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Annexing Point Ruston

Ruston is generally a pretty sleepy little town, but this week things are really heating up. Frustrated with trying to work with city officials in Ruston, the developers of Point Ruston have taken a step toward asking Tacoma to annex the portion of their property that falls in the smaller city's borders.

42 acres of the 97-acre mixed use development that sits on top of the former Asarco Superfund site lies on the Ruston side of the dividing line. All substantial development to this point has occurred on the Tacoma side. 

Last summer the developer threatened Ruston with a $150 million lawsuit for not holding up its end of the deal relating to Superfund site cleanup. Then we received the following press release this Thursday:

Point Ruston files Notice of Intent to initiate partial annexation of project site into City of Tacoma

Developer cites lack of cooperation and lengthy delays by the Town of Ruston

Tacoma, Washington – Today, Point Ruston LLC filed a Notice of Intent to Initiate Annexation with the City of Tacoma that begins a process to move the portion of the Point Ruston project site within the Town of Ruston into the City of Tacoma.  Point Ruston LLC is currently redeveloping the 97-acre former Asarco Smelter Superfund Site that straddles the Ruston/Tacoma jurisdictional line. The annexation would move approximately 42 acres of Point Ruston owned property into the City of Tacoma’s jurisdiction.

The first phase of this $1.2 billion mixed-use project is located on the Tacoma-side of the site, where the Point Ruston neighborhood is currently home to more than 215 residential homes and various commercial businesses, including a health care provider, restaurant, health club and the mile-long public Waterwalk esplanade that is enjoyed by thousands on a daily basis.  To date nearly $200 million in private financing has been invested in the cleanup and redevelopment of this Superfund site, with $31 million from the City of Tacoma for the reconstruction of the public infrastructure within both jurisdictions.  Currently, work is underway on the next phase of the project that features hundreds of additional residential homes, a 9-screen multiplex theatre, multiple restaurants and retail space, along with The Grand Plaza, a one-acre, centrally located public gathering area with a large public fountain and children’s spray-ground and splash-pad.

“We have exhausted every option to move this project forward in the Town of Ruston,” stated Loren Cohen, a director of the Point Ruston project. “After months and months of negotiations and an apparent solution, we find ourselves at a standstill because the Mayor of Ruston refuses to honor our agreements.”

The Point Ruston project has been underway for eight years. Other than single-family dwellings in the new Stack Hill neighborhood above the waterfront property, all completed construction has been limited to the Tacoma portion of the project.  Multiple attempts have been made to negotiate a mutual agreement with the Town of Ruston on the issues commonly associated with such a project. Numerous stakeholders have participated in the process including local, state and federal elected officials, as well as government and business leaders.  “Everybody has been at the table,” continued Cohen. “We all walked away with the clear understanding that we had an agreement on how to proceed.  But without further discussion or explanation, the Mayor attempted to unilaterally stop all construction at the site, including the required environmental cleanup that has been continuously underway since we took ownership in 2006.  A project of this size, that will provide so many benefits to the citizens of Ruston and Tacoma, should not be held up by ever-changing, arbitrary demands.”

Point Ruston is one of the largest private developments currently underway in the state of Washington. Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in the cleanup of the former Asarco Smelter Site, and numerous other public improvements have been made, including the mile-long Waterwalk esplanade, an extension of the popular waterfront walkway along Commencement Bay.  Cohen added, “If the status quo continues, even Tacoma Metro Parks’ grand vision for the permanent pedestrian waterfront connection to Pt. Defiance Park will be at risk, as will the millions of dollars the state has identified for public shoreline access.”  In addition, the City of Tacoma funded a $31 million Local Improvement District that was used for public infrastructure improvements, upgrading the severely dilapidated roadway and utility systems in both the Town of Ruston and City of Tacoma.

A successful public-private partnership has emerged with the City of Tacoma. “When you look at the site and see that all of the progress has been made on the Tacoma side, you understand what we’re talking about,” said Cohen. “We had looked forward to working with the Town to turn this former Superfund clean-up site into a first-class, mixed-use neighborhood. Instead, we have had every imaginable roadblock - some literally - thrown at us.  Annexation is now our best option to ensure the completion of this project.  Nevertheless, we stand ready with the City of Tacoma, our Congressional delegation and our State Legislators to re-engage in comprehensive discussions that will provide meaningful benefits and certainty to the public. But this can’t be done with the Mayor of Ruston’s steadfast refusal to return to the table and negotiate in good faith.”

Point Ruston’s Notice of Intent to Initiate Annexation will be considered by the Tacoma City Council, with final approval by the Town of Ruston Council required before the annexation is finalized.

About Point Ruston, LLC

Currently under construction along a mile of waterfront in Tacoma, Point Ruston, LLC is developing a waterfront mixed-use neighborhood with housing for up to 3,000 residents and approximately 2,000,000 total square feet of mixed-use real estate featuring shopping, dining, entertainment, and recreation. For more information visit: http://www.PointRuston.com

The News Tribune has responses from Ruston Mayor Bruce Hopkins, who, not surprisingly, points the finger back at the developer. This is shaping up to be quite interesting to watch ... Who has popcorn?

While we're annexing things, what else do you want? Ideas? 

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