By Deanna Duff For The Herald Business Journal
EVERETT — In 2014, Mark Beattie relocated from Spokane for a job at Washington State University North Puget Sound at Everett. Living near campus and in the community was an important factor, so he and his wife joined the waiting list for living space at the in-progress Waterfront Place Central development.
“We were interested because of the convenience factor of being able to walk to retail spots and events,” says Beattie, program coordinator and clinical assistant professor for WSU’s School of Hospitality Business Management. “In choosing where to buy, that walkability factor really enhances overall property values.”
In January 2015, the Everett City Council approved the Port of Everett’s development project along 65 acres of central waterfront property in north Everett inside the Port’s Marina district.
The Port is acting as master developer in concert with private partners. The extent of development is a maximum of 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use development including a planned 660 housing units.
The initial focus will be on luxury apartments, which longterm could be converted to condos, according to Terrie Battuello, the Port’s chief of business development. Additionally, the plan includes two hotels with a total room count of 200 and 400,000-square- feet of office space and 40,000-square-feet retail space.
On Thursday, the port plans to hold an open house on Waterfront Place Central from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Blue Heron Room , 1205 Craftsman Way, Everett.
There has long been intent to develop the property. A previous plan, Port Gardner Wharf project, fell through during the Great Recession. Prior master developer, Everett Maritime, filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Battuello estimates the Port spent about two years navigating the legal process to regain control of the property.
“The Port itself has a really strong, vested interest in the outcome, which I find very appealing and I think most real estate developers will as well,” says Robert Holmes, one of the project’s consulting developers and founder The Holmes Group (THG), a real estate development firm. “The Port is a great partner in that they have been and will continue to put in improvements to the area both in infrastructure and planning.”
According to Battuello, the Port is investing approximately $40 million in public infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks and parks. Much of that work is being done this year. A project highlight is around 17 acres of open space and 15 designated, public areas. Private development costs are projected to be around $330 million.
“Waterfront place is a very different project than Port Gardener Wharf. This one is much more public,” Battuello says. “This is about a new neighborhood that reflects the history and culture of Everett from the boat building heritage to commercial and tribal fishing, mills and railroads.”
The development will be divided into sections and stages including Fisherman’s Harbor, Millwright District, Wharf’s Edge, Craftsman District and the Esplanade wrapping around the water’s edge.
Unique features are planned for each area. Fisherman’s Harbor will include the Pacific Rim Plaza showcasing the flags of international trading partners ranging from Canada to Japan. A particular highlight will be the relocation of the historic Weyerhaeuser house — a 1920s, red-roofed historic building — to Boxcar Park, a 2-acre park along the Snohomish River.
“This is a unique piece of real estate with so much history. The vision is to tap into the waterfront’s more human elements and the industrial and historical identities through materiality, building form and even roof lines,” says Rich Whealan, The Miller Hull Partnership and principal architect in charge of the project.
Whealan cites intent and planning to help ensure the area develops an organic identity rather than feeling like a pre-fabricated community.
This includes the building of a new bridge linking Everett’s upper neighborhoods to the waterfront and the focus on history.
“We want to have an authentic neighborhood. Part of that will come from carefully planned development,” Whealan says. “There will be the presence of boat repair and maintenance along with real waterfront uses. It will be part of the community and not behind a fence. It’s a way of bringing in some of that grittiness and work identity.”
Additionally, Whealan cites “maker spaces” as encouraging active, local entrepreneurship. The smaller-sized, leasable spaces in Fisherman’s Harbor are geared towards artisans and craftspeople. With a farmer’s market on site, the hope is to create an onsite, economic ecosystem in addition to furthering Everett’s overall forward momentum.
Timing precluded Beattie from waiting for a Waterfront residence, but he remains excited about the larger job opportunities awaiting his hospitality business students via new hotels and restaurants.
“Professionally speaking, this project affords a lot of industry interactions and collaborations given the hotels and restaurants in one location,” Beattie says.
Battuello says that 2016 will include developer recruitment and getting the infrastructure work underway. She estimates that vertical construction on housing will start in spring 2017 with hotel development commencing possibly later that year.
“My view is that once people become aware of this — lenders, investors, developers — it will generate even more overall interest,” Holmes says. “The Port’s task right now is to really tell the story of this project to as many people as possible to raise awareness of the amazing opportunities that exist in the greater Everett area.”