City unveils concept for ‘arts-infused’ 4th Avenue Cultural Corridor

4th Avenue Cultural Corridor 

Edmonds has unveiled a bold vision for the future of a city that brands itself as “a unique and memorable place” to celebrate the arts.

In 2018, Edmonds was the first city to receive the state’s Creative District designation. During an online open house presentation Monday night via Zoom, consultants and city planners took the next step, sharing the concept of a 4th Avenue Cultural Corridor.

4th Avenue Cultural Corridor

The Cultural Corridor, as proposed, would run north along 4th Avenue from Main Street to the Edmonds Center for the Arts at Daley Street. Its purpose, according to city documents, is to “reinvent” that stretch of 4th as a unique destination, a pedestrian-friendly corridor that connects downtown shops, restaurants and galleries with the ECA. Since 2005, community members, arts groups and planners have dreamed about creating what a city news release calls a “special, arts-infused experience… a more pleasant, safer and more attractive pedestrian experience and a unique destination within Downtown Edmonds.” It is a key part of the five-year development plan for the Creative District.

Edmonds hired CREA Affiliates of Seattle to conceptualize what the Cultural Corridor might look like and envision how it would come to life. Anindita Mitra, founding partner of the firm, joined Edmonds Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty to unveil the concepts and take public feedback. About three dozen people joined the virtual open house.

The Luminous Forest by artist Iole Alessandrini at 4th at Main)\.

Many residents will recognize the first blocks of the corridor from the illuminated Luminous Forest temporary artwork set in the pavement at 4th and Main. The area includes Salt & Iron, The ChurchKey Pub, San Kai Sushi, Gallery North, Rick Steves travel headquarters, North Sound Church and a mix of homes and small businesses.

The corridor plan would preserve some historic buildings as part of a pedestrian-centered avenue that could include mixed-use spaces with retail on the ground floor, residences on upper stories; small outdoor performance areas, art installations, “vest pocket” parks, places to sit and perhaps some artist live/work spaces. The avenue already has a special zoning designation that would allow for arts-based reconstruction and development.

The plans could include festival-style lighting, installations of artworks along the avenue and sidewalks, visual tie-ins to the city’s history, street performers, food trucks, poetry recitals and small performances.

In every scenario presented, 4th Avenue would still be open to vehicles. But the five traffic options discussed might reduce parking to just one side of the street; might turn part of the corridor into one-way traffic and could allow the city to shut off traffic for special events, turning the area into a pedestrian-only mall temporarily.

Click on to hear the entire presentation.

From CREA Affiliates, a conceptual drawing of the 4th Avenue Cultural Corridor.

This was the second public discussion of the proposals, which were first introduced at a public meeting last November. Among the questions asked of participants:

“What about constructing new buildings?”

There are no proposals for that right now but Patrick Doherty says the special zoning along 4th Avenue North (BD-5) allows for that.

“Does the city plan to purchase any properties along the corridor?”

Doherty: “there is currently no proposal for that.”

“What is the plan to work with property owners?”

Doherty said that is “a wide-open question; we don’t know the impact on adjacent property owners yet.” He added that the answer will depend on the final concept for the Corridor.

“If a one-way traffic option is selected for 4th Avenue, how will the city handle traffic from activities at Edmonds Center for the Arts?”

A traffic study must still be done.

“If a one-way traffic option is chosen on 4th, would 5th be one way in the opposite direction?”

Doherty: “There’s no real need for that, it’s not being discussed now.”

“If sidewalks and art works abut the property owners’ front yards, will they lose their front yards?”

Doherty: “That’s a key question; what most people see as ‘front yard’ next to the sidewalk is part of the city’s unimproved right-of-way; enhanced landscape or artwork could be placed there. And, property owners may have to ‘oversee’ the artwork placed there.” There will need to be a set of guidelines or agreements with the property owners, he added.

“Would street artists need permits?”

There is a city public performance permits process, but a new template may have to be devised to accommodate street artists.

“What’s the first phase of the project?”

Anindita Metra: “The two blocks from Main to Edmonds Street are the first phase. We never imagined 4th being a pedestrian area only; we will still have traffic and as much parking there as the community wants.”

“What will the Corridor cost and how will it be funded?”

“We’re not there yet,” said Doherty. “It will depend on what the community wants. We have begun the process; the city council allocated $100,000 for concept and design work. We will seek more next year from the council if it approves this concept. We may be able to get a small amount of money from the state because it is a special project for the Creative District. The plan has been to start the process, get energy behind it and seek the funds as you go.”

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. That sounds great. I would like to have a donor bench in memory of my parents. My Dad was a WWII Veteran and our Mother was a very caring devoted Christian.

  2. There are MANY houses of tax paying Edmonds residents on both sides of this street. Where are they supposed to park their vehicles? And god forbid, they ever decide to have friends or family over to visit or for the holidays. And for the businesses along 4th, where are their revenue generating customers supposed to park who want to shop at the stores or dine at those restaurants? Sure – it sounds all neat and fancy and cool with this “conceptual drawing” but in reality, this is absolute madness!

    1. Yes, They are years away from this. You are right Kacey the town has lost its mind. Its also setting itself up for a major set back in many ways. I am hearing the buzz.. I am seeing what part of this town is becoming. It will be coming down the hill too. Having Edmonds now in News Print and Social Media talking about the Racism here in Edmonds is not a good thing and you know why. We are not immune to having a riot right here. So until things calm down and protests are over and we have adequate parking and improvements where needed, not just in the City Center area, I think we should just be happy with what you have already taken from the rest of Edmonds to make the little European Pavilion which only encourages crowds which according to CDC etc is exactly what we should not be doing. Once a vaccine is approved we can reevaluate the situation. WHAT we need is parking first to entice all those people you think are going to come to Edmonds for their Art Work. I like the ideas they are cool. BUT it is not time for the desert we are not finished with Breakfast let alone Dinner. So hang on and try to quite ticking off the older quite spry and healthy and rich older people… You need us for the money. We can take it all away and go elsewhere. Online is still alive and well as Bellvue , Mill Creek has lots of nice shops now too and I could go on. But Lets just slow down take a breath. Get thru the covid 19 situation, help the Black residents of our community and mean it and then after 2020 is over re-think.

    2. Kasey, those folks will no doubt continue to park where they already park~ off the alleys behind the homes and other buildings along 4th Ave. N. Nearly all have backyard parking for multiple vehicles.

    1. Good point Allen. We have a lot of safety issues to address in the city. Edmonds has a serious problem with expensive and often ridiculous “studies.” Clearly we have spent a lot with CREA consultants that could have been better spent elsewhere.

      The “study” on 5 corners just went from one outlandish idea to another. One of the options was large buildings with no parking whatsoever. In the end it just ended up being a large waste of money.

      I like the lights on 4th the Luminous Forest, and think that it is great that Edmonds received a State Creative District designation. However, this does not seem like a good application for that. I would prefer free or subsidized events that encouraged people to create new art. A free event that was held once or twice a month that featured local artists teaching people about making art in person and streamed online would be a much better use of funds for a Creative District. Maybe one of the classes could be right before the art walk, and one could be on the weekend. I for one have been interested in learning about metal working and metal art.

      That way we could be doing more to promote the Creative District than just taking away parking from people living on 4th, and we could save money for the most at need sidewalk projects elsewhere in Edmonds.

  3. Leave the downtown area alone! Quit listening to people like Rick Steves and listen to the tax paying members of town! Leave downtown alone and make improvements in other areas! The area around 99 NEEDS help! Put your creative “things” near schools, grocery stores, Westgate!
    This is NOT what the citizens of Edmonds want!

  4. Very exciting. Arts are one of those things that draws tourism AND benefits the lives of current residents. While this is certainly a “nice to have” and should be prioritized and funded as such, I hope we’re able to recognize the benefit this will bring to our already wonderful city, not only in terms of the fairly obvious tourism dollars but also in terms of community quality of life.

  5. This is a part of how we build an increasingly vibrant, interesting and attractive community.

    Keep going Edmonds, look forward. Those who wish that it was 1968, your time is past.

    I cannot think of a more polite way to put it ….

    1. Sometimes it’s hard to “look forward”, Mr. Gill, to nice “arts infused” cultural projects when so many existing problems that have plaqued Edmonds for years have not been addressed. People who have lived in Edmonds for a few years or more & who have been paying attention to local government can all recite the chronic issues with roads, parking, affordable housing, etc; the list is not long but it is indeed significant. And seeing that the city council approved $100k for concept & design work for this “art infused” project when there are critical infrastructure issues that still need to be addressed is borderline appauling.

      1. Kacey, I’ve been here in Edmonds for 30 years, and have paid lots of taxes and watched the community grow during that time so please don’t patronize me about “people who have lived in Edmonds for a few years or more …”.

        The issues of roads, sidewalks and parking are of course important, but this isn’t an “either/or” calculus. Nobody is detracting from the importance of sidewalks and/or parking in order to pursue this initiative. The fact is that we are a growing and evolving community (and I have read plenty about how that sucks for some people), but this is what successful communities do. I fully support any emphasis on getting our sidewalks improved, and on getting our “parking crisis” solved, but that doesn’t mean that we should dismiss – out of hand – initiatives that make our community better. We can actually walk and chew gum at the same time, if people give it a chance.

    2. I’ll tell you what Paul. When I am no longer paying exorbitant taxes, when I am no longer supporting you. When I am not buying the expensive major purchases without parental help to help our city..Then my time is past. I did not find that polite at all. Infact I found it quite the opposite. First I do not want it to be 1968 again. In 1968 none of what we see would or was allowed to go on for long! Trust me. I would watch my mouth if I were you. Thank you.

  6. Where is all this coming from?? The newly elected Mayor or Rick Steves or BLM? Is there a committee that comes up with these ideas?? I like the idea that helps new artists. We need parking lots. You better be careful creating dead area that liberal groups can “take over.”

  7. As a property owner in the subject area, I’m very interested in hearing more about “And, property owners may have to ‘oversee’ the artwork placed there. There will need to be a set of guidelines or agreements with the property owners, he added.”

    Take my street parking and then make me responsible for artwork I may or may not even like? This could get interesting….

    What’s odd is that as an adjacent property owner I’m only hearing about this because I happened to see an article in My Edmonds News. Shouldn’t I be getting some sort of formal notification? Or will we only get that notice much later when there is a formal hearing and then we will hear “oh, this study has been going on for years”. Classic Edmonds policy development that will leave two choices: 1. lawsuit or 2. sell for highest price and move on.

    Standing by.

  8. I should have said… take away the public street parking in front of my home… (I know that I don’t own the street parking. But it is part of the mostly residential neighborhood affected that the city sees fit to issue exception parking permits for for people who live there today. It must be of some value or importance?)

    Que sera, sera…

  9. I wonder if this change to how the City uses its street easement expands the use of the easement beyond what was contemplated at the time the easement was granted. If the City does this, is it increasing the burden on the servient estate? The City already admits that it does not know the IMPACT on adjacent property owners yet. I hope the City will figure out the impact on the servient estate and disclose such promptly. I think those property owners deserve to know everything so they can prepare to participate in the related public process. There should be no surprises or secrets.

    As for property owners having to “oversee” the artwork, would not that increase the burden placed on the servient estate? Doesn’t the City have the duty to maintain or repair the easement’s improvements rather than the owner of the servient estate over which the easement runs?

    The idea sounds appealing in some ways but I worry about the City’s historical conduct related to its easements.

  10. Another example of the City’s conduct related to its easements is evidenced by its multiyear legal effort over the scope of the pedestrian easement in front of the Ebb Tide Condominiums. I suspect at dispute is whether the City’s desires are consistent with what was contemplated at the time the easement was granted. Or, is what the City wants to do an additional burden to those who granted the easement?
    I believe hundreds if not thousands of legal hours have been expended by our City government on this issue. Does anybody know the current status?
    Here is a link to a previous article about this topic:

    1. Getting a pedestrian easement along the ridiculous section of Ebb Tide the #1 thing I have wanted Edmonds to do. It sounds like most of the city wants it as well.

      This certainly would make an excellent follow up story in MEN on what the progress there is on this.

      1. The last time the city reported on this in a council meeting (a few months ago, perhaps), it was still being litigated. I will check back to see if that’s still the case.

        1. Wow that was very fast thank you!!

          I found a May 23 2019 hearing on the issue

          I wonder if the beach shutdown has anything to do with this planned construction?

          “The City of Edmonds and the Edmonds Senior Center are proposing to redevelop the Edmonds Senior Center site along with its associated parking and beach access, and to construct an overwater walkway in front of the Ebb Tide Condominium. The proposed Edmonds Waterfront Center building will be used by the Edmonds Senior Center to continue providing senior services and programming during weekdays…

          The proposed overwater walkway will connect two existing portions of the Edmonds Marine Walkway to provide a continuous pedestrian access along the waterfront. Approximately 1,424 cubic yards of fill and 36 creosote-treated timber piles that make up the existing bulkhead will be removed, and a new beach access point with pile-supported concrete stairs and ramp will be added within the existing footprint. The parking lot will be reconfigured, and will incorporate a bioretention planter for water quality treatment and infiltration. “

  11. Thanks Teresa,
    I did a quick search to see how many City Attorney hours were spent on the Ebb Tide easement issue for the three years 2017 – 2019. Per the respective City Attorney Annual Reports, hours spent were as follows:

    2017 – 280 hours
    2018 – 1,430 hours
    2019 – 1,081 hours

    More hours are being worked in 2020.

    1. Thanks Ken. So over 2800 hours spent on this issue not counting 2020 and no resolution. Yikes. That’s one heck of a City Attorney.

      1. Ummm…folks, please. This story and discussion is about the proposed Arts & Culture corridor on 4th Ave. N. and has nothing to do with old litigation at the Ebb Tide condos. Totally separate issues!

        1. Thanks Allen and I hear your point Roger. I brought this up is because both issues involve City Easements and the scope of those Easements. The Ebb Tide situation shows that the City is willing to go to great lengths to argue the scope of their Easement rights.
          The July 31, 2017 City Council Meeting Minutes show that the 2017 City Council went into Executive Session, exited and voted to authorize the City Attorney to initiate an action in Court to resolve the dispute over the scope of the City’s public access easement in front of the Ebb Tide Condominiums. The motion carried unanimously. Did the 2017 City Council consider whether the citizens wanted the City to expend significant resources arguing what the City can do with its easement rights?
          Is this type of City conduct fair to those on the other side of the argument? The City seems to have significant taxpayer funded resources to spend on easement litigation. Do property owners need to have huge resources on hand to fight back against the City should there be a difference of opinion about the scope of the City’s easement rights?
          This popped into my mind when I read the comment in the article above:
          Doherty said that is “a wide-open question; we don’t know the impact on adjacent property owners yet.”
          The word “impact” caused me to consider the burden this arts corridor might put on the servient estate, the owners of the fee title to the property. Concerns about parking and oversight of Art have already been voiced. If these concerns grow into a legal dispute, how much City Attorney time is appropriate to spend on a scope of easement litigation issue?
          I think the scope contemplated at the time the easement was granted is very important.

        2. The complicated Easement questions, and possible ligation, are a huge part the Arts corridor. Maybe more so than a committee deciding which political artwork is going to go in front of whose house, with an obligation to maintain it.

  12. I for one am super excited about the idea of creating and enhancing an art based, pedestrian friendly corridor. Art has the potential to bring people together as a community. This is a vision that started long ago and I look forward to participating in seeing its progress. Like others who have posted, I also worry about decreased parking, agreements about having to maintain art work and losing what I consider to be some of my front yard. That said, there seems to be several options at play that have various degrees of impact. At the end of the day, I’m supportive of this effort. Time to think about the options and fill out the survey!

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