Harbor Square Development Update
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 19:36

Teresa Wippel, MyEdmondsNews.com

Edmonds City Council President Lora Petso’s proposal to reject a Port of Edmonds plan for redeveloping the Harbor Square business complex failed on a 3-4 vote Tuesday night. Instead, the port’s concept will be sent to city staff for modifications based on council input, with the goal of bringing it back to councilmembers for their review by March 19.


The decision to move the Port’s proposal to staff for revisions followed several weeks of deliberation, including three separate public hearings. Voting against Petso’s proposal — and in favor of amending the plan to address concerns raised by councilmembers and the public — were Diane Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson, Frank Yamamoto and Strom Peterson. Joining Petso in supporting the proposal to scrap the plan were Joan Bloom and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas.


Bloom reiterated her strong opposition to the Port’s request to incorporate their proposed Harbor Square Master Plan into the City’s Comprehensive Plan, stating “I don’t see any way to make this proposal work.”


Yamamoto said he saw no point in going back to the drawing board when the city could reshape the plan to better reflect the council’s vision for the project. “To start over is a major disservice to everyone,” he said.


The Council voted 6-1 at last Tuesday’s meeting to defer the decision a week, to provide more time to study the matter. The issue drew opposition from those who fear that the port’s plan would eventually open the door to three- to five-story structures in downtown Edmonds, as well as residential development on unstable soil.


To address those concerns, Buckshnis said she had several ideas for modifying the project to make it more acceptable, including reducing building heights, eliminating residential use, and incorporating buffers to protect the neighboring Edmonds Marsh.


While not a proposal for an actual project on the current Harbor Square Business Complex site, council incorporation of the master plan into the city’s plan is a necessary first step toward redeveloping the aging 14.62-acre complex. The current site includes the Harbor Square Athletic Club and Tennis Center, the Harbor Inn hotel and numerous businesses located among five buildings on the site.


The Port’s original vision was to transform business park of tilt-up buildings, which the port acquired in 1978, into a mixed-use transit-oriented development that could include up to 358 residential units, 50,400 square feet of retail, 9,784 square feet of office, 123,410 square feet of recreational health club uses (including tennis courts), 3.8 acres of public open space, and 1,091 spaces of off-street parking. The Port first introduce the idea to the public in 2009, followed by the formation of a steering committee of interested citizens, several public meetings and workshops, and a public hearing prior to the Port Commission’s unanimous adoption of the plan in June 2012.


Following the Council vote Tuesday night, Port Commissioner David Preston told My Edmonds News that the Port recognized all along that the council was likely to make changes to the plan, and the commissioners were comfortable with that idea. “I look at it like this: The Port’s run a race and they’re done with their section and they are handing the baton to the city council,” Preston said.


Promoting the economic vitality of Edmonds through advocacy, leadership, education and community-building events.