Bothell Quiet No More
|Buckle up, Bothell—after more than 100 years as a quiet Seattle suburb, the city best known for its "for a day or for a lifetime" motto is now in the throes of the state's largest downtown revitalization project. This week, we caught up with city manager Bob Stowe, who turned us on to the city's master developer role and why Bothell's innovation zone is one of the region's best-kept secrets.|
|South Lake Union may have the monopoly on tech tenants, but thanks to companies like Seattle Genetics and Philips Ultrasound, Bothell has quietly become Washington's epicenter of biomedical devices. The city's secret? Vast tracts of flat, horizontal space north of downtown, and plenty of room to spare. "It keeps leasing costs very, very low," Bob assures us. (And ensures they can lease to the US Olympic Track & Field team should this modern medicine thing go south.) Developers are snapping up parcels almost as fast as the city puts them on the market, according to Bothell economic development manager Terrie Battuello. "We're considered a suburb, but we really are a major employment center. There's also room for millions more square feet, which is a rarity in Puget Sound." Good thing, since these days even Kent is full.|
|Meanwhile, downtown Bothell is gearing up for a major facelift. To date, the city has broken ground on $90M of public infrastructure that it believes will leverage $650M in private investments. Above is the 67k SF historic Anderson schoolhouse, which brewpub chain McMenamins paid $7M for in 2010 and plans to turn into a 70-room hotel, pub, and spa complex. Vulcan has agreed to do the new 60K SF City Hall complex in partnership with the city, and last month, downtown lots adjacent to the old Safeway were sold to Main Street Group to develop into senior housing. Altogether, this means more than 1,000 new residential units in 2013 and more than 350K SF of retail.|
|Pay close attention to the cars hiding in the trees. Thirty businesses have relocated and nearly as many buildings demolished to make way for a main street extension and several new projects on 25 acres in the city center. Bothell is also collecting bids to shift Rte 522 south and plans to reroute traffic through the new downtown district and refashion the area around Bothell Landing into a public park. Want to be like Bothell? A "crystal clear vision" of what you want to achieve is key for cities-turned-developers, Bob says. "Cities do a good job of being regulators but not always of being facilitators of good development," he tells us. Flexibility doesn't hurt either—Bothell sidestepped much of the recession by focusing on environmental cleanup at some sites. |
Bisnow Video: Hear Bob's advice for other cities.