Edmonds Waterfront Center a hive of activity as November opening approaches

The Waterfront Center exterior and parking area continue to get finishing touches in preparation for the planned November opening.

It’s full speed ahead in every corner of the Edmonds Waterfront Center, the new community center that is replacing the now-demolished Edmonds Senior Center at 220 Railroad Ave.

The large interior lobby is a beehive of construction activity, as workers put the finishing touches on this space.

A Thursday hard hat tour led by Waterfront Center Executive Director Daniel Johnson guided participants through the new structure, as scores of construction workers busily snaked wires, installed cabinetry, primed sheetrock, ran ductwork and generally tended to the myriad of tasks to be checked off the list before the scheduled November opening.

“I really feel like I have the greatest job in the world,” said Johnson, who has been intimately involved in the project since the early planning stages. “Now that we’re approaching completion, the excitement is really building – I can hardly sleep at night, I’m just so pumped about this.”

This aerial view shows the parking area and the new building. To accommodate predicted rises in sea levels, the parking area slopes up toward the center, making the building base 3 feet higher than the old senior center. (Photo by Daniel Johnson)

The tour began in the parking area to the east of the new building, where Johnson pointed out the gentle slope from the building down to the sidewalk along Railroad Avenue.

“The old building was level with that sidewalk line,” he said.  “But thinking ahead, we built the base of the new one 3 feet higher to accommodate for the predicted rise in sea levels.”

Entering the building, visitors step into a cacophony of construction noises and an army of energetic hard-hatted workers laser-focused on getting the job done. Many tasks are running simultaneously and in various stages of completion as the final sprint to the targeted November opening picks up speed.

The large glass walls of the lobby area provide the perfect vantage point to observe beach restoration activity.

Just inside the entrance, visitors emerge into the high-ceilinged lobby, where walls of glass frame the ever-changing tableau of Puget Sound, the Olympics, and the steady coming and going of ferry traffic.

“We envision this as a place for community members to gather, meet friends, or just sit back and  enjoy the ambiance,” said Johnson. “In addition, the room will include a coffee and gelato bar operated by Edmonds’ own Feed Me Hospitality, our food services contractor.”

Many details remain to be completed. Here a worker applies primer to the sheetrock enclosing the permanent bar in the banquet room.
The banquet room can be arranged in a variety of configurations from table dining to theater.

Adjacent to the lobby through a set of double doors is the large banquet room that will accommodate 208 people for dining, and up to 300 when configured theater-style. The west wall is all glass, offering Puget Sound and mountain views. Opposite is the food preparation area, a modern, all-electric, LEED gold-standard kitchen (no fossil fuels are used anywhere in the building) where Feed Me Hospitality staff will prepare restaurant-quality meals.

“Senior centers have the unfortunate reputation of being in the worst building in town and serving up the worst food,” quipped Johnson. “But we’re changing that to the best location and the best food.

“Our food service will operate as a community café,” he continued. “Everyone regardless of age will dine together. Meals for seniors and others who qualify will be subsidized, others will pay market rate. But the meals will be identical, and no one will know who is paying what. Tips will not be accepted, but those paying market rate will have the option to ‘pay it forward’ and put what would be a tip toward helping defray the cost of subsidized meals.”

The upstairs teaching kitchen room is adaptable to a range of activities from classes to small weddings.

Other first-floor rooms include a community room, which will be available free for local groups and clubs needing a meeting space, showers and lockers (because these encourages staff to commute by bicycle, these garner extra LEED points for the project). There is also space for the thrift store, but due to a recent decision to maintain the thrift store in its current Westgate location, this will now become a flex space adaptable to exercise classes and other programs. And there’s even a “green room” for brides to prep for wedding events. These and other main floor rooms are wired to livestream events from the larger banquet room, particularly important in these COVID times when vulnerable populations need to pay extra attention to social distancing.

The second floor will be home to the health and wellness center and will include office space for both a resident nurse and a social worker. Partnerships with dental providers mean that these services will be available, along with blood pressure monitoring, vaccinations and related health services.

Rounding out the second floor are a number of multi-purpose rooms to accommodate a range of programs, a “teaching kitchen” room with an outdoor balcony able to accommodate up to 100 people at tables for events such as small weddings or celebrations of life, a game room, and administrative offices.

A balcony off the teaching kitchen room features a green wall, soon to be covered with growing plants.

Heading back outdoors, Johnson pointed out the still-under-construction 70-stall parking area. While this may not be sufficient to accommodate parking needs for larger events, they are working on an agreement with the Port of Edmonds to offer valet parking, using space in the port lots. He added that being right next to a major bus-ferry-train transportation hub also offers options for getting to and from the center.

Johnson points out the work in progress as the old bulkhead is removed and beach restoration begins.

Walking toward the water, Johnson highlighted this week’s area of most intense activity, where workers are finally removing the old creosote-laden bulkhead and beginning the planned restoration and enhancement of the beach habitat.

“The beach restoration and parking area are being funded and managed by the City of Edmonds,” Johnson explained. “For the waterfront area, we’re actually building a new beach. We’re hauling out all the old contaminated sand and pilings, bringing in new sand and rock, and creating a more natural area.”

Stairs from the new beach walkway to the sand are longer than they look. They actually extend 5-6 feet below the sand to accommodate for the occasional wind and tide action that often sweeps sand back from Edmonds beaches. (Photo by Daniel Johnson)

Up from the sand and water, the beach area will be separated from the parking area by a walkway contiguous with the existing promenade connecting with Brackett’s Landing South. Stairs will lead down to the beach at several points.

“We’re still aiming to have this open before the end of November,” he concluded  “This is the senior center’s gift to the community – we’re no longer segmenting seniors but creating a place for all generations to gather. I am so thrilled.”

You can see the most recent video of construction progress at the Edmonds Waterfront Center here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

    1. We deeply appreciate the vision, dedication, and hard work of everyone including the construction team at the EWC! It will be such a gift to the community! Please support the EWC in anyway we can!

  1. Thank you, Teresa. I’m happy to learn that this expense is not part of the Waterfront Center project. I have viewed this area a couple of times each week for many years. The work has been going on periodically during the past several months with the demolishment and the reconstruction of the bulkhead. I believe that this is an unnecessary significant expense for our city.

  2. I’ve now made a quick review of city council agendas and have been unable to determine when this project received council approval. Can anyone provide that info?

  3. Ron, I’m not sure exactly what you are looking for, but the following is taken from the July 12, 2016 City Council Agenda. There is much more information in that Agenda Packet:

    Project History – Responding to the unprecedented demographic aging trend and significant structural issues facing the 55-year old current Edmonds Senior Center building (a 2007 geotechnical report found that the building “would not perform at a Life Safety level during a code level seismic event”), the ESC Board voted to embark on a capital campaign to replace the building. Rather than just build a new senior center, the Board decided to use the opportunity to build a modern 26,000 sf community center facility offering programs for residents of all ages. The City of Edmonds Strategic Action Plan adopted in 2013 defines as one of its objectives “Develop a long term solution for maintaining and updating the Senior Center.” This objective was ranked in the highest rated category by the citizens in an extensive survey of the community. The Edmonds Senior Center was appointed the lead by the City in accomplishing this objective, with the assistance of the Parks & Recreation Department. During the preliminary design phase and in conversations with the City, the desire to remove the exiting bulkhead and improve beach access was identified as secondary objective. The City is taking the lead on the beach restoration effort. Our plan is that the ESC will raise the necessary funds for the new facility, build the structure, own and maintain the building, governed by a Ground Lease with the City. The terms of that lease have been agreed and an Option to Lease contract has been signed with the City. Once we reach a $7.5M fundraising threshold, we can exercise the option.

    1. The following is taken from the July 19, 2016 City Council Agenda. Happy to research more if this isn’t exactly what you are looking for:

      Previous Council action:

      City Council Passed Resolution 1313 on March 18, 2014 supporting rebuilding of the Edmonds Senior Center at its current location.

      City Council unanimously approved having staff negotiate a lease with the Senior Center on October 21, 2014.

      On December 9th, the City Council had a study session about the Option to Lease and the Ground Lease and gave staff direction.

      On January 27, 2015 City Council authorized the Mayor to sign the Option to Lease and the Ground Lease.

      In February, 2016, City Council met with the Senior Center staff and board as part of their Council retreat to hear an update on the project, and see the beginnings of the conceptual design.

      On July 12, 2016, Council forwarded this item for approval at the July 19, 2016 meeting.

      I know that this process also involved reconsideration of the Critical Areas action taken by City Council on December 15, 2015. My Edmonds News reported on January 25, 2016 that the City Council is scheduled to reconsider action taken by the Council on December 15th.

  4. Ken:
    Thank you for all of the background material. In May 2019 council did not accept bids for the bulkhead redevelopment as they were deemed to be too high. My question is asking when did they next take up this matter to grant approval.

    1. I understand now. It was approved 4-2 during the August 5, 2019 City Council Meeting. The related City Council Agenda Packet contains much detailed information and the Meeting Minutes document extensive discussion of the matter.

      The minutes document the last comments made before the 4-2 vote:

      Council President Fraley-Monillas said she will vote no on the motion because she needs more information to make a good decision for the City. She reminded Council, noting it irritated her to hear Councilmembers say it, this was not a signature project for Edmonds. The City of Edmonds’ signature project is Civic Field. This is a project created by a non-profit that the City has partnered with but is not the City’s signature project.

      Councilmember Nelson said none of the Council was happy with where the project was but he will continue to support moving it forward. However, he wanted to avoid this happening again and whatever could be done to ensure estimates were more accurate. Moving forward he will be very skeptical when he sees these kind of numbers and it will dictate how he votes in the future. Because of the point this project is at and how it predicates other projects moving forward with the new Waterfront Community Center, he will support the motion.

      Mayor Earling commented virtually every Sound Transit Board meeting includes discussion about cost escalation. Competition for projects can lower costs; when there is little competition, costs increase. He was sympathetic and empathetic about the concerns voiced, but there are timing issues with moving two projects along at the same time that depend on each other. He was hopeful the Council would support moving the project forward, recognizing it was hard to do. Sound Transit is facing similar challenges with their projects, many in much larger amounts.

      1. Thanks very much, Ken. Your research substantiated my hunch that this bulkhead realignment project had to be very costly. At more than $3 million it turned out to be a nice-to-do thing and not a necessary thing to do. City council should never have approved it.

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