Eighteen years after the city bought the Red Apple market across the street from the Sumner City Hall, ambitious dreams for redeveloping the prime site downtown have grown stale.
The city leased the building to the market until 2006, when the store closed. A plan to build a structure there to relieve the overcrowded City Hall was shelved. An attempt to attract development proposals for a residential and retail building fell by the wayside when the recession dried up financing. And a community idea of a farmers produce and craft market died when a building inspection found cracked support beams and a leaking roof too expensive to repair.
Now it appears the building, which has served as a storage space for surplus city equipment, will be razed. The building site and its adjacent parking stalls will become another parking lot serving mostly commuters on Sounder trains to Seattle.
The proposal to level the building stirred strong opposition from Councilman Steve Allsop. Sumner is already inundated with traffic, he said. The city shouldn’t enable even more commuters to clog city streets.
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“Eight out of 10 who take the train don’t even live in Sumner,” he said. “This will be a burden on the citizens of Sumner.”
But Councilman Patrick Reed said he sees leasing the parking at the Red Apple site as an opportunity to recover the cost of demolition and cleanup needed to make the site ready for development.
More than 1,000 riders board the 10 daily Sounder commuter trains that stop at the station. Sound Transit is scheduled to add two more daily trains to its schedule this year.
While other council members acknowledged that traffic has clogged the city, a majority gave city staff the unofficial go-ahead to seek bids on the building’s demolition.
“It’s tough to balance that kind of demand and protect the small-town charm that we love so much about Sumner,” said Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow.
Those bids would include paving the supermarket site for more parking stalls. Engineers estimate the demolition and paving project will cost some $365,000, in part because the building contains asbestos, which requires special handling.
The city has used the supermarket lot as parking for city employees’ cars. That parking will move to a nearby site, where the city recently demolished a vacant bank building.
The city expects demand for those sites to be brisk. The Sumner train station’s own parking is routinely filled before dawn with commuters headed to Seattle. Some later commuters are parking nearly four blocks away along the side of Main Street on the opposite side of state Route 410.
When Sumner offered a few parking slots for lease last year, they were snapped up within hours of going on the market at $100 monthly.
At that rate, the city could quickly pay the costs of the demolition and cleanup needed to make the site ready for development. Some 70 parking slots could be made available for lease on the site after the demolition.
Sound Transit has plans for more parking near the station, including a new 623-stall parking garage at the current station parking site. An estimated 234 surface-lot spaces will remain. The garage will bring the new parking total to 857 stalls, or a net increase of 505 stalls.
Those improvements and additions aren’t expected to be ready for use until 2021. The city could then seek developer proposals for the Red Apple site.
Before the recession, the city received three mixed-use proposals. Those proposals faded away when the housing finance crisis hit.
Enslow said the Red Apple property, just a block or so from the commuter rail station, is a highly desirable site for residential and commercial development.
In Kent and Auburn, developers have built several multistory apartment and office structures adjacent to the Sounder stations.
“The Red Apple area could be a centerpiece of downtown,” said the mayor.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663