At its last meeting local real estate developer Doug Reiss of Dave Weidner Apartment Homes introduced himself to the Woodinville City Council during public comment and announced he and his partner had entered a purchase and sale agreement with the Canterbury Homeowners Association.
The agreement includes a six-month feasibility study of the redevelopment of Canterbury Square before any money actually changes hands.
Reiss spoke about a vision that was “fairly aligned” with the city’s, appealed for council’s support in working together, and touched upon a “win-win” design for an exciting downtown residential/ retail component to Woodinville.
Reiss later sat down with the Woodinville Weekly to expand on that vision.
“First of all we’re talking about apartments and not condominiums,” he said. “I think city council realizes that’s what’s viable in today’s market.”
Reiss noted that during a previous meeting, council produced a map that showed where it wanted retail development in its rezoned central business district.
“They want 135th Ave. to extend through Canterbury and intersect with 171st St. and we think that makes sense, too,” Reiss said. “They want retail along that street and we agree that’s what should be there. And it should be nice, upscale: wine bars, clothing stores, restaurants — an attractive retail addition to Woodinville. They talked about wanting this to be a people-place, so we want to create a nightlife atmosphere as well as a daytime atmosphere. So in our vision we’d have apartments above that ground floor retail along the main street. That’s the city’s vision and that’s our vision.”
Reiss was reluctant to say what price he and Weidner would be paying for the parcel should the feasibility study prove to be a go.
In 2006, it was noted, CamWest Development, Inc. was set to pay the homeowners association $35 million before it rescinded the offer when the economic forecast grew dark.
“I will tell you the homeowners association had to significantly compromise because that price was in a different economic climate,” he said. “That was six years ago and things were very different.” CamWest was then interested in building condominiums for sale, he said.
So what will be successful for Reiss’s group that didn’t look to be successful for CamWest?
“They were looking at less density and the (building) height limit has now changed from 50 to 57 feet,” he said. “In order to be successful, in order for us to provide the infrastructure the city wants, we’re going to have to have density.”
Woodinville City Manager Richard Leahy recently stated that Canterbury’s redevelopment alone could provide up to 75 percent of the 2,000 dwelling units that the Growth Management Act (GMA) has mandated the city needs to make available by 2020.
Reiss would not put his finger on a specific number of units he intended to build.
“We’re less concerned with GMA mandates and more concerned with economic viability,” he said.
Unlike a lot of properties and development opportunities which are adjacent to residential areas, Reiss said, this one is not. And that’s what makes it unique.
“Instead of swimming upstream against community interest, what we’re doing is enhancing the community in that the local businesses will like this arrangement because it will bring new customers,” he said.
“It will increase walkability and create an exciting people-place, during the day, during the evening and on the weekend. It’s absolutely a key piece of land and it’s not like it’s out on the periphery next to this subdivision or that subdivision; it’s right downtown.”
He compared the project to the redevelopment that’s happening in Redmond, Kirkland and Bothell.
“They’re bringing people into the downtown core,” he said. “They’re eliminating automobile and traffic and pollution. This is the trend and it’s a good one, instead of the urban sprawl you get with massive apartment complexes out next to a whole bunch of houses.”
Ginger Buchanan keeps her fingers crossed for the sale to go through but has heard it all before.
President of Canterbury Criers Association and a CHA member who still resides in one of the complex’s 128 units, Buchanan said 114 of the 116 owners voted to approve the sale — the third time a sale has been approved since 2006.
“A lot of people really want to get out of here and the average age of the 37 owners still living here is 86,” she said. “Right now we have more renters than homeowners. We need to get it sold and the sooner the people at City Hall decide what they want here, the better.”
The council is still making its way through new Ordinance No. 524 which amends downtown zoning code regulations, set to begin second reading on the item for approval after taking 11 months to pass first reading.
“Ever since Woodinville became a city it’s been a struggle every step of the way,” Buchanan added. “They get the master plan laid out and then they make these amendments to it. They just cannot make a decision. And then they argued about the height and it was a matter of a few feet. I mean, we’re not talking 10 stories here.
“The planning director had said none of the prospective builders who’ve come to him want to build retail, but apparently Weidner does. So what’s the problem?
“They’re stalling over itty-bitty issues. We just want it sold; we need to move on. It’s not fair to make us sit here all these years wondering what we should plan for. This is not the way to treat older people.”
From the city’s point of view, Assistant to the City Manager Alexandra Sheeks said the following: “This is a private party transaction and as a courtesy we don’t discuss a party’s plans with third parties. What I can tell you is Mr. Reiss has begun his six-month due diligence period and they have not filed an application for development.”