Arlington’s vibrant core

ARLINGTON — Seven years ago, they hoped a rebuilt Olympic Avenue — with wider sidewalks, trees and new street lights — would make a difference for the future of the city of Arlington.

Today, city officials and business owners believe the revitalization of Arlington’s downtown main street helped the city weather the economic recession, boost community pride and even attract industry to town.

Olympic Avenue is where people gather to attend public meetings, participate in local festivals and otherwise shop, eat and do business.

“Prior to the project, our main street was in dire need of help,” said David Boulton, owner of Flowers by George, a longtime floral shop on Olympic Avenue. “It didn’t function well and it looked bad. We were desperate for a change.”

In Mountlake Terrace, city officials are about to embark on a similar revitalization project designed to create jobs, offer affordable housing and reduce the need for cars in the downtown area.

Arlington city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield believes the project will help the south Snohomish County city.

“Arlington’s project did exactly what we thought it would,” Banfield said. “The business owners, the city and the community stepped up to make our downtown core better. I run into people all the time who want to tell me what a nice downtown we have. With thousands of people on the Centennial Trail right alongside Olympic, we know that many stop here for lunch and other services.”

For about $4 million, Arlington replaced its water, sewer and storm water lines under Olympic Avenue. A block at a time, the city built a new roadway with new curbs, gutters and sidewalks, planted trees and erected new street lighting.

“We even got new trash cans,” Boulton said. “The main street project kicked off our campaign to encourage people to shop locally, including our farmers market. It was the start of a new era for our city.”

The investment of tax revenue paid off, Banfield said.

“You concentrate on your streets and the return is investment by business,” Banfield said. “In turn, that attracts manufacturing because companies like the quality of life we have here. We’ve had ups and downs during the past six years, but Arlington is in a good place right now.”

Mountlake Terrace and Arlington are very different cities.

Arlington, in north Snohomish County, is about twice as old, has an airport and was built on farming and logging. Mountlake Terrace, along the King County line, remains a suburban bedroom community of Seattle, with pockets of retail shopping and services.

However, the outcomes of those cities’ main street projects should be similar, said Shane Hope, community and economic development director for Mountlake Terrace.

The city plans to rebuild some failing streets such as 56th Avenue W., from 230th to 236th streets; 232nd Street SW, from 56th to 58th avenues; and 236th Street SW, from 56th to the transit center along I-5. The work includes underground power lines, wider sidewalks, bike lanes, trees and new street lights.

The city is encouraging the construction in the downtown core of multi-use, multi-level buildings, with retail businesses on the ground floor and residential units above, Hope said.

If all goes well, estimates show that Terrace’s revitalized downtown area could support 1,400 new jobs, Hope said. The $12 million project is to be paid for by city and state transportation funds and grants.

“The City Council developed the Town Center Plan in 2007, but the recession knocked out any new development,” Hope said. “Now we have one new multi-use building finished and two more in the works. We believe the main street project here is going to turn the tide for Mountlake Terrace.”

The goal is to begin street construction in 2015, Hope said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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