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February 28, 2019

A gathering place for all on Edmonds’ shoreline

  • Edmonds Waterfront Center is a public-private partnership between Edmonds Senior Center and the city.
    Special to the Journal



    The new Edmonds Waterfront Center, a public-private partnership between the city of Edmonds and Edmonds Senior Center, will create a unique, multipurpose gathering space along the water’s edge.

    The project includes a new building, shoreline restoration, and improved parking and public access facilities. Programming for the facility will include a variety of educational, cultural and health-related activities supporting the well-being of seniors during the weekdays and the entire community in the evenings and weekends.

    Public-private partnership

    The nonprofit Edmonds Senior Center (ESC) was established in 1968 and began providing services for seniors in two buildings on the site. The buildings, along with a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome that was moved to the site from the 1962 World’s Fair at Seattle Center, had originally served as boat sales warehouses. In 1973, the city acquired the property and made improvements such as connecting the two buildings. The dome was later removed and the area converted to parking.

    For 50 years, ESC has provided activities and programs for seniors at the site, including health clinics, recreation, classes, meeting spaces, daily lunches, a thrift store and other services, as well as rental facilities for weddings and other events.

    Faced with a building more than 50 years old, ESC began investigating options for a new facility. Studies determined that due to the condition of the structure, upgrading the building to meet current codes and seismic requirements was not cost effective. ESC explored options for a new facility, including a new building on site or at other locations in Edmonds. Around the same time, the city’s 2013 Strategic Action Plan identified a new community center as a key goal.

    Image from Environmental Works Community Design Center [enlarge]
    Scheduled for construction later this year, Edmonds Waterfront Center will house a senior center and a community center.

    A new senior center and a new community center would both require substantial investments of millions of dollars. Rather than develop two separate facilities with similar functional spaces, ESC and the city collaborated to reimagine the waterfront and create Edmonds Waterfront Center — designed to serve as both a senior center and a community center.


    Funding for the project was beyond what the city and ESC could afford, so a strong partnership was formed for the redevelopment of the Edmonds Waterfront Center site. By using the ESC nonprofit’s ability to fundraise, and the city’s public agency mechanisms for funding and grants, the entities pursued funding opportunities.

    ESC has so far raised $12 million toward a $16 million goal to fund the building. Sources of funds include the state, Snohomish County, local foundations such as Norcliffe and Hazel Miller, and generous support from Rick Steves and other private donors. The city allocated municipal funds for parking and other site improvements and obtained state grant funds from the Recreation and Conservation Office to restore the shoreline and provide public access.

    The private-public partnership has raised over $17 million to date for improvements at the site.

    Multifunction building

    A new multifunction building is the heart of Edmonds Waterfront Center. The building was designed as a center to serve all community members, including seniors. ESC hired Environmental Works Community Design Center to develop alternatives and design the building.

    Photo by Bruce Myers [enlarge]
    Artist Bruce Myers designed this flatwork along the Edmonds waterfront.

    The building design provides flexibility for uses, including meeting and educational spaces, gathering space, a restaurant, improved thrift store, and other features. The new center includes large windows that take advantage of the magnificent view of the Edmonds shoreline, ferry dock, Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains.

    Key design elements include a spacious community lounge with a two-story glass curtain wall looking out onto the beach and ferry, a banquet room that seats up to 260, an upstairs suite of four health clinic exam rooms, and four multipurpose rooms with commanding views of Puget Sound.

    The project is designed with consideration for sea level rise, with the building and site elevated above existing conditions.

    Shoreline restoration

    Another key element of the project is removal of a treated-timber bulkhead and fill from the beach area to restore the shoreline to natural conditions. The existing fill area is paved and used for parking.

    The beach will be restored to its natural grade using gravel and sand, dune grasses, and other natural features such as beach logs like those at Brackett’s Landing South, a park just to the north. A waterfront walkway and stairs to the beach will be provided for public access.

    The city hired Barker Landscape Architects, who along with subconsultant Reid Middleton, prepared designs for the shoreline restoration and site improvements.

    Integrating aesthetics and access features into the site were important. To maintain consistency along the city’s shoreline, similar features found in other sections of Edmond’s waterfront — including Brackett’s Landing North and South parks and the mid-waterfront walkway — were incorporated. The project also includes a renovated parking area and all new site utilities.

    Construction method

    The private-public partnership allowed a variety of implementation methods for the construction of the project. With ESC responsible for the building replacement, as a private entity it was able to select a general contractor, W.G. Clark Construction, during the building design phase to provide input into the overall design and constructability of the building.

    The city led the site and shoreline improvements portion of the project and will publicly bid the site work in this spring. The entities shared responsibility for implementation of the road frontage and other common project elements.

    Edmonds Waterfront Center is scheduled for construction later this year and will result in a fantastic community facility for all generations for another 50 years or more in the heart of Edmond’s waterfront.

    Shannon Kinsella is director of waterfront and airport engineering at Reid Middleton. She plans, designs and obtains permits for a wide range of public and private waterfront projects. Nic Morin is director of landscape architecture at Environmental Works Community Design Center. He supports and directs community-based planning and design efforts.


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