Northwest NEWS

July 27, 1998

Front Page

Final report recommends downtown Bothell development

   by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   BOTHELL--Initially "bullish on Bothell," an economic consultant's final report lacked horns but suggested a course of action more likely to be accepted by city leaders.
   After a year of crunching numbers and meeting with the public, Greg Easton recommended focusing economic development in downtown Bothell.
   "Frankly, there is more support to develop the downtown than other areas," Easton told the City Council here last week.
   That reluctance to change Bothell apparently had an effect on Easton's final suggestions. During his 45-minute presentation, there was no mention of rezoning residential land between the North Creek and Canyon Park business parks.
   Previously, he had seen opportunity for high-quality commercial business there though residents didn't support the idea.
   Mayor Debbie Treen said she was pleased with Easton's progress so far and said his recommendations reflected "fairly accurately the sentiments I'm aware of in the community."
   If there was a surprise for Treen it was that Easton proposed little rezoning. She heralded the work of city planners, saying the consultant "validated existing work."
   But one observer close to City Hall said Easton merely found the middle ground and said the results were tailored to the city's current slow-growth political climate.
   "Catalyst" projects identified
   For the downtown area, Easton identified four catalyst projects those that he said were in key locations, had willing proponents, and over which the city could have a high degree of control.
   He said development of 1.87 acres the city owns near Bothell Landing could tie Main Street with the Sammamish River. He suggested two-story recreational retail businesses connected across State Route 522 by a pedestrian bridge, and said funds from the property sale could finance construction of the link.
   Easton also said businesses just south of Main Street could orient themselves towards the river to take advantage of the amenity.
   He termed redevelopment of the Northshore School District compound "the most significant opportunity for the city ... a 26-acre property at the historic heart of the downtown." He said the city had the chance to shape projects there to meet its needs by updating its development guidelines.
   Taking advantage of students attending the future college campuses, Easton recommended pedestrian-oriented businesses such as delis, bookstores and cafes along Beardslee Boulevard instead of drive-ins.
   To attract developers, he suggested the city offer incentives like increasing height allowances, moving buildings to the street, relaxing parking requirements and moving density around on sites.
   But Easton's downtown focus worried Councilwoman Sandy Guinn who expressed concern about traffic and infrastructure.
   While she looked for specific numbers on how many cars development of the school district land could generate, Easton said he wasn't proposing major traffic improvements because he didn't see any "magic" solutions, but added that he didn't see the projects "exacerbating a bad situation."
   Along with better pedestrian linkages, he suggested a downtown busing system.
   Elsewhere in Bothell, Easton recommended allowing development in accordance with existing plans.
   While expressing a new appreciation for the city's slogan, 'Bothell, for a day or a lifetime,' Easton said it was still worth considering a new catch phrase that would include the past and future as part of an overall development strategy.
   In meetings held over the past year, Easton, a thin man with grey hair and a neatly trimmed beard, has stood in front of residents in packed cafeterias and nearly empty rooms often times like a human dart board. His suggestion to put retail in the Canyon Park business parks recently was met with warnings like, "We will fight you tooth and nail ... Retail doesn't need to be in business parks," as one woman vowed.
   Easton, who works for Property Counselors of Seattle, was hired by the city after budgetary discussions last year. Treen said the council was interested in alternative ways to raise such revenues as sales tax.
   "We wanted to get a sense of the economic potential of the town," she said.
   Easton's first tasks were development potential and land availability analysis, studies that showed plenty of demand for space but a shortfall of land. Then, newspaper headlines echoes his proclamation that he was "bullish on Bothell."
   Final documentation with facts and figures is expected by September, Treen said. She said she hoped to begin holding public hearings on Easton's recommendations then for possible inclusion in the city's state-mandated comprehensive plan.