formed a citizens advisory committee that included Council member and stakeholder representatives during which various options were considered. It included retail shops, restaurants, small hotels, office and even residential.DMMarinaOverview14

“The committee’s work resulted in a final recommendation that blended two proposed use configurations with restaurant, retail and possibly hotel development as preferred options.”

The city, she said, has the opportunity to recreate the marina as a destination “that attracts thousands of visitors.” She told the Council that a particular plus would be creation of an indoor venue that visitors could utilize year around.

The space for development on the marina floor is “extremely limited,” Yoshino said. “A carefully created development plan is needed.”

City Manager Tony Piasecki said the city’s administrators were seeking direction from the Council on the next steps in the program and wanted the legislators to direct the city staff to enter into “detailed negotiations” to come up with an agreement “for some sort of development on the marina floor” that could be brought back to the Council for final approval.

Musser’s motion to do just that was passed unanimously on Thursday (March 27).

The informal developer group that will negotiate a plan with the city include Steve Monkewicz of Good Fit Development; Ed Young, local representative of Westlead Capital of Taipei and Matt Wittman of Wittman Estes Architecture and Landscape, Seattle.

Monkewicz was the lead briefer to the Council Thursday evening.

He said he has spent a lot of time in the area, eating at Anthony’s Home Port and walking and running on the paths around the Marina area and said he has “long desired” a better use for the area.

“I fully appreciate the community recognizing that there is potential for more use for that site beyond the predominant current use of surface parking and boat storage. We feel our proposal has a strategy that creates added purpose for locals to engage with the marina in that stunning location as well as a destination for visitors from the region and beyond to visit the community.”


The initial ‘Master’ plan
This plan proposes redevelopment of three parcels totaling 3.06 acres on the marina floor.

“Phase One” would include a permanent culinary market located at the site of the current Harbor Master’s office and would mean the replacement of the surface parking area and a small grassy area.

“Phase Two,” would include the area currently serving as boat storage and parking.

A third facility would be located in back of the Harbor Master’s current office where surface boat storage currently exists. This building would be three levels and replace parking capacity that would be lost in Phases One and Two and provide additional parking overall along with ground floor office and retail space.

The developers say the “overall design embraces sustainability principles and promotes the greatest asset, which is the west-facing promenade directly on the Puget Sound overlooking the Olympic mountain range.”

They say “all development will orient itself to maximize the relationship between the building, people, views and exposure to the marina. The site layout will enhance the pedestrian flow along the waterfront walk way and create lines for a pathway on the south perimeter.”

The developer says that if the city selects this proposal, “further facility stacking and placement analysis will be completed to minimize disruption of Marina operations and maximize the natural beauty of the site, notably with the juxtaposition of the market and hotel facilities.”

They suggest “Marina functionality is a top priority. The Harbor Master’s office will be relocated to a new facility that includes additional parking space, a few feet away from its current location. Boat service and repair operations will remain on the marina floor. Boat storage facilities would be relocated to other locations within the marina floor or underutilized lots along the perimeter of the marina floor.

“Added public spaces and enhancing existing public access and enjoyment spaces” is also a priority.

“One area of public space to enhance is the Cliff View Municipal Park,” says the developer’s initial plan. “Adding a pedestrian elevator and stairwell with connectivity through the parking structure and providing thoughtful landscaping adjustments, will significantly enhance connectivity to the downtown area and visibility overall.”

All is now negotiable between the developer group and the city.

Some concerns expressed
Councilmember Musser said Good Fit was the company that talked with the Farmers Market vendors and customers, also people in the community about potential development.

“I’m really excited to see where this goes next,” she said.

Councilmember Jeanette Burrage said she was concerned about parking.

“We already have trouble in the summertime with parking so if we add a marketplace and we add a hotel, we are going to have even more trouble with parking spaces,” Burrage told the Council. “It seems to be that developers a lot of time reduce the amount of parking so they can build more things and that can come back and bite you. Keep that in mind as you make the further design.”

Mayor Dave Kaplan said it is hard for him to see how the proposal matches up with marina oriented businesses – “I guess I am going to want see not only the parts but the whole at some point in time to see how it all fits together.” He added that parking is a critical concern.

Monkewicz said a parking garage planned for the site would “increase parking substantially,’ and its construction would be moved forward in the construction phase to alleviate concerns. He added that the functionality of the marina is going to be major consideration in their plan.


5 Responses to “City begins marina floor development plan”
  1. Susan White says:

    I think any proposals for downtown are good ones considering what it is now. I think the city has overlooked many opportunities unfortunately to invest in itself and preserving some of the history which is gone. The little theatre is a keen example of something that we could have bought as other cities have and turned into a nice little anchor for downtown. Now it looks like it’s simply a building that will be demolished. It saddens to me see how much stuff has been taken to an auction house from our historic landmark Masonic Lodge aka Landmark on the Sound and that little of it or perhaps nothing will be preserved in any museum or it the facility itself. Granted I know nothing of what the new owners of the building are going to do and hopefully it’s something fabulous that our community will benefit from. Right now however, I feel like a lot of valuable history has just disappeared down to Tacoma. Kind of sad.

  2. DM Resident says:

    Susan, you are correct the City could have invested and bought some of the available properties except for the fact out City has been in some very difficult financial times. As for your comment about demolishing the theater and concerns about the Masonic home, this is exactly the attitude that has our City where it is today. We’ve had to many City leaders over the past years that are more concerned with overdevelopment than underdevelopment. We can no longer afford that attitude and frankly I want to live in a City that is progressive in development and bringing in new and visually appealing businesses and shopping centers. The current council has done a great job at promoting development but I wish they were more progressive. I’d like to see 50 story buildings in our downtown corridor.

  3. Richard Doggett says:

    Please city council, focus on developing the main commercial district, and leave the marina alone. It gets crowded enough during high boating season (May-October) and the warmest summer months. Anything that decreases existing boat storage space and current parking simply hampers the primary purpose of the marina. Building up, such as with a multi-story parking garage, will make parking a hassle, cut into the views of surrounding residents, decrease their property values and generate lawsuits. Why not develop other properties closer to Des Moines Way S.? Why not stage a farmer’s market in the former QFC parking lot and building, where passing motorists will see it? This proposal strikes me as mostly a developer’s dream, not something to benefit the either the marina or the city.

    • DM Resident says:

      As I stated with Susan above, this is exactly the type of attitude that has nearly bankrupted this City. Development can be completed with minimal impact and the City appears to have plans for the necessary parking and boat storage. The marina needs to be developed to attract tourist and citizens year around. Currently, other than moorage, there is nothing there making the City any money and in fact they are losing money on the marina. I’d rather have it developed into a nice area than shut down for lack of funds.

      • littledearone says:

        I agree with some of the comments on both sides. We do need development! But we need balance as well.

        Except for the hotel the proposed plan looks pretty good to me. Hopefully these folks will stay true to their word and keep the “functionality of the marina” – and parking a priority.

        Having a permanent Farmers Market & Epicurean Grocery sounds great! Maybe a smaller version of the bustling Pike Place Market . . .

        My Great-grandfather and his brothers were Masons here back in the day so it is very sad to me to see both the Old Masonic Home go — and the little theatre too but the city only has itself to blame. We could have / can preserve our neat & wonderful history here AND have development which is sorely needed.

        Something I’d like to see for myself is more housing options for lower income folks. My husband & I are artists who work hard. We want to live in a place that is clean and safe!

        Lower rent or subsidized housing here has a criminal element that seems to be on the
        rise. I hope varied housing options and services for those who might want help getting their lives in order will be seriously considered.

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