City approves new development agreements

Tacoma City Council passed an ordinance on March 2 intended to create a more transparent process for attracting private-sector development on city-owned property. The new law addresses developer regulation agreements on large projects and historic preservation projects of any size downtown, and institutional projects on sites of more than five acres anywhere in the city.

This is an optional set of rules, so neither developers nor the city are required to enter into such agreements. But when that does occur, negotiations will take place for developers to make certain concessions to meet a public interest in exchange for certainty on regulations that will cover a specific project for an agreed upon period of time.

A point system will be used for projects that meet certain city goals. If more than 60 percent of floor space is designated as class A office, one point would be awarded for every 200 square feet of gross floor space (not including parking) for up to 200 points.

Up to 40 points could be awarded in the following categories: crime prevention through environmental design, sunlight access to public-use areas, view maximization, connectivity, quality materials and design and access to open space.

Up to 50 points could be awarded for each of the following: meeting complete streets guidelines, transit connections and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification.  

Sixty points could go to support for public art, and another 60 for projects that promote walkability.

"It can be a whole range of things we want to see on the site," said Elly Walkowiak from the Community and Economic Development Department, during a recent study session on the topic. She said the agreements will benefit developers by giving them site control early on when putting together financing.

"We are trying to lower the barriers for them to come forward with proposals."

They will benefit the city by generating a serious commitment from a developer before transferring title to land.

"The goal is for us to get the best development on that property," Walkowiak said.

City Manager Eric Anderson said this process would most likely be used for parcels where typically only one developer has serious interest. It could attract private investment to sites that are not very desirable.

"Usually they have sat fallow for quite some time," Anderson said.

Walkowiak said this could be used for Beacon Senior Center. The city is interested in having a developer build residential units on top.

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