Plans Unfold to Make Weyerhaeuser Campus an Industrial Zone
As TCLF previously reported, the Weyerhaeuser Company sold its historic campus to Industrial Realty Group (IRG) in February 2016 for $70.5 million. While IRG, operating as Federal Way Campus LLC, plans to leave the exterior of the Modernist headquarters building untouched, it is now taking steps to subdivide the large parcel for redevelopment. An IRG spokesperson said plans call for developing 110 acres of the site, including significant swaths of the character-defining forests and nature trails that have been used by the public for nearly five decades.
The original project proposed in August 2016—a 314,000-square-foot fish-processing plant and freezer warehouse—was withdrawn in December 2016. The city reviewed more than 300 comments submitted during the public comment period and had required the developer to produce extensive studies to address the issues raised, including clear-cutting and infilling wetlands.
In place of the fish-processing facility, IRG has proposed Warehouse A, a 225,950 square-foot-building standing 42 feet high. In September 2017, IRG proposed the adjoining Warehouse B, a 217,300-square-foot structure of similar design. These two warehouses would bring nearly 400 semi-truck trips to the campus each day, along with more than 1,500 passenger vehicle trips.
In addition, IRG has tentatively proposed the Greenline Business Park, 146 acres with three more warehouses totaling 1.1 million square feet; the largest warehouse would be 638,000 square feet. The project would include nearly 1,500 parking stalls and 111 semi-trailer stalls. An earlier version of the proposal for the largest warehouse estimated that that building alone would generate more than 1,200 vehicle trips per day.
The Save Weyerhaeuser Campus movement favors a comprehensive approach to new development on the campus so that all impacts can be determined and mitigated cumulatively.
The land-use permit for Warehouse A is expected to be issued very soon. Save Weyerhaeuser Campus will appeal the decision to the city’s hearing examiner but must raise an estimated $30,000 to cover legal costs.
The city has just begun the review process for Warehouse B, while no official application has been filed for the Greenline Business Park.
In May 2017, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation named the historic Weyerhaeuser campus as one of its “Most Endangered Properties," an annual campaign to bring attention to threatened buildings, sites, and historic places in Washington state.
In November 2017, Washington’s State Architectural Historian issued a Determination of Eligibility for listing the site in the National Register of Historic Places, writing, in part:
While not yet 50 years old the Weyerhaeuser Headquarters would easily qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (under criteria A & C) as a ground- breaking design that has been studied by generations of architects, architectural historians, landscape architects and historians… specific details as to the boundaries of a listing would need to be defined after further study but most likely includes the full 260 acres as initially developed by Sasaki, Walker & Associates.
Commenting on the proposed projects, Washington State’s deputy historic preservation officer has requested a comprehensive survey and inventory of the property by professionals with expertise in architectural history and cultural resources, to evaluate the campus for its historical and architectural significance. IRG has stated the inventory is not required for approval of Warehouse A, but says a survey is under way and will be provided to the city when completed.
These projects would significantly impact the character of the historic campus, which the City Council wanted to preserve when the property was annexed by Federal Way in 1994. However, the open-ended zoning agreement the city and Weyerhaeuser Company signed 23 years ago allows new development to be governed by most codes from that era, which would permit up to 70 percent of the campus to be covered with impervious surfaces and gives a city department director the power to determine what unlisted uses are allowed.
A positive step is the effort by city, county, state, and community members to negotiate the purchase of nearly 54 acres of the campus lying along the west shore of North Lake. The lake is the headwaters of an important creek system that eventually makes its way to the waters of Puget Sound. The city has pledged $1 million toward this effort, to be matched by the county. However, the purchase cost has been estimated at around $8 million. The city has also brought in Forterra, a respected land conservation non-profit, to negotiate with the landowner for the potential purchase.
HOW CAN YOU HELP
1. Contact Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell and members of the Federal Way City Council and ask them to:
- Require, before project approval, that the developer work with state historical preservation officials to conduct a complete survey of the campus for archaeological and historical significance.
- Deny the current proposals and work with the landowner and community to develop a master plan for responsible use of the campus, given the findings of the architecture and landscape assessment.
The current mayor and members of the Federal Way City Council are:
Mayor Jim Ferrell, Jim.Ferrell@cityoffederalway.com
Dini Duclos, Dini.Duclos@cityoffederalway.com
Susan Honda, Susan.Honda@cityoffederalway.com
Mark Koppang, Mark.Koppang@cityoffederalway.com
Martin Moore, Martin.Moore@cityoffederalway.com
2. If necessary, following the City of Federal Way’s decision on the pending project applications, the non-profit advocacy organization Save Weyerhaeuser Campus has promised to appeal the verdict. Members of the group include a biology education professor, a civil engineer, a retired Weyerhaeuser vice president, a county transportation deputy director, technology professionals, and many other committed community members.
The group’s mission is to promote the conservation and appropriate use of the Weyerhaeuser campus. Support their efforts by donating funds to finance their legal team, led by a well-known Seattle land-use attorney:
Save Weyerhaeuser Campus
P.O. Box 4402
Federal Way, WA 98063