Reader view: Let’s spread the wealth and place a new library and community center on Hwy 99 corridor

Burlington Coat Factory at 241st Street Southwest and Highway 99.

What escapes many people about “Edmonds Charm,” particularly in the historic downtown business district, is that the town was originally built for pedestrians in the 1890s. Practically no one owned cars back then, and very few people would have ridden horses or horse-drawn carriages to go about their daily lives, from sending their kids to school to making a deposit at the local bank. Normal people walked everywhere in their hometown back then.

The consequence of this is that we have a lovely core of city amenities and services within walking distance of those lucky enough to live in the Edmonds Bowl. As city planning now turns toward a more pedestrian-friendly future, we should take lessons from past city leaders and place future Edmonds city amenities within walking distance of where future density is being proposed.

Which is my part of town, the Highway 99 corridor.

Immediately after the city announced its plans to acquire the Burlington Coat Factory property, a close friend of mine in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood excitedly asked whether we could have a public library up here. In a part of town that would actually be easily accessible to transit users and working-class families whose children could most benefit from a nearby library.

Easy access to technology, especially the internet and computers, can make the difference in a child’s academic success. Children without home access to computers and the internet are more likely to live in proximity to the Highway 99 corridor than the Edmonds Bowl, which is the site of the present Edmonds Library. Our new Highway 99 library can also be the site of free ESL classes for new immigrants, book clubs for seniors, and free meals for low-income children during the summer time.

I don’t think that we have to move the site of the present Edmonds Library, which has incredible water views for the public of all income levels to enjoy, and accessibility for pedestrians from the downtown core. Rather, I think that we need a second library along the Highway 99 corridor. As one of the most densely populated cities in Snohomish County already, I think two branches of the library system would be appropriate for our town.

While most of the “charming“ aspects of small-town life remain aggregated in the Edmonds Bowl — from the new Edmonds Waterfront Center, to the present Edmonds Library, to the Edmond Center for the Arts and the Francis Anderson Center — the more utilitarian aspects of running a town tend to be shoehorned into my part of town, like those gigantic apartment buildings that no one wants to see pop up in their previously single-family zoning neighborhoods.

The discrimination has to stop. Our part of town deserves nice things, too. Like an easily accessible local library and community center.

One of the many benefits of this would be that we could approach the Sno-Isles Library System to help us finance the purchase of the property. Heck, since the property is so close to the border of King County, and would conceivably service a good number of their residents, we could even set up a reciprocity agreement and seek funding from the King County Library System as well.

Another benefit of this approach would be that we could preserve the existing Burlington Coat Factory building and simply renovate it to create a library and a community center, upstairs and downstairs. The rest of the property could be developed piecemeal over time, which would be less burdensome to taxpayers at a time when the economy is starting to look grim.

I can already imagine the comments that this proposal will receive. For example, “Jenna, didn’t you say that placing a permanent police substation along the Highway 99 Corridor was one of your top priorities for 2023?”

Yes, and it remains one of my top priorities for 2023 and beyond. Presently, the former Value Village site is being looked at as a new home for South County Fire. And in our previous council meetings, we have already asked whether this could become a multi-use property with both firefighters and police officers permanently stationed there. One benefit to placing the future police substation at that site would be not only its proximity to the hospital, but the fact that it would be more centrally located in the Edmonds portion of the Highway 99 corridor than the Burlington Coat Factory property, which is almost on the very south border of Edmonds.

As we look to the future of the Highway 99 corridor, I want to make sure that services for existing members of our community are not overlooked by the city as it tries to attract additional development and density. The community in my part of town, partially due to annexation and partially due to historical racism, has been traditionally underserved by Edmonds city government.

We are tired of being ignored. We are tired of being treated like the unwanted stepchild of Edmonds. We are a part of the community that the rest of the Edmonds population should embrace and take pride in, too. We deserve an investment in our culture and identity, just as much as the Edmonds Bowl does.

Placing the next center of leisure activity — a library and a community center —  in our part of town would go a long way toward making us feel more welcome in Edmonds.

— By Jenna Nand
Edmonds City Council Position 7.

  1. Some interesting ideas from CM Nand! The city could also buy the property on the SW corner of 5 Corners and with the TIF process much of the cost could be offset. Smaller parcel of land, but maybe a more central location for Police. Value Village for Fire and Police presents some real parking issues.

    CM Nand has started what seems to have been announced as a robust public input process. Our elected and all future elected always say “more public input and transparency.”

    Sounds like the Carpenters song, “We’ve Only Just Begun”!

    Hopefully the city will do this robust approach for things like the Budget, Land Use Issues, other Land Purchases, and Housing to name few.

    Thanks CM Nand!

    1. Fantastic idea! Later hours , more computers, higher density area. Possibly some senior services and classes. Some seniors still need computer classes especially if not active in the workforce.

      Like you stated, this location is on a transit route and much more accessible the general public.

  2. The City wants to buy more land. The City says we need more affordable housing to become more diverse. Why is the City adding so many new facilities,Parks and community centers? We are being led like cattle, to the new vision of Edmonds and redevelopment of our neighborhoods.

    When you vote for a NEW Mayor try to find out WHO is willing to be transparent and who is willing to limit overcrowding of our current infrastructures.

    When Nelson was interviewed by this paper I remember he said, he did not want to Seattlelize Edmonds, Well by golly I think he has done exactly that! Peace be with you all.

  3. This is a fantastic idea. Walks from Seaview to the downtown library – one of the city’s “living rooms,” in many ways – were a weekend cornerstone of my childhood. The many new neighbors who will soon call the 99 corridor home deserve access to high-quality cultural, recreational, and social spaces. This acquisition presents an incredible opportunity to do them right.

    It was inspiring to see so many community members & advocates come together to help the recent Waterfront Center capital project come to fruition. Thank you to Jenna for kicking off what I anticipate will be a similarly inspiring effort towards an equally deserving goal.

  4. As a resident of this long-ignored part of Edmonds, I wholeheartedly agree. In a lot of ways it feels like we were annexed (years ago) and then promptly forgotten. This property would be a wonderful opportunity to build something that would benefit this area!

  5. Since we are spitballing here. I didn’t see a price but 10 acres of prime commerical property with improvements is probably in the 30 million dollar range. Figuring out what to do consultants, studies, architects there is another 10 million easy.. it cost 16 million for the waterfront center extrapolating that out a grand plan could be more than 100 million in development cost. So taxpayers could be looking at 150-200 million dollar hole in their pocket for a small city of just 40 thousand this is insanity.

    1. Jim, I am proposing that we retain the original building and renovate it for the new library and community center, rather than tearing it down and building a new building.

      1. I think that is a great idea, Jenna Nand. It is certainly large enough with both huge floors. It would take less time too. The sooner the better is my thought.

    2. Hi Jim, the assessed value of the largest parcel in this sale is 4.24 acres and is on the tax rolls for $1.4m acre. That would extrapolate to $14m for the full 10 acres. The primary tenant is going to move so the owners may have sold at a discount given the circumstances. I am planning to get the full AV for all the properties in this sale. I will share when done.

  6. Jena thanks for the reply, seems many people are in favor of the idea, myself I am just trying to survive the ever growing size of government and taxes. I am not against investment into the area but you hold out a carrot and before long politicians want a whole garden funded with other people’s money, rich people don’t care poor people don’t know better and us on the margins get screwed again. I don’t know the viability of on site structures I know they have been there a very long time, sometimes renovations cost almost as much as new, what about it being a green building? Think Lynnwood convention center on steroids. If wishes were fishes we would all have a fry.

    1. Thanks Darrol assessed value and market value can be quite different at least that is the case with my property,. Also we lose the tax value of the property and turn it into taxpayer liability. At what level as a taxpayer do you feel like you contribute enough to the government? How large do you think our local government should grow. Didn’t we just spend 14 million on civic field. Kids in a candy store they are. Somebody needs to tell them they are getting fat and need to go on a diet

      1. More later but the collective parcels are being sold for more than twice the AV! Thanks Ken Reedy for that research. It also looks like some of the parcels are behind in tax payments. I will sort out some additional details and post.

        1. Thank you, Darrol, my hope is that any property owners who are behind on tax payments will be treated with kindness, and given the chance to cure their delinquency. I definitely don’t want the city to acquire any property along Highway 99 or anywhere else by taking advantage of someone else’s financial distress or forgetfulness due to age. We have resources at the city for household support for seniors, and anyone else in danger of losing their homes.

      2. I have to agree with most of Jim’s comments. Citizens in the Hwy 99 area of our city should start to realize that the downtown area of Edmonds has been in existence since our city was born in 1890, while communities in the Hwy 99 area only were annexed many decades later – so it should be understandable that they don’t have a comparable amount of infrastructure. Taxpayers in cities our size cannot afford such things as a second library. Private funding seems like the only rationale possibility to provide duplicated infrastructure.

        1. Mr. Wambolt, as a former council member yourself, I’m sure that you are aware that the Highway 99 community generates more sales tax for the city than the historic business district in the Edmonds Bowl. So the fact that the city budget is set up so that the entire Edmonds tax base subsidizes so many amenities and beautification efforts in the Bowl, while essentially ignoring the Highway 99 community, is not only discriminatory, it is illogical. We need to enhance Highway 99’s amenities, services, and curb appeal, and business as usual will not cut it.

  7. Great ideas, Jenna! Library makes a ton of sense to me. And a meeting room like the big room in the Waterfront Center. Yes. Everywhere on 99, I hope we can find a way to maintain any businesses that are thriving. If they’ve got customers, let’s help them keep going. Maybe find a way to squeeze some version of the Burlington Coat Factory and the Aurora Antique Pavilion into the plans for the space.

    1. Thanks, Nick, I think you’ll find that many businesses in our thriving International Business District along Highway 99 are doing well. It’s a very popular destination business community and unique in Snohomish County for its ethnic diversity.

  8. I think it would be great to have a library there. However, I live near 244th St SW and find Highway 99 an obstacle to getting over to that part of Edmonds. It is difficult to even get to Esperance from where I live with only a few places to cross State Route 104 safely. I imagine the same walkability issue keeps people from the east side of Hwy 99 from getting easily to the bowl. I wish there was a way to make that area of Edmonds more walkable. I’d tear down that old building though. Much more cost-effective to tear it down rather than trying to use a run-down, out-of-code building.

    1. Thanks, Tracy, walkability along the Highway 99 Corridor is a huge concern of mine. A friend of mine was struck by a jeep last year and flew 30 feet while crossing Highway 99. He’s lucky to be alive.

  9. If/when someone or entity wants to buy the Burlington Coat Factory building and property, they had best check with the current owner of that property, never mind ‘full AV’!!

    1. The property owner is entering into an option to purchase agreement with the city. This is a culmination of years of discussion between the Edmonds Parks Department and the property owner.

  10. After investing in the elaborate Welcome to Edmonds sign, the first thing people see is a block of old rundown or abandoned buildings. Making an effort to provide an improvement for the 99 corridor should make sense for the entire city.

  11. I was immediately thinking of something similar to crossroads mall in bellevue. If anyone has been, it’s more of a community gathering place that encourages hanging out and socializing than an actual “mall”. Check it out if you haven’t been. It was an awesome place to go that was cheap, had free community events, library, games, used book store, and just gave us something to do and a place to go within walking distance. Something that combined that experience with other local needs would be cool. I have zero interest in anything the bowl offers, and it does feel like a different world whenever I have to drive into town.

    1. I went there to the Crossroads Mall, you are correct. It was recommended by a Bellevue longtime resident who really loved going there for something a bit different then Bellevue Square Mall. I loved Bellevue Square Mall too. but it was fun at Crossroads and more food diversity etc. I will go to the Bowl of Edmonds but probably with the parking situation and some other issues, like crowding and no more real relaxation on the beaches due to so many people, I will go elsewhere for beach days. I do not want the streets and sidewalks taken out of the BOWL. It is fine as it is. THE cost to do that all over concrete or whatever walking pavilion is not an inclusive to all idea! It is also a dig from the taxpayers ALL over Edmonds. SO yes.

    2. Thank you for your feedback, Carlos, I think that this should be purely a publicly owned properly, given the almost total absence of any basic services and amenities for the public on the Highway 99 Corridor. However, there are other properties along Highway 99 that I think could host the type of community market space that you are envisioning. I grew up going to the Lake Forest Park mall with my friends, so I understand exactly what you are describing and I would support it on another piece of property. I just don’t think that the city should be a landlord for those sort of private commercial interests.

  12. This is an interesting location, presently the far SE corner of Edmonds. Without more information of how Edmonds would like to grow? It’s bounded by the county line and 104 at this point.
    See the map at…

    1. I think we have seen how Edmonds has wanted to grow. And that is mainly in the Bowl for fun anyway. I tried to go to the site you listed. Again error and no site available. This has happened to me 3 times in 2 days when trying to access something govmt. about Edmonds?? How about you show us this map so we know what you are talking about. Why does it matter that it is bounded by 104 or county line? So is the sign.. I am sure this can easily be figured out by someone who wants this to happen. I’m not clear John…do you want this to happen for the many who live in SE Edmonds?

  13. Like it or not, Edmonds is going to get more dense over the next few years and most of that density will be along Highway 99. We are long past the time that how we deal with this fact is considered. The center of Edmonds may well move to the East as apartment buildings and facilities to support their tenants evolve. CM Nand appears to be giving this serious thought. We need to support her.

    1. Edmonds seems like the only town along hwy99 that has its center away from the main road. You are right in that the center of town should really move east and closer to 99 with the bowl being an interesting destination, similar to richmond beach area in shoreline.

  14. Our current library, city hall and public safety buildings are all situated on our most expensive dirt . The buildings are in need of repair and updates and, in many respects, aren’t located where the greatest need is. The Bowl area could easily function with a much smaller library at the current location and the building could also be used as a satellite police station to cover the lesser needs in the Bowl area. The idea could be to make the Bowl area and Downtown more like they were in the past and get some tax revenue uses going on the highly valuable city property as now configured. Selling some or most of the city buildings for business and/or high end housing use should go a long ways toward financing the purchase of more appropriate property for our city functions. Change is coming and we need to elect the right people with good financial expertise, (who will martial an army of smart and free citizen volunteers), as our leaders to get it done for the most people at the least expense.

    1. Hi Clint,

      I think we can start to distribute some of the municipal services and amenities presently concentrated in the Bowl without sacrificing ownership of our valuable, publicly-owned real estate with water views. This is a complex topic that will bear further discussion as we proceed with revitalizing the Highway 99 Corridor.

      1. Jenna, I would very respectfully ask why public functions such as city hall offices, legislative chambers and police need or are even enhanced by having water views on valuable publicly-owned property? The reality is these purposes actually destroy the real value of these properties in terms of lowering taxes and giving more people access to the pleasant views and ambiance the properties could provide. In my view all downtown Edmonds really needs is a small library at the Plaza level as we’ve had lately and a small police precinct in the lower portion of the building. A quick look at the Police Blotter tells you the police headquarters is now in the wrong place. We could probably sell off the current public safety facility for enough money to fix the library building and build a new public safety building and main library at Hwy 99 or five corners. Our planning has been totally irresponsible in terms of good use of our funding and our natural resources. That needs to change with outside the Bowl, our water sheds, and the Marsh estuary needing most of the attention and funding now.

  15. I love this idea! Renovating the existing buildings would be a good idea for the short-term. I’d love to see a full re-development eventually, creating something like the Lake Forest Park Town Center. The LFP site is 16-18 acres, so with 10 acres, it should be possible to do something similar on a slightly smaller scale, so maybe minus the big grocery, Ross, Rite-Aid since they’d be duplicating nearby retail anyway. Anchored by the library and community space with something that could be used for small concerts and lectures, there could be room for small retail shops, restaurants, room for a farmers market, green space, maybe a pavilion and outdoor covered gathering space. LOL, I think I’m getting carried away with expensive dreams. But it sure would add a lot to that area. I live not far away.

    1. Thank you, Sarah! To reiterate from my response to Carlos, I grew up going to the Lake Forest Park mall with my friends, so I understand exactly what you are describing and I would support it on another piece of property. I just don’t think that the city should be a landlord for those sort of private commercial interests.

  16. The EPD station should be moved. I worry that it is not accessible to all of our city. The new increased business and community on 99 will need protection to succeed.
    1 mile and a pretty wide street. 212th. I think they could get to the areas including 99 much more easily. I love EPD. But they are so stuffed in the Bowl with constant street closures for events, people walking everywhere you really cannot easily get thru a stop sign. I haven’t heard what EPD would think about moving? It doesn’t have to on 212th to 99 but is a possibility. I don’t care just not the Bowl. For non-emergency entertainment Events the EPD can get to the Bowl easily. The fencing and gate issues are a concern. I would love to hear what the EPD has to say about moving? WE are doing Day Care up here too and this and the EWHS and the grade school. Our main grocery stores and Our Hospital area and many medical facilities need protection badly. WE need our Hospital and a safe place for their staff and patients. I support our EPD with the highest respect.

    1. Hi Deborah,

      I have been privy to discussions with some of the upper management in the police department regarding the issue of relocating the entire Edmonds Police Department out of the Bowl. While they are excited for a police substation on Highway 99, there were very expensive renovations recently done to the present home of the EPD in the Bowl and it wouldn’t make sense for them to give up that space at this time.

      1. Thank you Jenna Nand for the info. Ok that makes sense. Whatever EPD wants is OK with me. I am sure they know better than I do what is best. I trust them.

      2. Jenna, with all due respect to you and upper management in the police department there is way more here to consider than what you jointly think is best for the entire town on a long term basis. You are supposed to represent everyone in town under our current system of government, not just those people living where you live, and the police are supposed to serve and protect everyone in town equally. These property decisions need to be based on our true needs rather than what someone or some group wants. Civic field is a great example of what we end up with when Wants and Needs get confused. We’ve created something much harder and expensive to maintain that is way less functional than what we had. That’s the sort of planning and management errors we need to start correcting before no one can afford to live here.

  17. This is exactly what I’m hoping for as well! I live in the Hwy 99 neighborhood, and have dreamed of a “third place” community gathering place nearby. Like others have mentioned, something like Lake Forest Park or Crossroads Mall (the current incarnations of both malls had the same developer, btw). Both malls have KCLS “satellite” libraries that are not big, but have public computers, reading spaces, and a place to pick up your holds. These malls are also gathering spaces for community groups and neighbors, and could hold Town Halls as well… plenty of parking and easy transit at this location! There could be senior services and event spaces, and that mini-City Hall in the Safeway complex could also live at this location. It has such amazing potential and could serve so many people in our community! (Notice that I say “our” because we are also part of the Edmonds community!) Thanks for the editorial, Jenna!

    1. Thanks, Linda! To reiterate from above, I grew up going to Lake Forest Park mall and I understand exactly what you mean by a “Third Place” community space. However, given the almost complete absence of any municipally-owned public space or services along the Highway 99 Corridor, I would prefer that this property remain owned by the city and used to provide free and subsidized public space and services to the public. There are other properties along the Corridor that I think would be great for the type of community marketplace you are envisioning!

      1. “I would prefer that this property remain owned by the city and used to provide free and subsidized public space and services to the public.”

        One question, Ms. Nand; where are you going to get the money to pay for all of this? The $37M purchase price (which is nearly 3X the market valuation) would be just the down payment on a project that you’re suggesting.

        1. My thoughts exactly, Jim, which no one has given a good answer to other than looking at “a multitude of sources” and hoping that property tax revenues continue to increase due to increased home assessments, a problem on its own for those on fixed incomes. Again – underscoring – price BEFORE any redevelopment whatsoever.

  18. This reminds me of the old story about the parent trying to be some type of big-time hero who excitingly tells his children that they plan on taking them to Disneyland for the summer vacation unbeknownst to the other parent. The children get all excited and start planning their day on Pirates of the Caribbean and other fun attractions, (kind of like a lot of posters here). And the other parent has to look at the budget and their financial responsibilities, it just doesn’t see how they can afford it, so has to break the children’s hearts. Or in Edmonds case we’ll call them “suckers”.
    The family ends up having to have a staycation to stay within their means especially with a shaky economy so goes to the local parks after stopping off at McDonald’s for a couple burgers.
    I’ve suspect most of the proponents here are for this as long as they’re using other people’s money which is immature at best.

  19. Yes, Ms Nand, the auto dealers historically have generated a very significant amount of the sales tax collected by our city. The major project currently underway creating a beautiful median on Hwy 99 should hopefully enhance access to many of those businesses. That area is most suitable for auto dealers and the downtown area is more suitable for many other businesses and facilities, which is why you chose the downtown for your business.

    I believe that the city must pay more attention to spending taxpayers money on NEED to do projects as opposed to NICE to do projects. The recently completed Civic Park was a massive expenditure on something nice to do. The money could have been better spent on sidewalks, streets and traffic enforcement.

  20. The regional planning done by cities in SW Snohomish Cnty forecasted 30% population growth in Edmonds by 2044. (Snohomish County Tomorrow forecasts published Dec 2021) Contrast our planned future growth with the measly 1% growth in the number of Edmonds households between 2010 and 2020. (American Community Survey from the census bureau). By law, our City has to plan for this growth. It isn’t going to be easy nor popular to manage. The Burlington Coat Factory proposal is one example. There will be more decisions ahead that manage the transition to a more dense city. Other cities in our region have already gone through a hyper growth phase. I hope residents adopt an attitude of ‘teach me what worked well in Redmond’ and ‘what mistakes did Bellevue make that we can avoid’ so that we are capable participants in the debates. Let’s use the advantage of hindsight from other cities in King County.

      1. They’ve forecast Edmonds population to grow 11,000 in the next 20 years. It has only grown 3,000 in the last 20+ years. What will cause such a massive change? I can think of only one thing – illegal immigrants will be transported here. The huge growth projection was needed to justify essentially eliminating single family zoning.

  21. I think this is a wonderful idea and I’m so happy you’re giving it voice. The folks who live outside the Bowl have just as much right (and more so, if they’re bringing in more tax revenue) to community services. It’s an excellent use of the property, especially if we can re-use the infrastructure and remodel. Thank you for thinking of residents outside the Bowl.

    1. Council member Nand introduced, and continues to repeat, this misconception that “folks who live outside the Bowl have just as much right (and more so, if they’re bringing in more tax revenue)” The residents of the Hwy 99 area are not bringing in more tax revenue. It is the auto dealers that create considerable sales tax.

    2. Thanks, Tanya! That’s why I titled this article, “Let’s spread the wealth…” I think that we want to see more equitable investment in all of Edmonds.

      1. Ms. Nand,

        I find it puzzling that you quickly reply to those who agree with you yet ignore those who have legitimate questions. As an elected official (well, maybe not elected but appointed) aren’t you supposed to represent ALL of us and not just those who agree with you?

        I’ll await your reply on how you intend to pay for your ideas. I’m sure others are interested too.

  22. I like Jenna and I don’t want to offend her but I think she and all the rest of us are being played by the current Mayor and staff at the behest of and benefit of this seller. My strong suspicion is that we are agreeing to pay way more than what the land is really worth and the seller hasn’t had much interest shown in the private market so far. I urge someone or some group to prove me wrong on this. Are people really lined up to buy this thing or is it a pig in a poke and a convenient way for Nelson to get votes from the Hwy 99 neighborhood? Remember all the Nelson signs on Sunset during the last election?

    1. I don’t get this underserved nonsense. How many people live within 3 miles of a hospital or city government police department etc.. we act like a highway is a barrier to entry. I am not against adding sidewalks or street lighting a neighborhood park but this is just ridiculous our Edmonds residents are already closer to amenities than most people in our region. This 37 million in just property could be much better spent on other things to improve the area and or services that gives them a hand up instead of this boondoggle.

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