Student protester makes a point about progress

Whether you call it a sit-in or a sit-up, this week’s protest by a Bainbridge Island teen couldn’t halt a planned shopping center. Chiara D’Angelo spent two days in a tree, drawing attention to an Ohio developer’s plan to cut down 800 trees on Bainbridge to build a bank branch and drugstore.

D’Angelo came down from her evergreen perch Tuesday. The project is moving ahead. But the 19-year-old Western Washington University student succeeded in raising a question: How much is too much?

How many shopping centers, parking lots and housing projects does a community need — or want?

Driving around Snohomish County, it’s hard not to bump into change at every turn. Once-familiar landscapes are being altered so fast that you might notice one view on a Monday, and by Friday see something different while driving the same route.

That’s true in Everett, Lynnwood, Marysville and points north, where hotels, apartments, shopping centers and car dealerships are being built or have recently opened. There’s more to come.

In Everett early next year, Snohomish County plans to break ground on a nine-story courthouse north of Wall Street, between Oakes and Rockefeller avenues.

On trips to my hometown of Spokane, I have been disoriented by new buildings in places that shaped my childhood. I attended Spokane’s Jefferson Elementary, which last fall reopened in a snazzy new building blocks from the old brick school I remember.

In July, I stopped by Joel E. Ferris High School, my Spokane alma mater. It’s on the same campus I attended, but much of the 50-year-old school was razed in a recent renovation project, and the new pitched-roof architecture makes the place unrecognizable to this 1972 graduate.

That’s nothing compared with what alumni of old Lynnwood High School now see on shopping trips to Alderwood mall. Since 2009, when the new Lynnwood High opened east of I-5 near Bothell, former students have known that their old school north of the mall would be demolished.

Now, not only is the school gone, the play fields have been removed. The place where generations of Lynnwood Royals went to class and played sports is now bare dirt, with construction equipment clearing the way for a Costco store across from Alderwood at 184th Street SW.

Costco will be the first phase of Lynnwood Place, built by Texas-based Cypress Equities. The 40-acre site is owned by the Edmonds School District, which will lease it to the developer. More commercial buildings and apartments are planned for a next phase.

Another huge Lynnwood development, 180 apartments and townhomes, is hard to miss next to I-5 at 164th Street SW and Larch Way. Built by Goodman Real Estate of Seattle, that complex is called Altia. The same company is building a 383-apartment project called Tivalli on Ash Way, north of 164th Street.

Downtown Everett’s skyline is rising with completion of the new six-story Hampton Inn hotel at 2931 W. Marine View Drive. Nearby, on the southeast corner of Rucker and Hewitt avenues, Everett’s Skotdal Real Estate is at work on a new 102-unit, seven-story apartment complex. The company also built Everett’s Library Place apartments.

On Grand Avenue to the west, developer Lobsang Dargey’s Path America company is building a 220-apartment complex.

In some downtown places, big new buildings now block waterfront views. When they arrive, all those apartment dwellers will bring more changes — and perhaps a more lively downtown scene.

To the north, Marysville’s Roy Robinson Chevrolet-Subaru has opened a new Subaru-only showroom and service center. And along I-5, Honda of Marysville is another new dealership.

Farther north, the Stillaguamish Tribe plans to open a five-story, 125-room Angel of the Winds Casino hotel by year’s end.

Anyone with a long history in one area sees lots of change. If it’s a problem, it’s a better one than having no development. New construction, with the jobs and people it brings, is a sign of economic vitality.

And yet, that young woman in the tree raises questions worth asking. Does one more drugstore, bank branch or apartment complex add real value to a community? Is it more valuable than what it replaced?

As we keep building, we should keep asking.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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