Everett residents welcome big plans

EVERETT – Downtown Everett’s roadmap for future development will have to rest in the planning department’s glove box for at least one more week.

After less than two hours of public testimony, the Everett City Council unanimously voted Wednesday night to continue debate on the Downtown Plan to its next meeting on July 26.

“We’ve got a lot of people excited and interested about the prospects of downtown, and we don’t want to lose that momentum,” said Allan Giffen, director of Everett’s Planning and Community Development Department.

About 50 people crammed into the City Council chambers for the meeting, many of them city employees or hired consultants.

Residents who spoke were generally supportive of the plan, and broke into applause at the end of the meeting.

Some people did share concerns that the plan would result in pushing out housing and services for the poor and middle class.

One young man said he feared a lack of affordable housing would bring the Bellevueification of Everett.

Shirley Morrow said provisions that would ban ground-floor food banks on streets designated for retail shops would make life harder for the city’s residents in greatest need.

“I don’t want us to be an elitist city. We never have been,” she said. “I’m certainly for improving Everett, but I don’t want to forget about these people.”

An elementary school, which could make downtown more inviting for families to live, a central park and better mass transit were also urged.

The plan would rezone 15 downtown blocks from industrial to business uses.

Reshaping downtown’s land-use policies could help steer more economic development for the downtown area, which has already attracted more than $1 billion in public and private investments in recent years.

The plan zeros in on the downtown core, generally bounded on the north by Everett Avenue, on the south at Pacific Avenue, and on the east from Broadway to W. Marine View Drive.

It creates detailed urban design guidelines that encourage walking and biking, landscaped medians, attractive street lamps, parks and historic preservation.

It also sets goals for increasing the number of people who live downtown, with hopes of filling new shops and restaurants with thousands of customers who live above them.

The number of apartments and condos downtown could nearly double in the next 20 years, according to the plan.

After explaining in great detail “floor-area ratio bonuses” that would allow developers of tall buildings to exceed building height limitations, Giffen with the planning department paused.

“I know this is fairly dry stuff, but its exciting stuff to us planners,” he said.

Downtown plan

Key elements of Everett’s new downtown plan include:

* Rezoning about 15 downtown blocks from industrial use to business development.

* Controlling building heights, emphasizing the “wedding cake approach,” with the ridgetop along Colby Avenue having the tallest buildings.

* Offering height bonuses that would place no height restrictions in the ridge area for buildings that follow special design conditions.

* Improving sidewalks and the median along Rucker Avenue.

* Upgrading landscaping along Everett Avenue, W. Marine View Drive and Pacific Avenue.

* Adding bicycle lanes along stretches of Hoyt Avenue and California Street.

* Requiring awnings and other weather protection on new buildings.

* Adding design elements to keep the sides of buildings visually interesting.

* Requiring showers and locker facilities in all new commercial buildings of 20,000 square feet or larger. The idea would be to encourage more people to bike and walk to work.

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