Port of Everett renovation plan goes before City Council

EVERETT — The City Council is to be briefed today on the Port of Everett’s plan to turn mostly vacant, weed-infested central waterfront property into a hip, vibrant, job-creating community.

The plan is an overhaul of the derailed Port Gardner Wharf project, which was heavily focused on building housing. This new plan, called the Waterfront Place project, mixes commercial and residential space, has more public open space and taps into the area’s maritime and mill legacies.

“If we were private developers, our goal would be to build the most houses on the site. That’s how we’d make the most money,” said Terrie Battuello, the port’s chief of business development.

But the port district is trying to encourage job creation, support the boating community and build open spaces for things like farmers markets, family picnics and watching the sun set behind the Olympic Mountains, she said.

Developing the 65-acre site will cost the port an estimated $33 million on top of nearly $85 million of work already finished or in process. That includes environmental cleanup, a marina for bigger boats, a commercial area for marine businesses called the Craftsman District and other capital projects, such as the Waterfront Center, a mixed-use building adjacent to the development area.

The port expects private developers will kick in nearly $370 million, she said.

The city already signed off on the Port Gardner Wharf project, which fell apart in 2009 when the master developer, Everett Maritime, filed for bankruptcy. The building heights and densities are the same for the Waterfront Place project.

This time, the port will be the master developer for the project, which will be built in four phases. The port will partner with private developers during various phases, which are expected to take between 15 and 24 months for a total of seven to 10 years.

The first phase will be the blocks closest to West Marine View Drive on the port’s east side. The plan includes commercial and residential buildings, a 120-room hotel, a large waterside park and piers for commercial fishing vessels.

“We’re trying to keep the commercial fishermen — some of whom have been here for generations — here,” Battuello said.

The second phase will be the perimeter and end of the wharf, which will include trails, parks and a waterside restaurant.

The last two sections will include the site’s commercial center and housing near the west end of the pier.

Battuello said the port hopes to start marketing the first phase in January 2015, with construction to start a year later. That is slightly later than the timeline port officials had this spring.

Preparing the final application has taken longer than initially expected, she said. The port will submit it to the city by June 30.

While city officials approved the previous project, some big changes — such as slightly easing restrictions on the proximity of housing to the shoreline — will go through a public review and require the City Council’s approval.

City planning officials have already given feedback on much of the application, which has been tweaked, Battuello said.

The current plan has space for nearly 3,200 parking stalls in lots and garages.

The amount of housing is still up in the air and will depend on market conditions and input from developers. The city has approved between 340 and 660 apartments and condos.

According to projections by Economic Alliance Snohomish County, the site will support about 1,800 new jobs. That is on top of 277 new jobs supported by early improvements related to the project and already finished, such as Waterfront Center.

The new plan increases public open space by about 109,000 square feet compared to the Port Gardner Wharf plan.

Battuello sees that open space — trails, sidewalks, parks, an esplanade — teeming with picnickers, a farmers market, walkers, joggers, sunbathers, artists and so on.

“People will come here, because, there’s nothing like it around here,” she said.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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