By Debra Smith Herald Writer
EVERETT — Buildings at the Kimberly-Clark mill are expected to start coming down by the end of the month, leaving a massive void on the city’s waterfront.
It could be years before something takes the mill’s place.
The Kimberly-Clark pulp and paper mill has been closed since April.
The company has committed to cleaning up the 66-acre property, and that could take at least three years, said Tim Nord of the state Department of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program.
And three years is light-speed for a complex environmental cleanup.
“What we’re trying to do at Kimberly-Clark is be as aggressive as possible,” Nord said. “We’ve mobilized more staff than normal because of the urgency in this community.”
The state is willing to work with any potential buyer, he said. Development and cleanup can occur at the same time.
Meanwhile, the City Council is poised to extend a moratorium on developing the property another six months, to Feb. 15.
That’s got Kimberly-Clark and its real estate company concerned that the city’s delay will make it harder to sell the property.
“There’s the dampening effect of uncertainty in the market,” said David Speers, a senior vice president with Kidder Mathews, the real estate company marketing the property. “Developers will pass on a project if they can’t pin down a timeline.”
He told the Everett Planning Commission on Tuesday that a high-tech company toured the site twice but didn’t make an offer, citing the uncertainty.
The mill’s access to a deep-water port and the railroad make it most appealing to water-dependent industry, Speers said. Business parks, offices and other enterprises can find cheaper land elsewhere, he said.
Although the public might want a trail or a park on site, that’s unlikely with an industrial use, Speers said.
“Industrial sites by definition are closed environments,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous environment.”
The city put a hold on development at the mill site last February so it could figure out the best use for the land.
Even though it is private property, the city wants to ensure such a large, visible part of the waterfront is put to good use, said Allan Giffen, Everett’s Planning and Community Development director.
“We don’t want to pass up an opportunity to do the right thing,” he said.
That’s why the city hired economic and land-use consultants. They are just about finished with their work, but the city needs more time, Giffen said.
Makers Architecture and Urban Design, the city’s land-use consultant, came up with several scenarios for combining different businesses with trails or a park.
While doing so is possible with water-dependent industries, it would be challenging, the consultant said.
If heavy industry ends up at the mill site, Kimberly-Clark may be able to turn other property it owns elsewhere into a park or trail, Giffen said. The company owns undeveloped land at the tip of north Everett called Preston Point.
A small chunk of land on the south edge of the mill might make a suitable pocket park, he said.
Giffen expects the city process to be complete around the turn of the year. If it’s finished sooner, the city will lift the moratorium sooner than February.
To appease Kimberly-Clark, the city agreed to put language in the extension ordinance that the city “is committed to completing its planning process expeditiously” and “to cooperating with the owner and any prospective purchaser.”
The Everett City Council is expected to vote on the extension Wednesday.
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; firstname.lastname@example.org.