City looks at combining 3 waterfront properties

Published 2:00 am Thursday, May 17, 2007

By Staff
Feasibility study could help decide destiny of land
Contributing Editor
After determining it may be better to combine the former Evans Seafood property with two adjacent properties for development purposes, Washington City Council is exploring that idea.
During its meeting Monday, the council appointed Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and council members Ed Gibson and Archie Jennings as a subcommittee to talk with the owners of the former McQuay Building and the former Maola plant on Water Street about the possibility of combining the properties and marketing that combination as one lot for development. The two buildings are adjacent to the former Evans Seafood site, which is owned by the city.
The council also decided to pursue a feasibility study of the combined property, including looking at whether it is an appropriate site for a hotel. Such a study is expected to cost about $15,000.
The council has spent the past several months trying to decide what to do with the former Evans Seafood site. There had been some talk among council members that combining the three properties into one large lot would provide more development opportunities for that land. The council considers the former Evans Seafood site as a “bargaining chip” the city may use to persuade the owners of the other two properties to join the city in its effort to develop the area occupied by the three properties.
The council contends that land is identified in several downtown redevelopment plans as prime real estate for a mix of uses, including commercial. The council has also made it clear it has no problem with keeping existing green space adjacent to the three properties as open space to be used by the public.
Council members have indicated there’s a specific commercial use for the former Evans Seafood property they are willing to pursue.
Some people have said combining the former Evans Seafood property with the former McQuay Building property and former Maola plant property would provide a piece of land more suitable for a hotel, not to mention other uses.
Jennings said the city should “explore all possible means for the unification of those properties” because he believes they would be more valuable combined than as they are now. A study on how to use those combined lots would be “money well-spent,” he said. Jennings said he prefers the study be project specific, not site specific.
Jennette said talks between the city and the two property owners would allow the city to “get some sense of what they’re thinking about their properties.”
If the property owners aren’t interested in combining their properties with the city’s property, then the council can return its attention on what to do with just the former Evans Seafood site, council members said. The council has yet to decide if it will sell the land.
During its planning session concerning the half-acre lot, the council decided that placing open space adjacent to the half-acre site in a conservation easement or some type of trust so that land could not be developed should be done.
On Monday, the council decided on the following criteria to use when evaluating proposals for developing the lot:
The council also is considering placing revenues from the sale of the property into a trust fund for Brown Library, which the city owns and operates.
For additional coverage of the council’s meeting, see future editions of the Daily News.