Kenmore continues talks about its Village

  • Written by Don Mann
The city of Kenmore held a town hall meeting prior to its regularly scheduled Monday City Council meeting to obtain further public input and review potential city actions regarding Kenmore Village before putting the property on the market.

The 9.6 acre site is located at the northwest corner of NE 181st Street and 68th Avenue NE. The site is currently occupied by the U.S. Post Office, commercial businesses — soon to include Kenmore Camera which will move to a larger facility from across the street — and parking. The site is part of the larger downtown area envisioned in the city’s comprehensive plan. According to city manager Rob Karlinsey, a set of priorities to guide development includes the creation of a “central place” in Kenmore, stimulating economic revitalization through business retention and attraction, improving traffic and pedestrian circulation, providing housing choices and applying sensitivity to design and the environment. To that end, after several exchanges of public input, consultant Rod Stevens of Spinnaker Strategies drafted what he refers to as a “positioning statement” as the city moves forward to attract development: “Kenmore is a walkable place with a public square where Kenmore-area residents and workers can meet their daily needs and see one another face-to-face.”

The city recently developed five types of potential city actions to proceed with at this juncture: Regulatory Changes and Incentives; City Investment in Amenities and Infrastructure; Marketing/Messaging; Dialogue With Neighboring Users About Their Needs; Outreach to Potential Tenants.

On Regulatory Changes and Incentives: According to assistant city manager Nancy Ousley, these could include new code provisions that allow for regulatory development agreements for certain properties, as allowed by state law. They provide more flexibility to amend development requirements for design, use, affordability, parking and other regulatory standards for a specific project. Other cities have enacted similar regulations, she said.

On City Investment in Amenities and Infrastructure: The council has discussed the possibility of a park, gathering space or village green that would be a signature center for the city, increase both the attractiveness of the area and value of adjoining property. To be successful, the design for such a place should allow for different kinds of activities year-round as well as informal meetings and gatherings.

On Marketing/Messaging: The city’s 2009 Economic Development Strategy prioritized promoting Kenmore’s image and community marketing. The city embarked on creating a set of central, key marketing messages for Kenmore in its work with Frause Full Spectrum Communications and will integrate the Kenmore Village positioning statement with those key messages.

On Dialogue With Neighboring Users About Their Needs: The city already has several anchor uses which bring people to the area, including City Hall, the library, the post office and Kenmore Camera. The city recognizes its need to be in closer touch with these neighbors to identify the synergies of use and how a public square and other improvements can make the entire area livelier and better for each organization.

On Outreach to Potential Tenants: Rather than leaving the marketing of Kenmore Village (and the broader downtown) to some unknown future developer or investor, the city can begin these outreach efforts now, making contact with such possible users as Bastyr University (which has expressed an interest in having a presence in downtown Kenmore), other health care providers, grocers, restaurants and social service organizations.

City Council will continue to discuss these items at the upcoming Oct. 1, 2012 meeting. Staff and consultant  Stevens will also put forth a strategy for setting priorities for these other actions, with a work plan to follow at a future date.

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