City is seeking developers for Gateway Property

Published on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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With 28 acres of city-owned commercial real estate on the market, the city of Blaine is inviting developers to submit their qualifications and partner with the city in a public-private partnership.

“The city has clear outcomes it wants to maintain,” Wilbrecht said of the old airport property, which can be accessed by I-5 and Boblett Street and is now referred to as the “Gateway Property.” “One of the biggest problems in the real estate world is financing, but the private sector has the connections and capabilities to get it done.”

The request for qualifications requires developers to submit a plan for what they think would work well on the property, including a conceptual site plan, project justification that includes any current market research regarding their proposal and an economic and feasibility analysis.

City officials hope this request will streamline the process for finding a suitable partner to work with.

“This process allows us to analyze what’s out there and start talking to developers to see who has the qualities we want and then go to the next phase,” 

Wilbrecht said. “We’re hoping we’ll have two to four quality developers submit qualifications.” 

Wilbrecht said ultimately they are looking for a developer with vision and the means to make the project happen. They will be considering prior private development experience, prior experience in public-private partnerships and proposed uses and development of the land to determine who they should work with.

According to the official request for qualifications, city officials are most interested in development that will “improve livability for local residents and encourage new business to start up or relocate to the city.”

“We’re interested in seeing a project succeed and achieving the goals of employment and good jobs,” Wilbrecht said, adding they have a pretty good idea of what would and what wouldn’t work, after consulting with Hebert Research of Bellevue. 

The company performed a six-month analysis of border cities across North America and Nordic countries and produced a 25-page feasibility study that highlights reasons why Blaine is a good site for commercial and industrial development, lauding the city’s foresight in the creation and maintenance of infrastructure as well as its unique location as “an area prime for significant investment.”

The study highlights several industries that would be suitable for the area, such as software development; civil, electrical and mechanical engineering services; information services; warehousing and distribution; advanced manufacturing; medical devices; and trucking and transportation services – some of whom have already found a happy home within Blaine’s borders.

“We’ve got some great businesses at work here already,” Wilbrecht said. “But nothing is off the table.”

Wilbrecht said he feels Canada is the city’s best option for finding a willing partner because of the city’s proximity to the border. “I’m not so confident in the U.S., because we’re really at the end of the I-5 chain,” he said. “It’s more likely that we will have more interest from Canada.”

The city has placed online advertisements with Business In Vancouver. 

Ultimately, Wilbrecht said the prospect has to be one that is supported by the community. “We want to move as quickly as possible, but we have a public process we have to follow,” he said. That process will include public hearings. Developers will be subject to the city’s zoning codes and requirements, regardless of the project. 

Wilbrecht said they haven’t settled on what the public-private partnership will ultimately look like, and said those details will be ironed out with the potential developers as the process continues.

The request for qualifications closes on March 28.  

For more information about the request for qualifications for developers, visit cityofblaine.com.