I have written before about several large projects the community currently has in play. All have made good progress and are all in various stages of development. Yet they do not all follow a “common” process. All are complicated and often carry their own frustrations and rewards.
An update seems to be in order. The first and most recent is the successful progress on the Waterfront Center. This past Tuesday, City Council gave permission to take down the current Senior Center and begin construction of this new senior center/community center. Although not all of the funds have yet been raised, the council is convinced there is a clear path forward for funding, and construction will begin soon.
The Civic Park project also took a large step forward a week or so ago. The council had a thorough update on what will eventually become a magnificent 8-acre park in the heart of downtown. The eventually $12 million project has already assembled $9.3 million, and following the presentation the council gave the go-ahead to the current plan.
Related to Civic Park, citizens offered comments expressing concerns over parking related to the project. Several helpful suggestions for parking around the periphery of the property were given by councilmembers, but in the end the council understood that major project like this must not be stopped, altered and redesigned after the comprehensive, advanced planning, public involvement and successful fundraising that has already taken place.
We recently took up the restoration of our marsh. As many of you know, there is great community support to restore this unique environmental asset. The council set aside $1.3 million in the 2019 budget as a sign of our early commitment. We have been working with our local state legislators and the Governor’s office as well as other state agencies, and have made good progress. We will be going to Washington, D.C. in May to meet with our congressional delegation on the marsh and other city business.
The Waterfront Connector is a $27 million project intended to provide emergency-response access for our community at those times when both the Main and Dayton Street rail crossings are blocked, as has happened for extended periods seven or eight times since I have been in office, and occurs daily for shorter periods. During these periods, emergency response to the Waterfront is entirely cut off. Safety is our highest priority! Beyond the safety provided, it would also provide year round pedestrian access to the waterfront for walking and bicycles.
The Connector will be only one lane wide and will not be used for general automobile access. Agreeing that public safety and reliable emergency response is vital, the state has contributed $6 million and the Port of Edmonds $1.5 million for the project, and we have a request in to BNSF for a contribution also. We continue to work with the state and federal government for additional funding.
Highway 99 improvements are the most ambitious. Our two-and-a-half-mile stretch of this highway, while successful on many fronts, needs to also see dramatic upgrades. We have three distinct areas, which include the “Gateway” area featuring our quality automobile dealerships, the lively International District, and the successful Health Care District, centered around Swedish Medical Center.
The long-term goal for Highway 99 is to put in place substantial traffic safety and pedestrian improvements, while encouraging new development along the corridor, featuring buildings with retail and business space on the main level and affordable housing units above. The long-term goal is to develop the a string of mixed-use neighborhoods with gathering places, plazas and open space, a variety of goods and services, not to mention the traffic safety and pedestrian improvements.
The estimated long-term cost is $175 million-$200 million and will take years to complete. The Legislature has provided the initial $10 million for planning and traffic improvements. Most of the funding will require state funding and grants. With the zoning amendments provided by the council, changes and improvements are already under way, with a new car dealership and a large apartment complex.
All of the projects above will take community and leadership commitment. We have over time been able to earn the respect of our Legislature and federal officials, who have supported these projects in principal and with funding. What’s more, we have department directors and staff in place with the needed disciplines to help make these projects a reality. We simply need to “put our shoulders to the wheel” and follow through. Easy talk, hard work.
— By Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling