On Monday, October 7, the Sumner City Council voted to accept a purchase and sale agreement with Kathy Dobler for the property known as the Red Apple site. The city will receive $2,250,000.00 for the sale, which is 1.97 acres and includes 6 parcels (Pierce County Parcel Nos. 7985100160, 7985100170, 7985100190, 7985100200, 7985100210, and 7985100221). The new owner has not shared specific plans for the property although early indications allude to a three to four-story multi-family residential with potentially some retail sites along Maple Street.
History of the Site
The City purchased most of the site in 1999 for the purpose of building a larger City Hall. The purchase price was $715,000, and the City paid off the bonds to purchase in 2005. Later, it became more economical to expand the existing City Hall on site. The City continued to lease the building to the Red Apple Market, which closed in 2006. In May 2007, the City entered into an agreement with a private developer to develop most of the site as upscale condominiums, but the recession and the discovery of contamination under the site halted that project. In the following years, the City took many steps to make the site more marketable including
- legal process and settlement with multiple fuel companies over the contamination,
- purchasing the bank property that occupied the rest of the block that the City did not previously own,
- tearing down the deteriorating Red Apple market structure, and
- moving City employee parking off the site.
During that time, the City allowed temporary uses on the site, including letting the Sumner Bonney Lake School District locate the Elhi Hill school in the former bank building and using the parking lots for commuter parking. It was one of the four final sites considered for Sound Transit’s parking garage but Sumner residents and commuters alike overwhelmingly voted that they preferred the garage to be located at the station, where it is currently being designed.
Future for the Site
In 2008, then Governor Gregoire honored Sumner with a Smart Cities Smart Partnership Award for the planned redevelopment of the site. The goal for bringing more mixed-use and residential into Sumner’s downtown has not changed in 11 years. The update of Sumner’s Town Center Plan went through a two-year public process in 2017-2018, asking residents where Sumner could afford to add more density in the downtown core. Increasing density accomplishes six things:
- Reduces traffic congestion by putting more residential within walking distance of services, including the Sound Transit station.
- Condenses future growth into the core to preserve surrounding single-family residential areas.
- Helps keep overall housing more affordable by increasing supply, thus decreasing demand.
- Diversifies Sumner’s housing options, especially bringing in more multi-family options requested by both younger adults and senior citizens seeking to downsize within their community.
- Meets the density planning requirements designated by the Puget Sound Regional Council in compliance with the Growth Management Act.
- Supports independent, small businesses in Sumner’s downtown
While the Red Apple site was much discussed as one of the opportunities to see results of the Town Center Plan updates, it is not the only example. A private development is also underway along Fryar Avenue to add mixed-use residential.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will the housing include affordable/ low-income?
That is for the new owner to decide. Sumner has enacted in the Town Center Plan a multi-family tax exemption that developers may take advantage of to keep housing costs and rates affordable, but again, that decision remains with the new owner/developer.
Is site remediation complete?
No, it is not. The City chose to let the new owner finish remediation and negotiated a purchase price that reflects that accommodation.
Parking is already difficult. Will this make it worse?
In some respects, it should help. Urban planners emphasize that one of the best ways to reduce traffic congestion is to have people living near amenities so that reliance on vehicles decreases. This gives commuters an option to live blocks from the station and not need to worry about driving or parking to commute regionally.
On the other hand, while the site was in process, it served as temporary parking for commuters. The City realizes that a lot of projects to improve access in the long-run, including the Traffic Avenue interchange improvements, the building of the Sound Transit garage, etc., will create a short-term parking crunch. The City is encouraging Sound Transit to find alternate, even temporary, parking solutions and continues to weigh how to balance the needs of commuters, residents and local businesses.