By Robert W. Champion
Peter Newland’s fine March 31 commentary, “Fresh start for mill site,” about the waterfront’s decline and loss of its identity is an excellent reminder to citizens that the waterfront here should be considered one of our most treasured assets and not just a tax burden that needs reinventing.
I was born and raised in Tacoma — another “mill town” with a fine waterfront — and was welcomed into Everett to design and own a small hotel called “Marina Village Inn” on the waterfront overlooking a beautiful seascape with islands, sailboats, ships, private yachts, and the Olympic Mountains. We may even want to reopen it if Newland’s ideas for redevelopment catches on.
I was also asked by Eric Nord to design an office building beside his manufacturing plant on the waterfront facing Marine View Drive. I was told this was the largest natural wood panel door company in the world. This neat old man was like a father to the several hundred hard-working employees. When he died, so did his extremely successful “mill.” That story is equally sad, involving a union and relatives. This continues to happen, worldwide, and we need to adjust to the changing times.
Another interesting thing relating to waterfront use: I suggested to Eric, “Why don’t we put the building on the shoreline with a glass wall, allowing employees to enjoy the beautiful seascape of Possession Sound, Jetty Island sailboats and the Olympic Mountains?” Eric said definitely no way. That is the lifeline of this company where we ship and receive our products. (He was a very practical thinker, which was probably part of the key to his success. He lived on the top of the hill behind the plant on Grand Avenue where he could enjoy daily the plant and waterfront.)
While I was going to college during the war, I worked on an aircraft carrier in the Tacoma shipyard, a stone’s throw from downtown. I am sure the shipyard is now gone, creating the same problems as here in Everett: Why are we wasting a beautiful waterfront when all it may need is a study of its uses?
People come from all over the world to visit Seattle’s waterfront Pike Place Market, where farmers come to sell produce and fishermen sell fish. They have now installed a Ferris wheel on the waterfront, and are relocating the elevated viaduct underground to open the city view and making it easier to visit the beautiful waterfront. They have also provided a walking route with stairs and an elevator down to the waterfront.
Officials should consider a more diversified use of our waterfront (as suggested by Newland), with a mix of retail business, housing, parks, public recreation, benches, and landscaped walking and bike trails from the central business district. A tour ship dock to Asia and Alaska might be considered; a railway stop across Marine View Drive from the waterfront would be handy to travelers and increase the access to the many activities that might be enjoyed there.
Our waterfront might park many of the cars underground if financially feasible, rather than using the majority of the limited waterfront land as a parking lot.
Architect Robert W. Champion lives in Everett.