Renton looks at life after Boeing - Land-use decisions at forefront as big airplane factory shrinks



Renton, WA - The curtain is going up on one of the biggest land-use decisions in Renton's history -- what happens when The Boeing Co. shrinks its airplane factory?

The city yesterday released a draft environmental-impact statement showing four ways to redevelop the part of the 275-acre site Boeing expects to vacate by next year.

They range from partial redevelopment of land east of Logan Avenue, possibly for light industry, to complete redevelopment and rezoning of the surplus land for high-rise residential use, office and even hotel development that could total more than 17 million square feet of new space.

The latter option would triple the amount of office space in the city of nearly 54,000.

"I would say this is the largest land-use decision in the Puget Sound area in recent memory," said Alex Pietsch, administrator of the city's Department of Economic Development, Neighborhoods and Strategic Planning.

Boeing, which has produced airplanes in Renton since the 1940s, has been discussing consolidation of the plant for some time.

Last fall it asked the city to amend its comprehensive land-use plan to allow new uses on property now zoned industrial.

The company builds single- aisle 737 and 757 jets at the facility and has said it plans to keep the plant running into the foreseeable future.

But it also has said it will strive for more efficient production, using fewer buildings.

It will move a number of employees from one set of buildings to another, using them to fill space currently empty.

Part of the 757 production is being shifted to Wichita, Kan.

Boeing spokeswoman Debby Arkell said the consolidation includes some remodeling work to existing buildings and will be complete in about a year.

The impact statement, written by the Blumen Consulting Group, discusses these alternative uses for the surplus Boeing land, assessing the effects on noise, public services, traffic and other factors:

Leaving the zoning as it is today through 2015, allowing mostly new light-industrial uses, some "big-box" retail development and office space -- uses currently permitted. More than 5 million square feet of new development could take place. Buildings would be one to three stories high.

Partial redevelopment by 2015, not including light-industrial use but more than 1.1 million square feet of new office space and some retail use. Altogether, this would also permit more than 5 million square feet of new development. Structures would be one to three stories high.

Complete redevelopment through 2030, allowing mid- to high-rise condominiums, hotels, apartments, retail and office space. This could permit more than 11 million square feet of new construction. Building heights could range to 80 feet depending on use.

Complete redevelopment of mid- to high-rise buildings through 2030, adding more than 17 million square feet of new space, including more than 10 million square feet of office space. Residential buildings could be up to 10 stories tall, with offices or labs up to 11 stories high.

The site is located west of Garden Avenue on the south shore of Lake Washington, between the Cedar River on the west and roughly North Fifth and Sixth streets on the south.

"We know from other properties in the area that we have put on the market that there is interest (from prospective developers) out there but we don't have any specific partners lined up," said Dean Tougas, another Boeing spokesman. "It's still going through the city planning process."

Boeing and the city collaborated to write the four alternatives, said senior city planner Elizabeth Higgins.

She said new uses for the Boeing site have been discussed with neighborhood groups, but no clear consensus has emerged about what to do with the soon-to-be-surplused land.

"One of the primary concerns" is the effect on traffic, she said, but sentiment so far is "all over the map."


A public hearing on the proposals is set before the city planning commission at 6 p.m. July 30 at City Hall, 1055 S. Grady Way. A summary of the plan is available on the Web at Comments must be made in writing and are due Aug. 7; they are to be mailed to Elizabeth Higgins, a senior planner, City of Renton Economic Development, Neighborhoods and Strategic Planning Department, 1055 S. Grady Way, Sixth Floor, Renton, WA, 98055. Printed copies of the two-volume statement can be bought for $25 per volume.


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