A fish-processing plant planned for the former Weyerhaeuser campus in Federal Way has been scrapped, a victory for neighbors who had fought what they saw as a smelly and noisy intrusion into the idyllic site.
The news came ahead of a City Council meeting Wednesday where officials were set to consider a six-month delay to any development of the site.
But the developer still plans on building something else there.
Leaders from surrounding neighborhoods had formed an opposition coalition in August after being blindsided by the plan to build a $55 million plant for Orca Bay Seafoods and Preferred Freezer Services on the southern part of the 130-acre campus. It was part of a broader vision by the site’s new owners to add more than 1 million square feet of warehouses to the area off Interstate 5.
The property, which sits near single-family homes, has been an unusually scenic and quiet corporate neighbor for decades, with rows of trees 100 feet deep, walking trails, a lake and wildlife.
The city initially was enthusiastic about the plans, but as turmoil grew, officials called several community meetings and sent the plant developer a lengthy letter with 74 detailed questions and comments. All the extra meetings, studies and planning led to delays, and uncertainty over the project’s fate.
Then this week, Los Angeles-based Industrial Realty Group, which bought the land from Weyerhaeuser for $70.5 million in February, sent the city a letter with a surprise announcement: The developer that had previously agreed to buy a 19-acre piece of the land was backing out of the deal and scrapping the 314,000-square-foot seafood plant.
Tom Messmer, an Industrial Realty vice president, declined to say why the plant developer terminated the deal, saying only the change would allow the seafood plant builder “to better meet its project timeline” — presumably building somewhere else.
Representatives for the plant developer, a limited liability company called Chill Build Seattle that’s not registered in Washington, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Orca Bay or Preferred Freezer. And the city did not respond to questions.
Residents opposed to the plant said it was clear the developer backed out after a normally routine process turned into a lengthy and unpredictable ruckus.
“While it’s great news for concerned citizens that this plant won’t be built, we realize our work is not done,” said Lori Sechrist, president of the opposition group, called Save Weyerhaeuser Campus. She said the fight will continue if any subsequent plans inspire similar environmental and traffic concerns.
Messmer said Industrial Realty will move forward with development plans on the former Weyerhaeuser campus, and expects to sift through other warehouse proposals in the new year.
“I’d be a lot more worried if there weren’t other buyers lined up to buy this land. We’ve been turning people away,” he said. “Right now, my focus is on quickly regrouping while the market is still as hot as it is.”
The latest move comes after plans for another, larger warehouse on the northern half of the campus were downsized and reworked after a buyer for that site also backed out three months ago.
Messmer said Industrial Realty has vowed to keep the majority of the site undeveloped. He hopes a different kind of warehouse project would ease residents’ concerns over the frozen seafood plant, which was six stories tall and conjured up images of fish guts and ammonia.
The firm has also begun showing companies around the property’s architecturally renowned main building to replace Weyerhaeuser, which has moved to Seattle.