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.
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 4thave.edmondswa.gov to hear the entire presentation.
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