UP Town Center finally makes debut
All that was missing from Friday’s ground-breaking ceremony in University Place was a sigh of relief.
After nearly a decade of work and tens of millions of public dollars, city officials finally could declare that private investment has arrived at Town Center
They gathered to welcome a five-story mixed-use building that will include 100 apartments and 12,000 square feet of ground-level retail space. Tacoma-based SEB Inc., owned by brothers Steve and Kevin Berg, is developing the project. Construction has begun, and the building will be completed a year from now.
The ground-breaking followed on the heels of the “soft opening” of a cafe in the library and civic building.
“There have been some good times and some times where we struggled, but the reward is today,” said Mayor Ken Grassi to a crowd of about 50 who attended the rainy ceremony.
The developers and current and former city officials later shoveled some dirt in front of the construction site, where crews have erected some steel beams.
Grassi, who thanked the community for its patience, hailed the building as a “huge milestone” for Town Center, and said the project will bring in about $12 million to the local economy.
Added City Manager Steve Sugg: “Changing the future is not easy, and we all know what we’ve been through to get to this point.”
SEB paid the city $800,000 to construct the building atop the transit garage on the north side of the civic and library building. The city netted $756,526.43 after escrow, title and recording charges and the broker’s commission, according to documents obtained by The News Tribune. The price includes impact fee but not permit fees.
Steve Berg said his company is interested in constructing more buildings at Town Center.
The Frog and Kiwi Cafe, owned by Marc and Kelly Grau, opened in leased space inside the civic and library building. It had a soft opening three weeks ago to work out the kinks and train its employees. Its grand opening is scheduled for July 14.
“Business is good,” Marc Grau said Thursday. “People are excited that we are finally here.”
The cafe sells coffee, sandwiches, pastries and gelato. It features a children’s play area, known as UPlay Town Center, that opened Wednesday. The cost for three hours is $6.99 for the first child and $4.99 for the second child; a 10-visit pass can be bought for $50.
Grau said the cafe has received a lot of business from the library, and he expects completion of the mixed-use building to boost business.
“It’s going to bring a lot of attention,” he said.
The cafe leased the space for five years. It will pay $800 a month in rent, gradually increasing to $900.40 a month during the last year of the lease. The city also will receive 6 percent of the cafe’s gross monthly sales, documents show.
On Monday, the City Council extended the contract for another year with broker Jeff Kraft to lease the remaining retail space inside the civic and library building and sell the seven developable lots in Town Center. The city first hired Kraft in June 2010.
As commission, Kraft would receive a percentage of the total rent for a successful lease and 5 percent of the gross sales price for a lot sale. The city paid $13,735 in commission for the Frog and Kiwi lease and $40,000 in commission the SEB sale.
Councilman Javier Figueroa said at the council meeting the commissions are appropriate given the work it takes to make deals in the poor economy.
“It’s a lot more work now than before,” he said.
The ground-breaking was an unintended further response to Dick Muri, a Pierce County councilman and candidate for the state’s newest congressional seat.
On Tuesday, Mayor Ken Grassi called Muri to raise concerns about his remarks at campaign appearances the city is going broke as a result of its investment in Town Center. One of Muri’s opponents in the race is Stan Flemming, a fellow county councilman and former UP city councilman.