Lakewood city leaders want to see more life at Lakewood Towne Center, the roughly 100-acre commercial site that anchors the city’s civic center and retail sales tax base.
Lakewood does not own any vacant property on the site, but that hasn’t stopped city officials from trying to attract development there.
The city recently paid $7,000 to McCament and Rogers, a Tacoma real estate development consulting firm, to study options for the site wedged between Gravelly Lake Drive and Bridgeport Way SW.
The city targeted vacant properties owned by Retail Properties of America Inc, an Illinois company that owns a majority of property in Towne Center.
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The consultants were asked to look at housing options; provide resources to identify and recruit a destination restaurant similar in quality to the former Lakewood Terrace restaurant; and suggest how a park or park-like amenity would fit into the commercial shopping center.
“We’d like to see some type of open space that isn’t asphalt. We’d like to see some type of housing or mixed-use development so we have the synergy of having people living there,” Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson said.
“We’d like to see it thrive.”
The city, however, is limited in what it can do, Anderson said.
“You need somebody with money that wants to do it, and that’s not there right now,” he said. “We’re trying to find out what will work.”
Towne Center was developed in 2001 after the old Lakewood Mall failed and the new owners "demalled" it, gutting the enclosed portion but keeping a few stand-alone stores such as Target and Gottschalks. The city contributed by spending $1 million on road improvements and constructing the $13.2 million City Hall building.
Since the beginning, officials have coveted multifamily housing units so the retail center would have a built-in customer base.
That remains a goal in the new consultant’s report. It says garden-style apartments, town homes or a mix of live-work units would all be a good fit at Towne Center. Single-family homes would not.
The residential units could fit behind the Target and Barnes and Noble on the southeast section of the property where an empty parking lot now sits.
A hotel and conference center would also be a benefit, the report concluded.
The hotel would “appeal to travelers who want a quieter night’s sleep, abundant nearby shopping, dining, entertainment, access to Chambers Bay Golf Course and an opportunity for short term office space/services,” consultants wrote.
They suggested an 80- to 100-room facility at the former Gottschalks building site, located across Main Street from City Hall.
The consultant said the city should consider building a linear, mile-long park with hard surface and landscaping to serve as a walking or running track in what is now a car-centered development.
City officials hope to meet with representatives of Retail Properties of America by the end of February to discuss the consultant’s report and how to include the property RPAI owns.
“We want to be a good partner to RPAI. We want to help connect them with developers,” said Becky Newton, the city’s economic development manager.
A representative from RPAI told a reporter that the company declined to comment at this time.
Lakewood City Manager John Caulfield said the city has a good working relationship with the company. Commissioning the study was the city’s way of trying to jump start activity at Town Center, he said.
“It’s a valuable asset within (RPAI’s) portfolio,” Caulfield said. “They’re motivated to have something more happen here as well.”