August 9, 2001
By TERRY STEPHENS
Special to the Journal
A convergence of eight major construction projects valued at more than $335 million — including an expanded county government campus, a transit center and a combination special events arena and convention center — is expected to dramatically change downtown Everett’s business core over the next three years.
Snohomish County government is well into the design phase for a $140 million master-planned campus redevelopment, working with Seattle-based NBBJ architects to create new office buildings, rearrange existing space, expand the jail and add a parking garage by September 2004.
The larger campus presence will allow the county to consolidate 800 employees now working in 18 leased offices scattered throughout downtown, space that costs the county $2 million a year, said project manager Dale Moses.
Snohomish County’s population has grown more than 30 percent between 1990 and 2000, to more than 600,000 residents. Providing more county services, including the incarceration of prisoners, demands more facilities than today’s crowded courthouse, jail and administration buildings, county Executive Bob Drewel has said.
A few blocks from the campus, the $44 million Everett Station being built by Wilder Construction of Everett will open in December, creating a new transportation hub for Amtrak, Sounder commuter trains, buses and taxis, along with expansive park-and-ride lots. The transit site will be served by the new $15 million Pacific Avenue overpass due to open in November.
The four-story train station will also include a high-tech education center with computers and interactive television facilities — operated cooperatively by the University of Washington; Western, Central, Eastern and Washington State universities; and Edmonds, Everett and Skagit community colleges — according to Larry Marrs, executive director of the Higher Education Consortium.
There will also be a state WorkSource job counseling and placement center, a ground-floor café and a fourth-floor “great room” for community meetings, with views of the Olympic and Cascade mountains. Another 4,200 square feet of office space is still available for lease.
Project manager Paul Kaftanski said the education consortium will be the first tenant to arrive, followed in February by Everett Transit, Community Transit and Sound Transit buses, Greyhound and Northwest Trailways coaches, taxi cabs and Shuttle Express airport vans.
Amtrak trains will begin using the new Everett Station in the first quarter of 2002, with Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter trains to Seattle and Tacoma operating from the station in the first quarter of 2003.
“We expect the presence of the high-tech transit center, with its education and job center programs, will also attract new neighborhood residential development and new commercial and high-tech businesses,” Kaftanski said.
To the north of Everett Station is the Snohomish County Public Utility District headquarters, to the east is a giant Lowe’s hardware and garden center, small commercial enterprises and blocks of older homes. West of the center are small retail businesses and trucking firms, along with commercial development and fast-food restaurants along Broadway. To the south there are more business and, further south, Everett’s proposed 200-acre Riverfront Business Park.
Hockey and sewers
A few blocks from the transit hub, at Hewitt Avenue and Broadway in the downtown core, construction will begin soon on a $60 million, 10,000-seat special-events arena, due to open in fall 2003.
Everett Public Facilities District board member Rich Anderson said the facility could host ice hockey, basketball, ice-skating shows and concerts, along with conferences, conventions and trade shows. Two hockey leagues are already bidding for rights to the center’s ice. A second sheet of ice is being recommended for public skating and youth hockey.
The top three design/build team proposals for the project — from Mortenson Construction/HOK Sport Architects, Turner Construction/Ellerbe Becket Architects and PCL Construction/LMN and PBK Architects — will be on display at Everett’s Monte Cristo Hotel from Aug. 28 to Sept. 6.
Everett’s $8 million replacement of root-clogged sewer lines beneath Hewitt Avenue, the main east-west arterial through the city’s commercial district, will create a new pedestrian-friendly streetscape in the city’s downtown core and enhance a business district that includes some of Everett’s oldest historic buildings.
Hal Jensen of Perteet Engineering said the city’s Hewitt Streetscape Project began with the need to replace about a dozen blocks of aging sewer pipes beneath Hewitt Avenue, then evolved into an opportunity to create a more inviting environment for the downtown core. He said the project’s new trees, landscaping, street lighting and transit stops will have a dramatic impact on the commercial district.
News of that project dovetails nicely with Seattle developer Craig Dieffenbach’s vision for Hewitt Avenue. Noted for transforming boarded-up structures in south Seattle’s Columbia City district into valuable properties, he has invested more than $5 million in several of Hewitt Avenue’s historic buildings and he’s seeking more renovation candidates.
His first tenant, ImageMasters, a graphic design studio and a related photography enterprise, Photo Graphic Dimensions, recently moved into renovated space at 1814 Hewitt Ave., the first of dozens of businesses he expects to attract to the downtown core.
Also, for the first time in years, residential developments are being built near downtown, including The Nautica apartments at Hewitt and Grand avenues. Seattle developer Steve Cupic’s $9 million residential and retail project, styled after successful Belltown designs, is due to open in September.
Cupic’s project, being built by his Cascasia Pacific Properties, will include 121 apartments on five floors, many of them with views of mountains, Port Gardner Bay and Naval Station Everett’s fleet of Navy warships, including the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and six destroyers and frigates.
Nautica will also have 5,500 square feet of commercial space available at the ground level. The development is within four blocks of the center of downtown Everett. Pre-leasing is already underway, Cupic said.
“I believe we are seeing the beginning of a downtown Everett never witnessed before and the gentrification (of the city) that is needed so badly,” said Cupic, who was raised in Everett.
Several blocks north, at 2520 Rucker Ave., Cupic’s partner in The Nautica project — Michael Mastro Jr. of Global Development in Seattle — in February completed Bayside Condominiums, a 39-unit housing complex with 888- to 1,420-square-foot units selling for $115,000 to $180,000.
Another major project in the downtown Everett core is the $14 million headquarters for Advanced Telcom Group (ATG), which also has multimillion dollar operations in Tacoma, Olympia and Bellingham.
ATG’s renovation of a former title company building at Wall and Colby avenues cost nearly $1 million. The remaining $13 million is invested in high-tech switching equipment, Internet service links and other facilities needed to offer telecommunications services to residential and business customers, competing with Verizon Northwest.
And, only five blocks west of downtown, is Providence Everett Medical Center’s $40 million Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, due to open next February. The center will expand the medical center’s present maternity services, enhance pediatric care and offer advanced medical care for premature babies or those with special medical needs.
The center’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit will offer services in partnership with Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.
Already, local business owners are expressing their excitement about the new developments they believe will breathe new life into Everett’s downtown business core.
Joel Starr, who opened The Flying Pig Brewing Co. restaurant and pub on Colby Avenue in downtown Everett four years ago, is on the executive board of the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce and heads the new Downtown Everett Action Committee formed to contribute ideas to the city’s downtown revitalization.
While his business struggled for the first two years, the brew pub has become a center for community gathering, a downtown Everett attraction that is making its own contribution to revitalization. Around 10,000 people a month visit “The Pig” and many nights people have to be turned away, Starr said, which he sees as evidence of renewed interest in downtown Everett.
Even the proposed commercial, office and entertainment development of the northern end of the Everett waterfront — which will complement such successful attractions as Everett Marina Village, the Inn at Port Gardner, Anthony’s Homeport and Lombardi’s — will help downtown, Starr believes.
“Initially, I thought, ‘What if it just develops more competition for downtown, and for my business?’ But this (core) area will be even more improved by the time the waterfront develops in four to five years, and I think we’ll trade customers. In fact, we may even end up with a second Flying Pig, on the waterfront,” Starr said.
Even the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce is moving downtown soon, leaving temporary quarters in south Everett, and President/CEO Louise Stanton-Masten is enthused about it.
“There will be disruption downtown for the next few years during construction, but it’s exciting to think about the long-term positive impact and what this community will be like as a place to live, work and play,” she said.
Terry Stephens is a freelance writer based in Arlington. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
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