Redevelopment is urban biology. For planning to click, construction, building and transportation need to nestle into a larger community web. Unnatural objects are (or should be) expelled.
The growth of Everett Community College is a profile in farsighted development, enriching and breathing life into north Everett. New construction and a campus reorienting to Broadway has had a catalytic effect. The old Topper Motel and other notorious drug and prostitution haunts are history. The culture and walkability of the neighborhood have changed, public safety improved.
The shifting landscape is not the result of conventional urban renewal, the misguided postwar strategy of razing neighborhoods and plunking down pre-conceived monstrosities without carrying capacity or arteries into the community. (Think Robert Moses and the sprawling disasters conceived half a century ago in New York.) A focused, piecemeal building out, the EvCC strategy centers on transforming the campus into a vital community of students and educators. That vitality radiates through the city.
The Student Fitness Center, built without state dollars and supported in part by student fees, has become a money-generating venue for athletic competitions. The interior is stunning, featuring floor boards from the old gym recast as wall art. Index Quad is coming together, and the college is moving up the state’s capital funding ladder to construct a new library. The nursing and life sciences programs will soon relocate to Liberty Hall, the campus jewel on Broadway slated to open in April. (EvCC buildings are named after Cascade peaks.)
Everett Community College President David Beyer is credited for his leadership, herding the political, community and fundraising cats to make whole a dynamic vision for EvCC. Beyer is instrumental in furthering the college’s partnership with Providence Hospital, a key funder and health care employer.
On the east side of Broadway, WSU is considering its first campus building to accommodate a swelling undergrad curriculum. The next few years will determine whether WSU/Everett is an anchor campus like Vancouver or a more modest branch like WSU/Spokane.
With WSU as a backdrop, here’s a redevelopment brainstorm: Partner with local investors, policymakers and the city to land a WSU bookstore in Everett. The mission is to spread that catalytic love and extend it south into the downtown core. A downtown WSU bookstore would invigorate legions of Cougars and provide a needed gathering place close to small businesses, restaurants and county offices. Mix caffeine and WSU sportswear and let the alchemy begin.