With decision deadline looming, public opinion remains mixed on Landmark 99 proposal

Attendees examine displays outlining the various design concept options at Saturday’s open house.

The final public meeting ahead of the upcoming Edmonds City Council decision on whether to proceed with the proposed $37 million purchase and sale agreement for the 10-acre Landmark 99 property drew a mixed bag of responses — some in favor, some opposed and many on the fence. The Saturday meeting, held at Edmonds-Woodway High School, drew approximately 75 participants.

Located along Highway 99 in southeast Edmonds near the Edmonds-Shoreline border, the property in question includes the Burlington Coat Factory building, which has been home to several businesses over the years.

Aerial view of the 10-acre Landmark 99 property.
Site overview

The City of Edmonds acquired an option to purchase the 10-acre parcel earlier this year.

The deal — announced by Mayor Mike Nelson in a June 22 press event — offered Edmonds the opportunity to secure an option to buy the property by putting up a $100,000 refundable deposit to hold it for six months while the city studied the possibilities and developed a vision for the area. The city has developed a project webpage and engaged Roewe Works to help develop design options.

Edmonds Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin hosted the meeting.

Saturday’s meeting was the second of two public meetings. The first was on Oct. 21. The event was hosted by Edmonds Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin, who provided background information and an overview of the project and timeline.

“At this time there is no foregone conclusion that we’re actually going to buy it,” she cautioned. “That’s still to be decided. Today we will present three options for you to consider and discuss in small groups that could form the basis of moving forward.

“At our first public meeting, you identified your top priorities as having a community center, a recreation facility, retail and dining, and a police annex, and we’ve made the effort to include these in the options you see today.” (See bar chart graphic).

This bar chart compares the relative preferences of amenities gained from the first public meeting. These were used as the basis for things to be included in developing the three design concepts.

“I should also note that we never envisioned that the city would invest in this alone – a public-private partnership is critical, not just from a cost-sharing perspective but to get a healthy mix of uses,” she said.

Matt Roewe of Roewe Works then took the podium to review three draft design options offering different concepts of how the property might be developed. Called the Town Square, Village Green and Neighborhood concepts, these are intended to provide snapshots of broad ideas ranging from more to less intensive development, any of which could later lead to a final design.

This display board compares the Town Square, Village Green, and Neighborhood options.

The Town Square concept offers a pedestrian promenade along with facilities including a community center, retail stores, a branch library, a police annex, an amphitheater and apartments.

The Village Green plan has an open green space at its heart, and could host street fairs, farmers’ markets, and similar events. It also includes a police annex, a library, and a recreation/aquatics center.

The Neighborhood concept offers more housing options including three-floor walkups and cottage housing, along with retail space, a library and a police annex.

See the attached PowerPoint for more drawings and details of each option.

Traffic flow patterns would be different with each option.
A three-dimensional comparison of the three concepts.

After a short Q and A, the attendees split into breakout groups to look at the design options, fill out a questionnaire, and report back on their group findings.

Group comments varied, with many expressing frustration that they had very little time to look at all aspects of the project – particularly the financial implications. Some wondered if alternative options along Highway 99 were available, and if the city had looked into these.

Examples of specific questions/concerns raised by the groups are as follows:

“Citizens who don’t want this at all are not getting a chance to express themselves. Why are we not being presented with a ‘none of the above’ option?”

“We like the Town Square best, but traffic is a huge concern. We like the potential of being able to walk to small shops in our neighborhood.”

“What will be the impacts on neighborhood property values, and will the current infrastructure be able to handle the influx of people?”

“This part of the city has been neglected for too long. I live here and I think these improvements would enhance quality of life.”

“We need more information on the financial burdens this will impose. We just don’t have enough at this point to decide.”

“What about the three acres of trees on this property? All the concepts include removing these. Don’t we want to keep trees, especially along Highway 99 where there are so few?”

“Good concept, but not the best location.”

“Does the city have the staffing capacity to handle this?”

“It’s time to put more money into south Edmonds.”

“It feels like we are rushing to decide before the purchase window closes. We think that’s irresponsible.”

“We need more time to consider this.”

With the six-month window for the refundable deposit scheduled to close on Dec. 31, city planning staff will bring the issue before the council Nov. 28 meeting, including a summary of public input received at the two meetings, design alternatives prepared by Roewe, financial details and other pertinent aspects. The council is scheduled to vote on whether to proceed with the purchase and sale agreement at its Dec. 5 meeting.

Edmonds Director of Community Services and Economic Development Todd Tatum walks the group through the upcoming steps and milestones.

“At the Dec. 5 meeting the council will vote on whether to drop the project or proceed,” explained Community Services and Economic Development Director Todd Tatum. “If the vote is no, we walk away, stop the planning process, and get our $100,000 back. If the vote is yes, the seller keeps our $100,000 and we will spend much of 2024 and beyond working toward the proposed September 30, 2025, closing date. This will include putting out a request for proposals (RFP) for a partner to join us in developing – and paying for – the project, working out financial terms, developing a final design, and conducting environmental and permitting processes. Full council packets are available on the city website the week prior to the meeting for public review.

“And remember that we can still walk away from the project anytime before the September 2025 closing date,” he added.

The session ended with McLaughlin providing her email (susan.mclaughlin@edmondswa.gov) and contact information to attendees, encouraging them to take more time with the questionnaires but to submit them prior to the Nov. 28 council meeting so the information can be included. She also encouraged citizens to contact their city councilmembers directly – emails are available here.

“It is important that we include feedback from this and the previous public meeting in the materials presented to council on Nov. 28,” she reiterated.

See the full PowerPoint with drawings, charts and more information here.

More information is on the project website here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. I still believe that the questionnaire, not having the option to select “none of the above” is wrong. It forces us to make a decision to proceed, without a genuine way to say no.
    Without a “none of the above option,” we are being told to just accept it and pick an option. Not a good questionnaire.

    1. Things are changing. At his Thursday talk at the Roundtable event, Mayor-elect Rosen made clear that biased results-driven surveys will not continue on his watch.

    2. If there is not a “let’s not proceed with purchase” option, in my mind, that means it is not an option for consideration.

      1. As I was not able to attend the meeting I really appreciate MEN’s summary of the event and a sampling of the comments made by attendees and future timelines. This kind of local reporting is critical to citizen involvement in our Edmonds community. Thank you MEN!

  2. My grandfather was born in Edmonds in 1888 and my mother was born in Edmonds in 1925, being a long term resident of Edmonds I am personally against the City of Edmonds spending millions of dollars they do not have to purchase the property on Highway 99. I currently live downtown and my biggest concern is more people are sleeping in their vehicles, utilizing city services, creating the same problems we are seeing in Ballard and Seattle

  3. On the site overview, it says “large format retail use, high vacancy” when the two retail stores- Burlington Coat Factory and the Antique Pavilion have been there, going strong, for at least 25 years. The antique Pavilion employs hundreds of vendors as independent store owners and the business is thriving so please don’t pretend that this is wasted space not being used. And what about the three acres of trees currently on the property? Will they be torn down also?

  4. Actions always tell you way more than words. At the first meeting there were at least double the number of people in attendance including Mayor Nelson, who acted as the master of ceremonies for the event. (I know because I was there). At this meeting Susan McLaughlin was the M/C and Mayor Nelson was nowhere to be seen (based on what I just read here, as I’m out of town right now). Apparently Mayor Nelson doesn’t realize he still needs to keep doing his job; or he just doesn’t care anymore about this project. I feel very sorry for his staff. They deserved someone with more courage to lead them in this endeavor. The more I see, the more I think we have a town crisis on our hands now.

    1. To clarify from our perspective — we counted 60 at the last meeting and our reporter yesterday estimated the crowd at 75.

  5. How much would it cost to leave the existing businesses and refresh the property? Clean it up, make some traffic flow improvements, add more food trucks… Plenty of parking there.

    1. Great alternative thinking! One of the ending comments at the meeting yesterday from ‘the audience’ was ” the site is an eyesore” so the city needs to buy it and renovate it (paraphrase).
      The city of Edmonds has a responsibility to hold property owners responsible but not to purchase property to renovate it. We can’t balance our budget now. And why hasn’t the question of how the estimated value of the property went from $10M to $37M in this economically bleak period.
      Can the city spur some renewal without this ‘make someone incredibly wealthy at the expense of the taxpayers’ scheme.

  6. Editor- please correct your statement above that financial details will be provided to the City Council at their Nov 28th meeting. That’s impossible. There will be no development plan by that date, no RFP responses from developers, no written commitment from Mountlake Terrace or Shoreline on a regional aquatic center, and most importantly there will not be a detailed taxing strategy presented.
    Rather, the staff will present some sort of ‘numbers’.

    Thank you for covering this meeting in your newspaper.

    1. I am all for 3P development. What 3P scheme is the City considering? What value or list of developers is available? What financial benefits are they bringing to the table? What regional or County resources are available? Why the increase in propery value? Are the current property tax roles close to 37M for the owner (maybe they should be). What developers have expressed interest and what tax or service concessions is the City going to give? What concessions will the County give? Will this be funded via bonds? Is it a City owned property that gives away operating and dev rights to the developer? Is it a developer owned property that pays the City over time? The concept of the City doing the planning is not uncommon to entice private investment, but what is the City/County on the hook for? If there was developer interest at 37M, we will find out very very soon, right? And yes, perhaps the new mayor will do away with the 100% affirmative surveys….

  7. Just another effort by a failed administration to gin up support for spending money on a vanity project we cannot afford and do not need. Incoming Mayor-elect Mike Rosen has stated he opposes the purchase. Get our $100,000 back and apply it to our substantial budget deficit. If there are private developers out there who want the property let them buy it and develope it. The only way the city can fund this white elephant is to float Councilmanic bonds which will then need to paid off from city revenues (taxes/fees) over 10 or 20 years.

  8. Please note that per the Edmonds Library representative, there are no plans on the books in the Sno-isle library system for a “branch” at the highway 99 project . All the concept development plans show a library. While the idea is great, I feel it is a false projection of space used without a caveat that this is a library space, IF Sno-isle wishes to agree and put a branch there. Unless something has changed in 6 weeks, I feel this is a case of false information.

  9. I attended the meeting on Saturday and heard from a lot of attendees that wished for a fourth option, none of the above, which was not offered. Sad to not see Mayor Nelson in attendance, but did appreciate several Council members that showed up as well as Mike Rosen.

  10. As I look at the proposed concepts, all are at 7% or less for “civic use space”. So, tell me again why the city should be spearheading this? Something is seriously wrong here.

  11. No matter what happens next, the county Assessor needs to update the assessed value of this property in light of the city’s option on the property. The assessed value is under what is being considered, and the developer who owns the property is underpaying their taxes so they can leave the burnt out McFinster’s hull as a nasty “Welcome to Edmonds”.
    Edmonds should consider a tax on derelict commercial properties as described at https://stateline.org/2017/03/07/can-extra-taxes-on-vacant-land-cure-city-blight/. I have heard neighbors complain about derelict residential properties as well, so maybe a similar tax on residential properties would be appreciated with some accounting for homes in probate and homeowners in nursing homes.

  12. Hi Nick, I think we met at the Saturday Landmark event? The idea of a “blight tax” is interesting. When a property sells and is developed, we do all sorts of mitigation fees; parks, traffic, and others? The community gets added revenue only at development time. Finding ways to generate this type of revenue early reduces the revenue pressure for others now and would seem to motivate the owner to sell. Interesting, thanks for the link.

  13. This is a 10-acre site. People made some great points about the needs in “south Edmonds” How about this:
    1. Taking those points (crime, police, parks, open space and others) and then asking the same questions for each of the 7 areas of Edmonds would be useful to see what is needed in all parts of town. (Esperance will someday be part of Edmonds so that area should also be considered. But the wants and needs will be different for each area. Great!
    2. The 3 conceptual ideas had a lot of components that folks liked: Shops, play areas housing and more. Great!
    We can accomplish several things on smaller parcels. CM Chin is actually proposing tonight using the old 7/11 site for police. We can also use the idea of condemning land for some of these things. Then we would do things that are needed in all areas! The same public private partnership ideas may still play but we would help all parts of town, not just south Edmonds.

    1. You raise an excellent point Darrol~ what are the wants and needs of people in all 7 areas of Edmonds? City Hall should be attending to all areas, all our neighborhoods, not just a few. One result I’d like to come out of our new Comprehensive Plan next year is subarea plans (I prefer to call them Neighborhood Plans) for all of Edmonds. Develop them over a 2-3 year period with intensive public involvement in each of the 7 areas. Put neighborhood stakeholders at each table.

  14. Darrol- the concept of ‘help all Edmonds neighborhoods’ is a catchy phrase. But what other Edmonds areas were upzoned from 35 ft building height to 75 feet building height without building sidewalks or parks to accommodate the expected population growth? The City staff and City Council made some development code and zoning decisions in 2017, and never completed the job by building infrastructure that mitigates the planned growth.
    The 2024 Comprehensive Plan will look at all neighborhoods. Expensive consultants will lead public meetings that we are all invited to. Upzoning will happen again- HB 1110 requires it. I’m cynical about how much the City will ‘help’ any neighborhood. I hope that history proves me wrong.

    1. Your upzone question is valid. Upzoning means that it would now be possible to do something taller and more people more parking needs and all that more people would need. When developed it is typically addressed as part of the whole permit process with all its mitigation stuff. Sidewalks almost the same story except for added sidewalks beyond the immediate area. If I understand correctly then during the Devlopment process, some of what you question will be done at the time of development.

      Sidewalks present a special problem. So do bike lanes. Should we develop a plan that when something is developed or replaced the cost of that development should also include bike lanes conntections to other bike lanes? Look at a school building for example. Kids do not get bussed unless a mile away. Should we look putting the requirement for bike lanes and sidewalks into that project? Such a plan may be pretty costly but how do we decide? Not easy questions.

      1. Read the EIS for the Highway 99 planned action in 2017. The mitigations are NOT all addressed during the permitting process.

  15. Is there any chance that we neighbors could all get together to clean up the area ourselves? I’d be happy to volunteer my time and tools to perk up the area. I might even be able to provide some bark or wood chips in the spring. Why wait for someone else to do something about it?

  16. Expect more of the same as far as persistent crime on Hwy 99. To paraphrase CM Chen:
    ” When all was said and done, more was said than done”.

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