My view of the Harbor Square Redevelopment Plan
By Chris Keuss
I am responding to public comments made to the City Council and letters in the news media regarding the Harbor Square Redevelopment Plan. Several speakers and letter writers, in opposition to the proposal, gave incorrect or misleading information. Much of this I am sure you are aware. I encourage the Council to keep an open mind to an opportunity that may not be available again in our lifetime.
The issues appear to be centered on the following: environmental concerns, Edmonds Marsh impacts, construction feasibility, view corridors, downtown linkage, and building heights. As a member of the preliminary task group (oversight committee), I can assure the Council that the aforementioned concerns were reviewed, discussed and debated. The task group was also concerned about the issues noted above and their impacts on residences, the business district, the waterfront and the community at large. Edmonds is a special place and we do not want to negatively impact this unique community.
Impacts from my point of view:
The Edmonds Marsh – This area is a very sensitive and important environmental ecosystem that must be maintained and hopefully improved upon with any nearby development. The Port has committed to working with the City and the Edmonds Marsh Committee to not only maintain but to enhance this important area. Enhanced walking trails, ecosystem info plaques, and site overviews have been discussed. Something to think about….how about a information/conference/education center on the site with support from the City, State, School District, Community College, UW and the Port!
Environmental Issues – This includes the soil and sub terrain conditions, storm water, air quality, building materials, waterfront impacts and a number of other programs that will be addressed as part of the ongoing review and site planning. Geotec and environmental engineers have been monitoring the soil conditions of the site for over 20 years. The Port is aware of the conditions and knows that clean up and foundation work will be key to any successful building program on the site. Many of the issues are already known and they will be more fully examined and explored in future phases. Details that some are asking for now are not appropriate at this phase of the process.
Linkage to the Downtown Business Core - This is an important element in the Plan, to link the downtown area to the waterfront which would be advantageous to both Harbor Square and the downtown area. Businesses thrive with other businesses. The linkage can be accomplished with signage, plantings, directional streetscapes, roadway design, and pedestrian enhanced walkways. Current businesses that have put off upgrades to store fronts will want to upgrade to become part of a new thriving community that such a development will bring.
Transit Oriented Development (TOD)- This is a tie in to the linkage element above. A TOD type of development will meet the needs of a younger generation that is environmentally aware and willing to take alternative transportation modes to their destination. More and more of these types of developments are also desirable to mix generations which is great for a small town community. What better way than to live a few blocks from the train station and commute to Everett or Seattle. Advantages here include more interest in the waterfront, more traffic to downtown businesses and restaurants, and the use of public amenities that may be featured on the site.
View Corridors/Height - View corridor protection was a priority principle put forth by the steering committee. As much as possible, building siting on the property was to be placed in areas of the property that protected views. The Port has reconfigured the building footprint to ensure the best possible view corridor. Height configuration on the site will incorporate building modulation. Per the current plan, taller buildings are situated on the least impacted view segment of the property.
Financial Impact - This project will bring more people to Edmonds. This will include new residences, new businesses and new services. All of these population groups will enhance the quality of life in Edmonds by bringing much needed tax revenue to the City, and bring new and different businesses/services. A development that includes housing helps to fulfill the mandate by the Growth Management Act…increase in housing density. This means more people residing in the core of Edmonds which will mean more business for the shops, stores, restaurants, theatre, art galleries and coffee houses.
Other Tangible Benefits
- Additional employment opportunities.
- A more vital and alive waterfront.
- A place where current residents and visitors will want to visit and walk the marsh trails and new pedestrian walks in the development.
- Will help make the community at large more safe and secure.
- Will make the community even more of a destination which will help new and existing businesses; will help home and apartment sales; will enhance the Edmonds community as a “livable community.”
In Conclusion - I urge the City council to not let this opportunity pass by. You may not all agree on certain elements of the plan, but you can work with the Port officials in developing reasonable solutions to any concerns you may have. Surely you can advance the process in order to receive more input and more details on what the Port envisions for the site. My hope is that this Council is visionary and sees the possible benefits that can be derived from such a plan. You have a once in a lifetime opportunity to help formulate something special as your legacy to the community for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. I urge you to approve this master plan as part of the City of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan and allow the process to continue to the next stage.