Port of Everett pictures smoother sailing ahead
But things are looking good for 2012, according to chief administrative officer Les Reardanz. “We're very excited and optimistic,” he said.
For a start, development plans are in the works again. An ad hoc committee has been reviewing the original plans for the waterfront area that envisioned more than 600 condominiums and retail development in order to make recommendations to a future commission.
That new planning commission will be separate from the developer, unlike the doomed Everett Maritime project in which planner and developer were one and the same.
The first task for the new commission is to scrutinize the existing development agreement the port and the City of Everett signed 2005 that laid out how the property should be developed.
Things have changed a lot since that old agreement was reached. Today's economic realities need to be taken into consideration. But Reardanz explained that the original mixed-use plans can't be changed too drastically or everything would have to start over from the beginning. That's something the port doesn't want to waste time doing.
“We already have land-use entitlements so we're starting at square four and not back at square one,” he said.
Currently, the ad hoc committee recommendation is leaning towards a modified version of the original mixed-use concept. The planned housing component will stay but not necessarily in the form of condos. Rental units or other types of housing can be explored.
The port also will have the commission create plans for phases of development in the project. Each phase will be separate and possibly use different developers.
In the meantime, cleanup on the site has begun. Upland and in-water cleanup of the proposed development area was slated for the start of 2012. Old buildings near W. Marine View Drive will be removed and any pollution cleaned up to clear the way for construction as soon as it is needed.
The port takes waterfront cleanup seriously. In September 2011, recertification in the Clean Marina Initiative Program won the port a leadership award.
In cooperation with the Department of Ecology, the port has completed multiple cleanup projects along the waterfront and now requires just one year of monitoring under the Puget Sound Initiative that was established by Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2007.
Reardanz said this level of environmental awareness will continue as the port's expanded boatyard is set to open in 2012. The new boatyard and the Waterfront Center will become part of a Craftsman District where all boat repair and maintenance can be centralized.
Upcoming maintenance around the port include dredging of the marina and the Snohomish River. The North Marina will be dredged during the first few months of 2012 when the Army Corps of Engineers dredges the lower Snohomish River channel.
Clean dredge sands from the projects will then be used to expand and protect the south end of Jetty Island. The man-made island in Port Gardner has been enhanced and expanded with dredge sands over its 100-year history. Now the island serves as a wildlife habitat and teaching tool for summer visitors.
Visitors to the Port of Everett increased during the 2011 boating season. According to public relations and communications administrator Lisa Lefeber, nearly 7,000 guest boats — about a 1,000 more than usual — used guest moorage last year. The occupants of each guest boat are estimated to spend about $250 each in the community per night of their stay, Lefeber said.
This is one of the reasons the port is keen to offer a variety of summer events and services to attract more visitors. The addition of four miles of walking trails, Wi-Fi, kayak rentals and entertainment is intended to attract tourists and locals.
During the 2011 boating season, the Tulalip Resort Casino offered free scheduled shuttle service between three port locations and the resort. Lefeber said that after the boating season had ended, the Tulalip Resort Casino was still willing to pick up visiting groups if guests called in advance.
Visitors to the Port of Everett now can eat at a new cafe that opened in the Waterfront Center across from Scuttlebutt Brewing Co. in November 2011. Designed to serve walkers on the marina promenade as well as people working around the port, the cafe employs six.
At the start of 2012, Waterfront Center will become home to the Ocean Research College Academy. A partnership between Everett Community College and the port, ORCA serves about 80 high school juniors and seniors and educational staff.
Initially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ORCA offers practical marine science experience for students. The lab and classrooms are located on the upper level of the Waterfront Center.
Shipping terminal activities are another vital aspect of the port. Exports have been strong in the terminals recently, Lefeber said. There has been about a 10 percent increase in ship calls and nearly an 18 percent increase in overall cargo volumes. More activity in the terminal can translate into more jobs.
To support the marine terminals, the port is adding 2,500 feet of rail line to better move cargo and enhance the port's logistics chain.
The project, funded in part by a state rail bank loan and federal funds, is scheduled to wrap up early in 2012. The construction of the rail extension is also of interest to Homeland Security.
“The Port of Everett is designated as a recovery port,” Reardanz said. “If either natural or man-made disaster occurs and takes down the ports of Tacoma or Seattle, then things would come through here. That rail spur would help with that.”
Overall, the bond rating for the Port of Everett remains high. It received another clean audit from the state, its 14th in a row. Reardanz believes the Port of Everett is the only port with that kind of track record. In view of this, he has a good feeling about 2012.
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