For the sake of transparency, I’ll admit this issue is personal for me. The only place I’ve lived in Edmonds is near Highway 99.
My husband and I purchased our first starter home — a true fixer-upper on 230th Street Southwest near 74th Avenue West — in the mid-1980s. We were two blocks from Highway 99 and several blocks from Lake Ballinger. We had been renting in Seattle but couldn’t afford to buy a place there. This opportunity to build sweat equity, by literally tearing out carpeting, refinishing floors, repainting walls and laying down sod, was grueling and satisfying. We shopped at Country Farms outdoor produce market and at the mark-your-own-cans grocery store before it became a Rite Aid. We watched as the Kmart became the Ranch 99 Market complex, and soon Edmonds had its own International District.
Several years later, with our two kids approaching their middle school years, we knew we needed more space. We were very lucky to find a larger home that we could afford close to the lake — and we’ve lived there ever since.
So personally, I was thrilled when the City of Edmonds under Mayor Dave Earling began work to revitalize the Highway 99 area by developing a subarea plan, which was approved by the city council in 2017. (That work inspired me to publish a six-part “Transforming Highway 99” series in 2018.) And I was equally excited when the city, under Mayor Mike Nelson, hosted an “Uptown Market” in the area last summer.
Which brings me to the topic of this column.
While the “Uptown Market” is a catchy name and certainly was effective in reinforcing the location of the market outside of downtown Edmonds, I am now seeing more and more references — in city press releases and other communications — to the Highway 99 area as “Uptown.” Which begs several questions.
First, should city officials — who may or may not live around Highway 99 — be the ones deciding what the Highway 99 neighborhood calls itself? Shouldn’t there be some type of process for that? Meetings, surveys or maybe even an actual ballot mailed out to all households in the area?
Second, which parts of Highway 99, exactly, will this area — be it “Uptown” or something else — encompass? In past discussions about Highway 99, the area near Swedish Edmonds hospital and its related medical facilities has been called the Hospital District. The area near Ranch 99 Market, including many Asian businesses, is the International District. Further muddying the waters, the Highway 99 corridor study developed as part of the subarea plan referred to the entire Highway 99 corridor in Edmonds as the Gateway District.
As many have noted, the needs of those who live near Highway 99 have been ignored by the city for far too long. Let’s make sure we have a thoughtful, thorough, inclusive discussion — with those who actually live there — before deciding our neighborhood’s identity.
— Teresa Wippel, Publisher