An old pulp and paper mill on the downtown waterfront closes after several decades. Sound familiar?Local leaders lament the loss of jobs but see the redevelopment opportunity as a “once-every-century planning moment” affecting “the social and cultural life of the next generation.” Sound familiar?
Creative economic development experts envision a “business park with public access … connected to downtown, where people can work, visit, and enjoy visual contact with the water and waterfront activities.” Sound familiar?
It’s all happening, except Everett is a few years behind Vancouver in turning industrial waterfront property into prime acreage for revitalization.
The passages in quotes above come from a recent story in The Herald of Everett, where excitement is building about reconnecting the public and businesses to older waterfront areas. Toss in an economic recovery — albeit a recovery with a dubious arrival time — and the optimism grows even more.
As Vancouver’s waterfront redevelopment has unfolded, careful study has been devoted to mistakes and triumphs made by other projects elsewhere. And now it’s interesting to see Everett city leaders following in Vancouver’s footsteps. No doubt they are paying attention to us, and we will be curious to see if they proceed differently.
There, 66 acres are left vacant by a Kimberly Clark mill that closed earlier this year. Overall, 93 acres have been designated by the Everett City Council as the Central Waterfront Planning Area, fronting Port Gardner Bay.
Here, 32 acres along the Columbia River are being converted to mixed-use redevelopment. In recent weeks, progress has been dramatically visible on the $44 million of railway reconstruction and railway access. Nearby, Columbian employees know this quite well; we’ve felt the seismic impact of progress just beyond our back lot.
If this is a race, we’re winning, and Everett is a distant second. But reality tells us this is no contest. It’s a pair of sovereign pursuits, and the final products might not resemble each other. Public trails and park areas are certain here, and part of the early plans in Everett. But one difference appears to be in residential units. The Herald story mentioned waterfront business park development, but no condominiums or apartments. Here, more than 3,000 residential units are part of the plans to breathe 24-hour life into those 32 acres.Public hearings are on tap in Everett; a final plan is expected later. For now, we can offer a few tips to the hopeful folks in Everett. Planners in Vancouver — including city officials and the Gramor Development firm — believe $1.3 billion in private reinvestment can be generated on our waterfront. They expect to leverage public funding at a 30-1 ratio ($30 private to $1 in public contributions). This could yield more than $200 million in tax revenues for local and state governments over the next 25 years.These, of course, are mere projections. But they’re based on solid research. We extend best wishes to the Everett visionaries. It’ll be fun watching them try to catch up.