LETTER: Should Parkplace still get 8 stories if it builds less retail?

Do we really need a bigger QFC grocery store downtown?  No, not if the price is an eight-story apartment building towering over our downtown ‘village’. 

This is the first building proposed for the new Talon Development of Parkplace if they are allowed the zoning changes they are asking for. One of my concerns is, what will happen if the property is sold after the residential building goes up? In 2008 the height limits in the CBD 5A were increased from 5-story to 8-story. The main reason the Kirkland City Council agreed to this change was because Touchstone, the owners at that time, made a commitment to add nearly 600,000 square feet of commercial uses. This included 300,000 sq. ft. of retail uses that would establish Parkplace as a destination retail center.  Many citizens showed up at the City Council meetings in 2008 to protest the change in height allowance but the Kirkland City Council turned a deaf ear.  They were convinced that we would get the destination retail that they felt was essential to make the downtown a vibrant community.  But we haven’t seen anything happen at Parkplace over the last 7 years and Touchstone has sold its interest in the property.  Hopefully other downtown property owners are planning retail into their current projects. 

Why isn’t the Planning Department questioning the fact that this is a new owner with a much reduced plan so they should go back to square one?  I believe that since Touchstone’s plan was scrapped and there is no longer a commitment for the 300,000 sq. ft. of retail the Planning Commission must reevaluate the height. As far as I know, no other property owner has been allowed more than 6 stories in height.  We need to keep in mind the canyon effect that has been showing up in Redmond as they continue to increase in density.  Do we want that to happen in downtown Kirkland?  Doesn’t letting Talon build up to 8 stories set a precedent? It is my understanding after listening to the presentation at the December 11th Planning Commission meeting that Talon is asking for 30% of the site to be residential and Kroger’s is insisting that the residential use be above their redesigned QFC store.  Current Parkplace tenants would most likely have to relocate in order for the underground garage to be built. Talon is proposing only 145,000 sq. ft. of retail but we won’t see most of that until the office buildings are eventually finished. I don’t believe that will be much more than the retail space that already exists at Parkplace. If the economy changes, we might have to wait a long time for the retail component to be successful.  Talon would like at least 30% of the available retail space to be used for a movie theater. That is one of the changes they are asking for—currently only 10 % is allowed.  Do we really need a movie theater that badly?  Can you think of other retail use that would fit your lifestyle better for the next 20 years?  

The next Planning Commission meeting reviewing this project is January 29th, 2015.  Please send email letters to the Planning Commission and Kirkland City Council to let them know your opinion about development at the Parkplace site. The information packet for the December 11 Planning Commission meeting is the best source for understanding Talon’s proposal.  There were only a handful of citizens at the meeting. Your voice really does count and now is the time to make it heard.

Margarette Bull