Letter to the editor: Many questions about proposed Main Street apartment


Being nearby Main Street property owners, we are concerned about this project, its impact on the streetscape and are wondering if it is a one-off or a preview of coming attractions.

Most of us may recall that high school or college paper or project that had a checklist of elements to include. For example, number of words, footnotes, perhaps even a bibliography and table of contents. We may also remember the night before the due date, cramming to get all of the boxes checked, but creating a really lousy project, which the resulting grade reflected. That is what it looks like here. The architect has tried to check off of all the boxes to get a passing grade from the city but has failed miserably.

The design is to say the least, non-descript, perhaps even brutal and, despite the applicant’s remarks, pretty much void of significant, aesthetically pleasing elements. While it was designed for Edmonds, it could be anywhere. It could incorporate some design elements of the adjacent or nearby buildings, but it doesn’t. It is pretty much a square box.

We hope that the ADB would require the developer to add elements to break up the mass of the building and add some visual interest. Perhaps a varied roof line. Compare the roof lines of the adjacent office at 501 Main St., Reliable Flooring and the Main Street Commons under development at 6th & Main.  The nearest similar building to this is the 1990 vintage Centennial Building at 6th & Main, which has a similar box design but at least offers a roof peak element on its 6th Avenue façade. Also add some modulation to break up the massive sides of the building so that it does not overwhelm it neighbors.

Question 13A of the project environmental impact statement asks if this project is on or near any building 45 years old or older that is listed in, or eligible to be listed in, a national, state or local historic register. The applicant responds, “None are known to exist.”

This is incorrect; we are the proud owners of the Charles Larson house at 630 Main St., which in 2013 was designated as an historic property by the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission and the city. We estimate that our property is within 350 feet of these parcels.

Also, let us not forget some of the other historic properties, whether registered or not, within a short radius of the site, which include the “Rose House” at 555 Main St., the Reliable Flooring building at 542 Main St., the 524 Main St building and the residence at 560 Bell St.

Since in its review, the state Department of Ecology noted that there are two contaminated sites within 750 feet of project, we would argue that since we and all of these other properties are within this same radius, this statement must be corrected and the historic significance nearby buildings considered by the ADB.

In addition, per the Snohomish County Assessor, the single-family home on the site is over 100 years old and is representative of the smaller homes owned by families that could have provided housing for waterfront mill workers that may have just walked up and down Main Street to and from the mills. In fact, this is the last home of its size and style remaining on the north side of Main Street.

Given the gap between the response to this question and the reality, we encourage the ADB and City to carefully scrutinize all responses to the environment checklist to ensure their accuracy.

The developer of the 605-611 Main St project, GBH Holdings, is also the developer and owner of an apartment building at 303 Edmonds St. Some may recall this project, the Beachwalk apartments, a three-story, nine-unit apartment. In 2018 the developer was able to take advantage of a provision of the zoning code that did not require a building with a footprint of less than 4,800 square feet to provide onsite parking. As that was the zoning code in force at the time, the city had no choice but to issue the permit, which it did. Hurriedly, the city council approved a six-month moratorium on any new permits until the code could be updated to remove this exception.

Of additional concern to us, perhaps selfishly, due to its proximity to our property and office, is that this owner has apparently acquired the property at 627 Dayton St., the former Baker Funeral home, which for almost the last 50 years has been used as an office. This information is reflected on the Snohomish County Assessor’s website.

This site shares the same zoning classification, BD2, and is also under 12,000 square feet so is exempt from the 5% public open space requirement. If this property is developed in the same fashion as is proposed for the Main Street property and has 24 units with one parking space per unit, where will the overflow parking go?

Well, that answer is pretty obvious. Adjacent to this site is the lower library parking lot, which provides over 50 parking spaces that do not have any time limitation.  Potentially, these residents could consume a significant portion of the library parking lot.

As for parking, that may not be able to be disputed for the Main Street project, since the current code is one spot per unit. Perhaps the code may need to be revised to require 1.25 to 1.5 spots per unit. In a building of this size that would provide an additional six to 12 stalls.

It  appears clear that the developers are reviewing the codes to see how to maximize their property’s potential. Projects like this will significantly affect the look and feel of downtown Edmonds. As citizens we need to pay more attention to what the codes allow, not just in the central business district zones, but throughout the city. Or this project could be just a preview of coming attractions.


John and Sandy McDonald
McDonald McGarry Insurance
630 Main St.

  1. So proud of the extensive efforts that the Main Street Commons team has made to preserve the unique properties of their structure while also finding a way to maximize space. So many neighbors in that area go to great expense and effort to maintain a “charming” look and feel with their space, despite how difficult it is to make such a subjective concept into enforceable city policies/code. But the effort is there and we are all better for it and appreciate it.

    The city project lead also confirms that the developer has not yet applied for the permits to merge the 2 parcels into one. That does not take place at this phase 1 ADB hearing but is another opportunity to pressure the city, using existing codes, to deny the project’s ability to be a giant box.

    The developers application also claims they will not obstruct views except partial view from the one residence to their east. This is incorrect and misleading. Their application also claims it won’t change the amount of strain on public utilities or noise or trash, which, again, can’t possibly be true when they are dramatically increasing the number of people using that space.

    There is also valid concern about how their giant box will block visibility for their residents and adjacent residents entering the alley from their parking spaces. Addressing all of these issue requires a redesign which can ideally happen while the city considers the need for setbacks.

  2. Thank you very much for your letter. Unfortunately, this is a preview of coming attractions as the developer states that:
    “Structures on the adjacent parcels do not support the intensity of development under the current zoning and comprehensive plan and are anticipated to eventually be replaced with higher-density development. The proposed project is seen as a guide for future redevelopment allowed and encouraged by the comprehensive plan.”
    As horrific this is from Main Street, it is even worse from the alley. The entire side of my condo which has 9 windows will face this 4-storey concrete wall 23.5 ft away taking away light, privacy and view.
    SAFETY is a huge concern. Their plan only addresses their safety: a 22 ft entrance to the car park with lower shrubs so they have visibility. The Staff Report says that “Traffic impacts are mitigated through traffic impact fees collected in accordance with ECC 3.36.125”. Does this mean that if they pay a fine the problems don’t have to be addressed?
    The alley is 14 ft from their lot line to ours. The entrance onto 6th is 12 ft 2 in.
    Where is the:
    • space and safety for cars exiting and entering the 3 garages facing the alley?
    • space for 2 cars to pass?
    • parking for moving vans and emergency vehicles so that the alley is not continually blocked?
    These things and much more needs to be addressed.

  3. Before moving to Edmonds, I lived in Milpitas, CA. Developers built housing with two+ bedrooms (often three) and only one parking space. It was a logistical nightmare as each night people searched for parking. Very quickly, people started parking in reserved spots, which led to daily towing and many heated discussions. In fact, there was a brief consideration of replacing a public park with a parking lot. After experiencing this firsthand, I would caution Edmonds to avoid the single parking spot per unit approach.

    1. Yes you are right. This just doesn’t seem like a wise spot for this in any way. I don’t live in the Bowl and do believe in throughout the Whole city but this is just not a good choice. The auto situation is ridiculous. Remember they will also have guests… I hope. SO then where do those cars go…When across the street our new wonderful I believe it is the Commons is finished even more problem as they I think are adding or were a little parking on site there but I hope they need more. SO I don’t know but THIS is just not the place. I see no way to fix the architectural design of this building to do anything about its lack of views, its blocking of views, and its problem with the alley and single family houses or apts right there… Its a mess.. Pull it start over.

      1. All very good letters here. We attended the ADB zoom meeting and were further enlightened.
        The Architect is a downtown Seattle firm which speaks volumes. The Architect was very cavalier and appeared as though he would rather be anywhere else but at that meeting. He also stated that these units range between 600 (1 bdrm) and 850 (2 bdrm) sq. Ft. so we can imagine who will be living in them. NOT Families. He also was very proud of the fact that they came in just under the limits on every code in order to get most people possible into that footprint, stating that they started with parking. They could only squeeze 24 parking spots into that footprint so that is how many units they built to. This is an abomination that has absolutely no place in Downtown Edmonds! There is plenty of space along the 99 corridor for this type of thing and still be a part of Edmonds.
        Also to note, the house at 605 Main was built in 1915 and the one on the corner was built in 1899. These two house need to be Landmarked as important pieces of Edmonds History. Historical Registry does not save them fro demolition. Only Landmark status can stem that action. Once these amazing little HOMES from Edmonds wonderful past are gone, they are gone forever.
        I for one feel that high density housing is NOT appropriate nor is it needed OR required in the Downtown sector.
        In closing let’s not forget that these shark developers will do whatever it takes feed their greed and our Citizens should not accept one penny from them if they care even one iota about this Beautiful, Charming little town of ours.

  4. I have been touched by the many thoughtful and heartfelt comments concerning this proposed multi-family project that continue to pour in. My previous comments on this project primarily focused on a couple of the initial don’t “Ballardize Edmonds type statements, that falsely compared this project with typical MF structures in those communities, which are most often twice as tall and many times bulkier in scale. However, most of the more recent citizen comments focus on very legitimate issues of design (the proposed design is very poor and needs much improvement), parking, impact on surrounding community character and more. Really good urban design can certainly do much to greatly reduce many of these concern. But there will still be some adverse impacts which can’t be eliminated. I say this as a nearly five decades long resident of Edmonds, and as a city planner who has worked for and in numerous nearby cities for almost as long, who has watched Edmonds go through much growth and change. Even though I have dealt with every possible type of adverse urban growth impact in my professional work, I too still grieve for the loss of some of our very special Edmonds “Old Town” character, whenever any of our historic single-family homes are demolished for bigger much less charming structures. However, the reality also is that Edmonds cannot make itself immune from growth and change. But we can do even more to improve our current OK, but not yet good enough urban design standards to better address these impacts. Some issues, like off-street parking requirements are more complicated. One stall per smaller MF unit (or even less) has become the norm in central city locations in most cities in our region. An offset is that we do have good public transit serving central Edmonds which will become even better with increased CT and ST service coming soon as a result of the new Lynnwood rail station project. Providing critically needed affordable MF housing also can’t be done if 2 off street stalls are required. I hope this project motivates us to do more.

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