While redevelopment near stations along the future Everett Link Extension is likely decades away, Snohomish County is already presenting visions of what could be.
Light rail is set to start operating in the central parts of the county by 2036. To leverage the multibillion transit investment, the county has begun identifying potential station locations and redevelopment possibilities near the Mariner and Ash Way park and rides.
In both areas there’s already an emerging critical mass of people and jobs, said David Killingstad, a principal planner for the county.
“There are a lot of thriving assets out there and we want to make sure we capitalize on those,” he said.
While the Sound Transit board will make final decisions on station sites and track alignment, the county hopes the early work will influence outcomes.
For the latest round of open houses, the county has narrowed its options for the stations in the unincorporated parts of the county from three to two. It’s also presented potential changes to density and road infrastructure that could emerge.
One possible scenario includes buildings 10 stories or higher containing a mix of residential, retail and office spaces within an eighth of a mile or less of the stations. Further out, a quarter to a half mile from light rail, building sizes would decrease to three- to six-stories, with a heavier emphasis on housing.
“We are trying to create a nice transition from a dense urban core moving toward single-family homes,” Killingstad said.
The mix of housing units and businesses in a compact walkable area near public transportation is known as transit-oriented development.
Much of the county’s vision would be built by private developers and dictated by market conditions, driven largely by the opening of the stations.
“The majority of what we envision will happen after light rail arrives,” Killingstad said.
Garrett Schwab, who owns a frame shop off of 128th Street SW near the future Mainer station, chose that location because he knew that area was changing.
“This area is ripe for redevelopment,” Schwab said.
He saw the area gentrifying and wanted to be in the midst of it. Schwab sees the county’s plan taking decades to play out.
“I’m not going to worry about what’s in the future, things are going to change,” he said.
New development is already happening in both areas. Whether it’s in anticipation of light rail or part of the growth happening across the region is hard to know.
Some people are going to be earlier adopters, said Patrick Pierce, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County.
He wants to see a mix of retail, residential and office space emerge to maintain a daytime and nighttime population.
The county is opening up another round of comments on the narrowed list of potential locations.
Some commenters during the previous open house preferred placing the station at 130th because it was close to the current park and ride and avoided 128th, a very busy arterial street.
Others favored the 8th Avenue location due to what they said was more residents within walking distance and better redevelopment opportunities.
Both options move the park and ride north toward 128th, placing stalls in garages.
The eastside option emerged because there is a bit more opportunity in that area for redevelopment and it could potentially serve more commuters from Mill Creek and communities east of I-5, according to county officials. This would require crossing I-5 twice, potentially increasing project costs.
Both concepts add a crossing over I-5 north of 164th for buses, pedestrians and bikers. Rerouted Swift Orange line buses would avoid the busy 164th and freeway interchange.
Designs for both light rail stations include a plaza envisioned as a gathering space and a place to host events, such as a farmers market or festivals.
“We believe we are building here a light rail community, not just a station area, and there should be something that brings people together,” said Jay Larson, transportation planning coordinator for the county.
The county’s next step is to work on a detailed plan looking at zoning, land use and development regulations for both station areas.
An online house on the two locations for each station will be available until July 31 at https://snocolrc.participate.online. The county is also holding two in-person open houses: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at Mariner High School, 200 120th St SW, Everett and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday July 25 at Oak Heights Elementary, 15500 18th Ave W, Lynnwood.
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