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Mill Creek planning for a second 'urban village'

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By Scott Pesznecker
Herald Writer
MILL CREEK -- The suburban city of Mill Creek reinvented itself four years ago by planning a popular retail hot spot that has bolstered the city's economy.
Now, plans for a new similar development are taking shape.
The East Gateway Urban Village -- planned on about 50 acres of land east of 35th Avenue SE, south of 132nd Street SE and west of Seattle Hill Road -- eventually will have the same look and feel as the Mill Creek Town Center, which opened in 2004, Mill Creek community development director Bill Trimm said.
Work on the new mixed-use urban village is still months or years away.
However, the Mill Creek City Council recently approved design guidelines to help control the size and appearance of buildings in the development.
"That's why we did this," said Trimm, who played a lead role in planning the Mill Creek Town Center. "We want to be sure we created a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with plenty of commercial in it, where we can reduce the need for trips, reduce our carbon footprint and create a more walkable community."
The project's new design guidelines are written broadly to give developers flexibility in how they build. The guidelines cover a variety of features in the urban village, such as the need for landscaping on the street, accent sidewalks with decorative bricks or concrete, storefronts that face the streets and apartments above businesses.
The East Gateway Urban Village is being planned with more residential space than the Mill Creek Town Center.
"We wanted to compliment the existing neighborhoods out there," Mill Creek City Manager Tim Burns said.
Karen Lowe, who lives southeast of the planned urban village, was one of many people from the area who opposed plans for a Wal-Mart to be built nearby. The proposal was dropped in late 2007.
Neighbors are excited about the potential for the East Gateway Urban Village, she said. Mill Creek planners have met with neighbors several times during the past year to discuss the progress of the project.
"I think it's quite well thought out," Lowe said. "They have a building height limit, and the buildings will be set up so they won't block the sunlight too much from the neighbors, which was a concern for some neighborhoods close to the development."
At least two developers have shown interest in building, Trimm said. The site consists of 13 lots, all owned by different people.
The plans for the urban village already are approved, but construction plans still must go through public hearings and environmental review once submitted by developers, Trimm said.
If all goes smoothly, the East Gateway Urban Village could be finished within four years, he said.
It couldn't happen soon enough, Lowe said.
"It harkens back to the way small towns used to be," Lowe said. "It's not just suburbia with the same types of stores everywhere."

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or
Story tags » Mill Creek

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