Everett riverfront deal signed

EVERETT — The city and a San Diego company formally signed off on a deal Wednesday that is expected to transform a former dump along the Snohomish River into a center of commerce with shops, condos, restaurants, a 225-room high-end hotel and a movie theater.

By spring or summer 2011, the company plans to open most of the commercial buildings between the river and I-5.

The city has agreed to build a three-acre park, walking and bike trails, and roads and to restore an additional 100 acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat.

“This is one of those monumental moments in your life, and in this case my professional life, to see this vision come from an idea to soon a reality,” Mayor Ray Stephanson said after signing the final closing documents. “I couldn’t be happier.”

The city plans to begin groundwork on the property this summer. OliverMcMillan is scheduled to begin construction on the commercial buildings next year.

The residential piece of the project will develop with demand in the housing market, according to the developer.

Cinetopia, a Vancouver, Wash., company, has already committed to joining the project and says it will build a 16-screen movie theater with a wine bar and restaurant.

Meanwhile, the city will have to vacate its animal shelter, a police impound yard and a public works storage area.

The deal is the culmination of years of work, including extensive environmental cleanup, engineering studies, legal wrangling and public workshops. It also required getting Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to allow the city to move mainline tracks through Everett that serve Seattle to the south and Chicago to the east.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, OliverMcMillan President Paul Buss riffed on a possible movie title for the site.

“This would have previously been titled ‘A River, a Dump and a Railroad Runs Through It,’” he said.

While numerous golf courses and buildings have been constructed on closed landfill sites around the country, Buss said this is the only attempt to build a “town center” that he is aware of.

“This is a day I’ve been looking forward to ever since I’ve been on the council,” Councilman Arlan Hatloe said.

Hatloe is a member of the council’s riverfront committee. He was part of a team that selected OliverMcMillan as the developer, after traveling around the country to visit projects by developers who lined up for a chance to build on Everett’s riverfront.

Despite the challenges of building on the site, Buss said their are also advantages

“It’s obviously a great opportunity market-wise, site-wise and city-wise,” Buss said. “We’re delighted to be here.”

The two-mile strip of land offers views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range.

“Our motto is making special places happen, that’s what we’re about, and I don’t know how you could find a more special place,” he said.

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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