Hines calls it quits

June 25, 2015 | by Erin Sirianni

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Property developer Hines is no longer proceeding with the purchase of three parcels in Mercer Island’s Town Center where it planned to build a 5-story mixed-use development.

The property owners received a letter from Hines on June 18th, which terminated the purchase-and-sale agreement.

Southwest view of the Hines property

Southwest view of the Hines’ property of interest, located between QFC and Albertsons

Hines was previously exempted from a moratorium enacted by the City of Mercer Island on February 16th on all new building permits for development in the Town Center. Hines exemption was based on the possibility that the development would include several significant public amenities, including an upscale grocery store, a public plaza, and commuter parking.

Over time, those promises did not come to fruition. Hines was first unable to secure a high-end grocer as a commercial tenant (property owners of Albertsons are likely to scoop that deal instead). Then the preliminary design of the development was denied – despite the inclusion of an attractive public plaza, the other three sides of the building did not meet the city’s Design Commission’s requirements. Finally, Hines and the City were unable to come to an agreement on cost-sharing for commuter parking.

On June 1st, the Council voted to add the Hines project to the moratorium, which it then extended by another six months on June 16th. Two days later, Hines delivered its termination letter to the three property owners.

“We had always hoped to see a nice development go up on these premises, and we were thankful to have an international developer as well known, well-funded, and capable as Hines,” said property owner, Judy King. “It is with great dismay that we see them go.”

Yet other Island residents, even with the suggested amenities, were not looking forward to the mixed-use development going up in the heart of downtown. The Hines project has been a target of Save our Suburbs, a community activist group that formed in December 2014. The group was the impetus behind the City Council enacting the initial moratorium on town center development.

Mayor Bruce Bassett was not surprised by Hines decision, but remains hopeful for an improvement to the current block of land that might appeal to the broader community.

“This was pretty predictable since the Hines principals told us that they would pull out if they were put into the moratorium,” Bassett said. “Now it makes a lot of sense for us to go forward with our town center visioning process. At the end of the day though, we hope that we end up with a new code that will attract development in keeping with that code that will lead to a better, more vibrant, and more well-thought out town center in the future.”

Additional reading:
Talk of the Town: The Hines ProjectMy Mercer Island
The Hines Project: Update + DesignMy Mercer Island