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Kimberly-Clark and Everett's tough waterfront talk

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By Tom Hoban
Realty Markets
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011, 9:53 p.m.
After Kimberly-Clark announced this spring that it was putting its Everett mill up for sale, members of the community began worrying about what that might mean. Speculation began about what other uses that site could support and it quickly became a real estate topic.
From purely a real-estate standpoint, it's a very interesting site on a lot of levels because it sits on Everett's front porch with immediate connectivity to downtown Everett's waterfront. Last month's column examined it from that narrow point of view.
From a broader standpoint, Kimberly-Clark and its employees have been big contributors to the community, so nearly everyone seems to feel some stake in the outcome of this sale and is speculating on what it might mean to them. Facts are few and the discussion is raw at this stage. It's a difficult time on Everett's waterfront right now.
To say that the community is split over the discussion is an understatement, though. Passionate and angry might describe the emails and calls from a few Kimberly-Clark employees who read last month's column. They are understandably concerned right now and didn't like the subject of the sale being talked about at all. Some were very helpful, though. One Kimberly-Clark employee who asked to remain anonymous made clear that the Everett mill is profitable and speculation on its demise premature. That, of course, is a relief to us all.
Passionate and angry might also describe those who were offended when city leaders referred to their point of view in a public meeting as “elitist.” We may not like it, these folks say, but some contingency planning might be timely given the recent history of mills in Everett and misinformation around the motives of the sale. Planning ahead today might ensure jobs remain there without interruption.
The good news is that everyone wants jobs. If pulp and paper remains viable, then that ought to continue for as long as possible. The other good news is that unlike other former mill sites, that location offers a particularly appealing mix of utilities, transportation connectivity and other features that could make it an ideal industrial and mixed-use jobs center for generations.
If redevelopment were necessary, planning ahead might help would-be users to see what their options are to bring in jobs. Lower-rise buildings and public access in and around industrial, light industrial and other mixed uses fits the site best and brings other adjacent benefits to downtown Everett, as last month's column noted.
Kimberly-Clark and its employees have been an integral and visible part of Everett for years. The news of the Everett mill being for sale is hard on some of them and concerning for others. In such unsettled times, local leaders would do well to make an affirmative statement about the community's support for them in hopes that mill operations would last as long as they are viable there.
But contingency planning now would be reassuring as well, demonstrating a commitment to that area as a jobs center for generations to come. There's nothing elitist about fighting for jobs, explained one reader. On that, we can all agree.
Tom Hoban is co-owner of Everett-based Coast group of commercial real estate companies. Contact him at or 425-339-3638.



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