Arlington ready to debut avenue

ARLINGTON — After more than 25 years of discussions, a year of construction and nearly $4.5 million of city money, a redesigned North Olympic Avenue is almost ready for its debut.

The downtown street opened Thursday after months of construction. Workers next week expect to take care of finishing details, such as planting trees, painting curbs and adjusting manholes. The street is scheduled to officially “reopen” Oct. 6 with a daylong festival that includes the Bite of Arlington, live entertainment and a parade.

“There’s incredible excitement to actually, finally, have this done and to be able to show it off,” said Kristin Banfield, Arlington’s assistant city administrator. “We have businesses right and left doing improvements to the exteriors of their buildings and doing remodels to their interiors.”

As part of the project, the city hired design consultants to help interested businesses plan renovations that fit with the district’s historic feel.

The consultants helped Carla Lowe design interior signs for her business, Little Italy Italian Market and Trattoria. Though business owners and city officials initially sparred over the street’s redesign, Lowe said she was amazed by how accommodating current city leaders were.

“This a rare situation — and it isn’t easy,” said Lowe, owner, or as she likes to be called, la padrona, of the restaurant and market. “In a lot of cases, you never see this. In places like Seattle or in a huge county, the general feeling is they just don’t give a rip. ‘We’ll let these people go out of business.’ But that didn’t happen in Arlington. They cared.”

City leaders and merchants hope the renovations will prompt a new wave of economic development downtown. Banfield said she has already noticed more people driving through to check out the changes and visit the hundred or so downtown businesses.

The project included the removal of underground storage tanks and the installation of new pavement, sidewalks and streetlights.

“It’s beautiful beyond my expectations,” said Mayor Margaret Larson.

Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or

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