Arlington business park expected to generate up to 2,000 jobs

ARLINGTON — A Bellevue developer plans to start work this month on a $100 million business park near the Arlington Municipal Airport.

The city announced Monday evening that GS Venture Partners has purchased the former Northwest Hardwoods and Weyerhaeuser log mill site at 20015 67th Ave. NE. Chris Gayte, the developer behind GS Venture Partners, plans to build up to 1 million square feet of aerospace, manufacturing and industrial work areas in 11 different buildings. The project is called the Gayteway Business Park.

BNSF Railway has agreed to add two rail spurs on the 54-acre property for businesses to ship and receive products, Gayte said.

The city expects the business park could create up to 2,000 new jobs. That’s based on the square footage of the planned business park divided by the average number of square feet per employee in manufacturing and industrial businesses — roughly 500 square feet per employee, City Administrator Paul Ellis said.

Northwest Hardwoods closed in February 2012, cutting 40 jobs and relocating about 20 other employees. At one point, under Weyerhaeuser, the company and mill employed several hundred people, Gayte and Ellis said. Northwest Hardwoods cited a low demand for wood products and a limited supply of local timber as reasons behind the closure. The property was put up for sale.

Gayte purchased it for $4.2 million, according to county tax records. He made the decision last month to buy and build there. The city fast-tracked permits to make the project a reality on a short timeline, he said. Officials had been talking with Gayte since June about the land, access and utilities, Ellis said.

“Now we’re going to clean up the property,” Gayte said. “It’s been sitting for a few years.”

Workers expect to start clearing brush and tearing down old buildings as soon as next week, he said.

It likely will be three to five years before the business park is fully built out. Several companies are interested but none have committed, Gayte said. He plans to construct buildings as businesses demand the space. Each new structure will be customized for the company that moves in.

Gayte’s background is in luxury homes. He owns Bellevue-based Gayteway Custom Homes and is trying his hand at commercial development with GS Venture Partners.

A master plan of the site shows buildings ranging in size from about 42,000 square feet to more than 200,000 square feet.

“The 54 acres, they just don’t make that kind of property anymore,” Gayte said. “Businesses in Everett and Marysville that are looking to expand can come here because we can build the size of buildings they need.”

The business park is a large development compared to most in Arlington, Ellis said. The city also has 125 acres west of the airport zoned for similar uses, but officials have not yet found developers for that land.

“So far, it’s ahead of its time,” he said.

Gayteway is a win for the city, which aims to recruit a diverse business base and up employment numbers, Ellis said. He hopes to see a wide variety of manufacturing and industrial companies in the park, though he suspects at least a few will be tied to Boeing. The aerospace giant tends to fuel growth in North Snohomish County when business is going well, he said.

A new business recruiting tool in Arlington and Marysville, approved by the Legislature this year, could offer companies in the Gayteway Business Park a tax break depending on the number and type of new jobs they create. The developer cannot receive the tax break because it is tied to hiring, not building.

The industrial area around the Arlington Municipal Airport is notorious for traffic problems along Highway 531, also called 172nd Street NE. Gayteway Business Park is located on 67th Street NE, which branches off the busy highway. Nearby business owners have noted that the congested roads lead to rear-end accidents or long commutes, with drivers sitting at the same light for four or five cycles.

Gayte isn’t worried about the traffic, he said. The state has earmarked $39.3 million to widen the road, add lanes and build roundabouts. That work is slated for 2021 to 2025. The business park also has easy access to Highway 9 and Highway 530, so there are multiple routes during peak traffic times, Gayte said.

Traffic bottlenecks are costly for businesses and commuters, Ellis said. He thinks the state’s plans for the highway will alleviate additional traffic caused by the business park. City leaders are pushing to move up the timeline on that roadwork, he said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.