Mayor’s speech pushes for UW

EVERETT — In his fourth annual state of the city address Tuesday morning, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson urged community leaders to travel with him Olympia this week to rally behind putting a UW branch campus in Everett.

In a wide-ranging speech delivered at the Everett Golf &Country Club, Stephanson said Everett is the “eminent” choice for a campus and predicted Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall — whose city also is vying for a campus — would soon throw his support behind the Everett site.

“This is crunch time and it is really, really important to show community support, for the University of Washington,” Stephanson said. “The risk of not coming together, frankly, is that we could miss this opportunity for years to come.”

The Everett Area Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the event, passed out purple and gold pompoms and water bottles with “Bring UW North to Everett!!” stickers.

Inside the ornate clubhouse banquet room, photos of the UW marching band and Husky Stadium were projected onto a screen along with images of Everett’s marina and downtown.

In November, a state consultant reviewing potential campus sites in Snohomish County ranked the 27-acre Everett Station site east of downtown first and the Marysville site second.

On Thursday, the Senate Higher Education Committee will hold a hearing on a bill backing the Everett campus proposal. Stephanson and others in support of the Everett site are expected to testify.

In his speech, Stephanson also trumpeted his belief that Everett’s economy is well positioned to weather a weakening national economy fueled by the subprime mortgage meltdown.

Everett Riverfront, a 221-acre mixed use development planned on a former mill and landfill along the Snohomish River, continues to move ahead, he said.

San Diego developer OliverMcMillan proposes building up to 1,400 homes and condos, more than 1 million square feet of shops and a hotel on the site southeast of downtown Everett. It’s also near the proposed UW campus site.

The city began negotiating a deal with OliverMcMillan more than 21/2 years ago. The sale is expected to close in the next few months.

Stephanson also touched on the city’s efforts to streamline new downtown construction projects to entice private investments.

“The investment opportunity in this community remains strong,” Stephanson said. “The interest remains strong and I think we truly will be and can be the exception to what’s going on on a national basis.”

He also noted the Port of Everett and Chicago’s Maritime Trust’s Port Gardner Wharf project planned for the city’s marina. That project is stalled.

Although the upscale Port Gardner Wharf recently lost its main financial backer, delaying condo construction by several months, Stephanson remains bullish.

“These projects will be every bit as strong, every bit as successful,” he said. “The timelines may change some, but we have every confidence that they will be strong.”

Flourishing Everett employers, including Boeing Co., Naval Station Everett, Providence Everett Medical Center and The Everett Clinic, make the city’s economy diverse and strong, he said.

Stephanson said in 2007 the city invested $27 million on local roads and transit and boosted the city’s public safety budget by $2 million, which allowed the police department to hire new officers, reactivate the downtown bicycle patrol and conduct more preventative policing methods.

Looking to 2008, Stephan­son listed several initiatives the city will undertake including:

The installation of red-light cameras;

About $29 million in road and transit projects;

A new graffiti-removal program;

Bringing a parks bond before voters;

The purchase of hybrid diesel-electric buses, installation of energy efficient lights and other “climate protection” efforts;

City sponsorship of a Fourth of July celebration;

The start of a new “diversity” board to help recruit minority workers into city government and hire more minority-owned businesses for city contracts;

And the retirement of debt on eight city buildings (2007-2008) and payment of all voted debt.

Perhaps in an effort to respond to criticism raised by opponents of the Everett site, Stephanson said:

The city is ready to commit 100 parking spaces for an interim campus by this fall on city-owned land within walking distance of Everett Station.

City officials have talked with eight property owners around Everett Station who have provided a verbal or written commitment to sell their property, increasing the branch campus footprint by nearly 47 acres.

City officials have also talked with Sound Transit about the transit agency’s 4 acres on the Everett Station Site. Sound Transit has expressed a willingness to sell the city “air rights” for a building with underground parking.

“The opportunity for immediate and long-term success just screams Everett,” Stephanson said, then paused. “Then again, what else am I going to say?”

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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