Revamp and Expansion of Woodbridge Corporate Park to Preserve Federal Way’s Iconic Weyerhaeuser Headquarters with Juxtaposition between Nature and Development
By Meghan Hall
The former Weyerhaeuser headquarters has long been a fixture in Federal Way, solidifying its place as one of the first large-scale, suburban corporate headquarters on the West Coast upon its opening in 1971. Since then, the campus has also been of note for its careful balance of commercial development and green landscaping. Now named the Woodbridge Corporate Park, the property’s new owners have plans in store to add new industrial buildings to the site in a bid to bring jobs back to Federal Way and preserve the existing headquarters.
Originally designed by architect Edward Charles Basset and landscape architect Peter Walker, the low-rise Weyerhaeuser building sits in a meadow nestled in a wooded grove. The building’s terraces are clad in ivy and walking paths wind across the campus. Other features added over the years include a rhododendron garden and a bonsai museum to the south, as well as a technical center, located on the northern end of the property. The campus and its extensive network of open spaces, trails and lakefront have been accessible to the public for decades.
Weyerhaeuser moved from the campus to Seattle in 2016, leaving behind its original headquarters. The firm’s new campus is far cry from its original home base; located at 200 Occidental, the 158,000 square foot office sits on just 0.61 acres in the heart of downtown’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. In transitioning to a new headquarters, it sold its 425-acre Federal Way property to Los Angeles-based Industrial Realty Group for $70 million.
Since then, Industrial Realty Group has been working diligently to reposition the asset. The firm is currently marketing the existing five-story, Class B building as it pursues an expansion of the campus—one that Industrial Realty Group maintains holds the key to preserving the former Weyerhaeuser headquarters.
“Our vision from the beginning has been to redevelop the campus to preserve it in a way that number one, recreates the jobs that were lost…and number two, [creates] those jobs in a way that is conducive to the preservation of the campus,” explained Industrial Realty Group’s executive vice president Dana A. Ostenson.
Ostenson added, “This campus is the life blood of the Federal Way economy.”
Included in Industrial Realty’s plans for the property is a 226,000 square foot industrial building, for which the firm has procured approvals. Another industrial building adjacent to the new project, as well as an additional three structures near the technical center are also in the works. Combined, the buildings could total more than two million square feet.
The driving ethos for the repositioning of the asset is “nature blending with function,” according to Industrial Realty. The firm intends to build upon the original legacy of the property through a number of measures. A forested buffer on the development sites will revive an almost obsolete strategy of putting new industrial and generic buildings behind trees so that they are hidden from roadways. According to Industrial Realty, this practice used to be more commonplace but had since phased out over the past two decades. Additionally, view-conservation easements on the meadows will be pursued so no development could occur that will block views. The easement will always allow the former Weyerhaeuser building to be seen from the road. Another easement—geared toward historic preservation—will allow the building to retain its architectural significance in the long-run.
“What is most important to know about what we’re doing is that we’re continuing the development of the campus in a way that is following the initial ideas about its development,” said Ostenson.
The revenue generated from the development of the property will pay for the preservation of the original campus in the coming years. Construction on the property will generate 780 jobs in the near-term and generate $13 million in tax revenue. Once build out is completed and the new development is operational, it is expected to add 3,100 permanent jobs and create $6.8 million in annual tax revenue.
However, Industrial Realty has faced opposition to its plans by a number of community organizations and members of the public. The non-profit called “Save Weyerhaeuser Campus,” maintains that the new development would not serve the community and negatively impact traffic, the local watershed and other aspects of the environment.
The Puyallup Tribe of Indians has also voiced strong concern over the project and its potential to negatively influence cultural resources and the Hylebos Creek—a particularly significant stream to the Tribe.
“The filling of wetlands in the Building A and Building B footprints and adjacent parking areas not only will permanently impact site wetland hydrology, but will also impact downstream flows to Hylebos Creek,” Char Naylor, the Tribe’s assistant habitat director and water quality program manager explained in a statement. “ESA [Endangered Species Act] species, including steelhead, chinook and bull trout utilize the Hylebos system and the Tribe and others have spent millions of dollars to restore over the last several decades.”
Naylor continued, adding, “Preservation of base flows to the creek and moderation of stream temperature are of paramount importance to the Tribe.”
Ostenson acknowledged that opponents have the right to pursue recourse as the development undergoes City review, but stated that Industrial Realty is “developing in a very responsible way.”
Industrial Realty also maintains that the new additions will be critical to maintaining the existing campus in the first place, providing the needed financing mechanisms for its continued maintenance and rehabilitation.
“The campus was always there to develop as was needed over the decades…and we’re continuing to do that,” said Ostenson, who also explained the property was already zoned for such expansion. “The development that we have applications in for are only areas where commercial development was planned in the past.”
For Industrial Realty, it is clear that the new and the old portions of the property cannot exist without each other, a point that Ostenson emphasized. “The preservation of the campus is dependent on [the property] remaining a campus,” he said.