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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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