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The city's biggest retail venture so far called success by most

The most recent and last major addition to Lakewood Crossing as currently planned, discount retailer Marshalls anchors the south end of the shopping strip. -
The most recent and last major addition to Lakewood Crossing as currently planned, discount retailer Marshalls anchors the south end of the shopping strip.
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MARYSVILLE With the opening last month of its seventh "mid-major" anchor tenant, the city's biggest retail development to date is essentially complete in its spot on Twin Lakes Boulevard.

President of Lakewood Crossing owner Powell Development, Peter Powell said only one major tenant has yet to arrive. He added a lease has been signed clearing the way for development of an IHOP restaurant on the last of the center's four restaurant "pads."

Another of those pads was filled earlier this year with the arrival of Boston's Gourmet Pizza. The restaurant opened Jan. 21.

According to Powell, IHOP is ready to draw permits from the city to begin construction sometime this summer.

Corporate IHOP officials did not return a phone call and city officials said no permits had been drawn for the project as of early this month.

Discount retailer Marshalls filled Lakewood Crossing's last remaining anchor space, opening in mid-March. Powell Development Vice-President Don Barker said Marshalls claimed the seventh and last mid-sized anchor space available in the center's current configuration.

Barker said the other mid-major stores include, among others, Best Buy and Linens'N'Things.

The center's two major anchors are Costco and Target, each filling over 126,000-square-feet of retail space.

According to various city officials, Lakewood Crossing's effects on the city have been tangible in more ways than one.

At a recent City Council meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Mary Swenson said the city has seen the addition of over 1 million square feet of commercial and retail space over the last two years. Lakewood Crossing obviously helped swell those numbers.

"We've learned a lot from the development that has come in," Swenson said, adding the city has plenty of new retail suitors from whom to pick. But with new experience under their belts and any number of potential new arrivals, Swenson added officials can be more picky about what types of businesses arrive in the city.

All the new retail has had a decided effect on Marysville finances, again according to several city officials. When the city was mapping out its current operating budget late last year, Mayor Dennis Kendall repeatedly noted 2007 was the first year sales taxes outstripped property taxes as a city revenue source. Increasing retail taxes has been a long-time goal of city officials.

"Marysville has primarily been a bedroom community and as a bedroom community, that doesn't necessarily give you the money you need to keep things moving," Kendall said during the budgeting process.

The Washington Department of Revenue reports that all taxable retail sales in the city increased from $80 million to $119 million, a whopping 48.9 percent between the third quarter of 2006 and the same time period of 2007. Those numbers represent the most recent available on the state's Web site.

The state actually releases two retail tax figures, but the numbers including all retail sales are considered by the state to better reflect consumer purchases.

According to Finance Director Sandy Langdon, sales taxes should make up about 12 percent of Marysville's 2008 revenues.

"The stores are doing better than projections," Powell said, though he would not release specific numbers.

The center currently has eight vacant spaces, according to Barker. Powell said they are all smaller spaces and there is interest in each.

"We're being very careful about the type of client we bring in there," he said, stating his company was shying away from pawn brokers or payday loan stores. Powell said he is instead looking for an optical shop or a couple of small restaurants to fill the few remaining storefronts.

If Swenson said the city learned a lot from recent developments such as Lakewood Crossing, Community Development Director Gloria Hirashima said there are things she would have done differently. She gave the overall development a "mixed review"

"In terms of the business build out, that has definitely been a success," she said, adding Lakewood Crossing fit nicely into City Hall's desire to take full advantage of the visibility provided by I-5. Hirashima said the biggest hurdles created by Lakewood Crossing were undoubtedly traffic and design.

"Upon opening, we definitely had some traffic problems we didn't anticipate," she said, quickly adding it was the intensity not the existence of those problems that took the city by surprise.

The city has in design a couple of possible solutions to traffic jams by the center, probably most notably including an overpass over I-5 that would directly connect Twin Lakes Boulevard with Smokey Point Boulevard.

According to Hirashima, the project is in the design phase. The city's capital improvement plan places the cost at an estimated $16.4 million with construction possibly starting in 2010.

While traffic was much on the mind of city officials when talking about Lakewood Crossing, some local residents say the traffic problems have not been as severe as they anticipated.

"Things are running quite smoothly," said JoAnn DeLazzari, a resident of the Crystal Tree Housing Village. The village is a senior citizen development that sits near Lakewood Crossing.

In the past, DeLazzari has been an outspoken critic of the city's handling of the traffic congestion around the center and the development she calls home. But more recently she was particularly impressed with changes the city made to traffic patterns around the center prior to the holidays.

Essentially, the city put back a right turn lane heading to I-5 from 172nd Street NE, which comprises the main entrance and exit from Lakewood Crossing.

DeLazzari said she still worries sometimes about emergency access to Crystal Tree, especially given it is geared toward seniors.

"Really they have done a good job of finally listening to the people back here," she said. "It's just not quite enough for safety's sake."

In terms of the design of the center, Hirashima said Lakewood Crossing represents the biggest retail project the city has ever formally reviewed.

"Big box stores are not the easiest to work with in terms of design," she said. "I wish we'd done a little more in that area."

Still, Hirashima said the city won major concessions from developers.

For his part, Powell described Hirashima and her staff as tough, but fair. He said the city had some things it definitely wanted to see happen, but what impressed him was how those goals didn't change.

"We don't mind tough," Powell said. "We just don't want the finish line to keep moving."

While specializing in building shopping centers, Powell's company has developed Wal Greens and Albertsons stores throughout Washington and the rest of the country. Despite what he and other described as Lakewood Crossing's success, Powell said there are no plans to expand the center at this time.

"Right now, we're going to stand on where we are," he said.

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