By Amy Watkins <i>For HBJ</i>
MUKILTEO — The opening of a new ferry terminal is years away but discussions about how the area of the waterfront will look and be used are revving up.
The city is negotiating with the Port of Everett for ownership of some property along the waterfront, Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said. The port in 2013 received the 22-acres of tank farm from the Air Force. The state plans to use the property to build a new $140 million ferry terminal while the city is looking to add public access and perhaps more.
“I know that the city is getting a little over 10 acres of property,” Gregerson said. “That’s the first piece of the current commercial and business area and some of the acreage is open space and some of it is roadways and road systems.”
There’s still plenty of discussion and planning between council members and residents that needs to happen before decisions are reached on how the city’s property will be used, Gregerson said. Parcels of land located near the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine research lab are zoned mixed-use by the city. That property could one day support commercial or retail uses on the ground floor of a building and residential use on second and third floors, Gregerson added.
“The city isn’t a land developer so I imagine we would really outline our vision for that and we would either sell the piece or do some sort of development agreement with someone who would want to invest in that but we’re a few years away from that now,” she said. “You’ll probably see more action at the state ferry terminal before you see action on the ground from the city but we’re going to start that conversation now.”
Another task for the city this summer is to open temporary public access to Edgewater Beach, near the Everett-Mukilteo border. Currently there is no legal access to the beach. A gravel path from the Sound Transit Mukilteo Station will soon lead to an existing road that runs along the tank farm. People will then be able to use that road to visit Edgewater Beach.
“That’s something we’ve been pushing on and have been committed to opening that access up,” Gregerson said. “We want to give the waterfront back to the community as soon as we can.”
The new ferry terminal and additional city property could help the city’s waterfront become more of a commercial activity area, said Shannon McCarty, executive director of the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce.
“We hope we’re going to be able to have some things there that make the area more attractive to folks,” she said. “There will be more opportunity to have more retail so if you were at the (Lighthouse) park, you could walk over and enjoy more of the things we just don’t have room for right now.”
Parking is already a concern for visitors and businesses that are on the waterfront, McCarty added.
“We have people calling every night asking where overnight parking is and there just isn’t any,” she said.
Bob Donegan, president of Ivar’s, believes Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing will stay at its current location but added that the Mukilteo Landing Fish Bar could move into the new ferry terminal if plans are made. He also wants to see improved parking in the area.
“It’s our home and we want to be there,” Donegan said. “It could be a better location for a restaurant than it is today with a reconfigured plan for parking.”
The parking along the waterfront could definitely improve, agreed Sherry Jennings, director of marketing for Diamond Knot Craft Brewing.
“Obviously we want to change the parking situation, too, so that’s its very walkable and friendly and encourages people to explore the area,” she said. “That’s our flagship location… We really need to make that destination special. Right now, parking is horrid.”
Sound Transit wants a parking garage near the new terminal, Gregerson said. She would like to see the state and possibly the city contribute funding for that. She expects parking to be a big part of the conversation for the city and added that she looks forward to starting that discussion this year.
“There’s good research on how to tackle parking problems,” she said. “I think if we can as a community say here are all good needs and ways that we want to use our waterfront and have access to it, then we can fit that into some of those best practices that people are using already.”