By Meghan Hall
As Puget Sound’s economy has exploded, so has development, and available land has been snapped up quickly. Now, plans for the last large, undeveloped, commercially-zoned parcel of land in King County are taking shape. For more than 100 years, the 261-acre Snoqualmie Mill was used for timber. Now, the City of Snoqualmie and property owner Steve Rimmer are looking to breathe new life into the site. The Registry sat down with Rimmer to discuss the goals of the project’s redevelopment and how it stands to impact the community.
Snoqualmie Mill is known as a historic industrial site. From your perspective, what part of the property’s history stands out to you and why is it important?
What stands out the most is Snoqualmie Mill’s history as the economic center for the Valley where generations have lived, worked, and created a community. This is important because it has informed our vision and plans for the site’s next vibrant chapter.
The Mill is the last, large, undeveloped size that is zoned for commercial real estate and industrial, and is available for development in King County. Can you talk about the significance of this, given how rapidly the rest of Puget Sound has developed/been built out in recent years?
We’ve always known that Snoqualmie Mill is special and we want to create something that is economically sustainable that will be here for many decades to come. We are certainly aware of the supply and demand to support the region’s needs, but we will have low-density growth that is true to the history of the Valley and consistent with what residents want. It is important to us that anything we do at Snoqualmie Mill is thoughtful, deliberative, and collaborative. More than half of the site, 166 acres or 64%, will be left as open space accessible to the public.
What is your vision for the site? Why?
Our long-term vision for Snoqualmie Mill is of a vibrant community that looks and feels true to the history of the site and to create a gathering place that welcomes families and residents of all ages. Our theme is a “Snoqualmie Mill for All.” We see this as our family’s multigenerational commitment to build something that not only prioritizes the community and environment over short-term investment returns, but also respects the historic and cultural context of the site.
How is this vision reflected in the Snoqualmie Mill Planned Commercial/Industrial Plan?
Our proposed developments at the Mill will include a variety of uses including retail, food & beverage, office, light industrial, and diverse housing via market-rate apartments—all of which are currently lacking in the city. We want people from all income levels who are working in Snoqualmie Valley or at the Mill to be able to live in their own community.
What are the main goals of the plan?
Our main goals at a high level are the environmental enhancement of the existing Mill site and economic revitalization of the Snoqualmie Valley region. Our plan is the sole path that will ensure long-term and sustainable benefits for the community.
What was it like to develop such a plan? What steps of the process did you find most exciting? What steps did you find most challenging and why?
We acquired the Mill site 11 years ago and we have been very deliberate in our approach, speaking to many stakeholders. All of that is to say we’re at a very exciting stage in this moment and we want to share it with our community. We are fully committed to realizing our vision and working through the entitlement process and bring Snoqualmie Mill to life.
What are the biggest challenges in redeveloping the site? Are they environmental? Public-opinion-based?
Some of the biggest challenges we’ve encountered is the perception that we’re intending to turn Snoqualmie Valley into an urban park with an endless sea of parking lots or giant single-family housing development. Our development approach has been a community-first mindset that prioritizes our residents and their needs.
The truth is we will have healthy outdoors spaces accessible to the public and we will have significant environmental enhancement including land remediation and wetland buffers enhancement. We will have market-rate rental apartments, restaurants, retail, and other commercial uses. What we have proposed is managed low-density growth that will lead to a vibrant, economically sustainable community that will be here in the next 100 years.
What feature of the plan is most exciting to you?
The fact that it will and is a community-first development in harmony with its neighbors.
Snoqualmie Mill will be true to the history of the site and reflect the charm of Old Snoqualmie. The plan includes environmental cleanup and remediation that will unlock publicly accessible open space to the community, adding to what makes Snoqualmie Valley special. The Riverwalk will connect the Mill to downtown Snoqualmie.
Do you have a sense of timing for the build out? Cost of development?
We’re still long ways away from that process—we’re in very preliminary stages. We hope to have the permitting process completed in the next 12-24 months and then we’ll get to work on the first phase of development.
What is your perspective on the Puget Sound commercial real estate market/development? Why?
What we can say is that Snoqualmie Valley is special and what we’re doing at the Mill is unique to the context of the site and informed by what this community wants. And this is reflected in our deliberate and careful approach in our proposals and planning. Our perspective on this is hyper-focused on creating something special and unique to Snoqualmie Valley and its residents.