EVERETT — About 100 city and county leaders gathered Thursday to grapple with the redevelopment and revitalization of the neighborhood surrounding Everett Station.
The Everett Station District Alliance is a group of property owners, businesses and nonprofits in the area between Broadway and I-5, Hewitt Avenue and 39th Street, plus the three local transportation agencies that serve the station.
The group has been meeting for the last two years to come up with a plan to revitalize the largely industrial and commercial area southeast of Everett’s core and to transform it into a vibrant community. The area has been plagued by street crime in recent years and has become a magnet for homeless people.
“It starts with a 20-year vision. We need to know where we’re going and what the neighborhood should be,” said Ed Petersen, the chief strategic officer of Housing Hope, which has been hosting the meetings.
“We’ve built a beautiful train station, cut the ribbon in 2002 with the belief that people will be living and working in this neighborhood and not one thing has changed in 14 years,” Petersen said.
The group so far has been run on a volunteer basis only, he said, but the next steps will likely formalize some of those efforts.
So far, city government has played a supporting role, sending staff to meetings and offering information as needed, but the effort has been led by the mix of businesses, nonprofits, neighborhood associations and transportation agencies that have interest in the area.
Other major employers have an interest because those businesses need to be connected with Everett Station, and their employees need to live nearby for it to be considered the hub it was intended to be, Petersen said.
The unveiling of the District Alliance’s initial plan Thursday night was designed to take the long-term view of the area.
Speakers included Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, who talked about creating new communities around places like Everett Station. Rogoff had addressed a much larger and noisier audience in the same room on April 25 to talk about a ballot proposal known as Sound Transit 3 that’s likely to reach voters in November.
A dozen or so developers were in the audience Thursday.
Part of the challenge in transforming Everett Station will be convincing investors it’s worth the commitment.
“You’re betting on what’s going to be, not about what is,” said Aaron Adelstein, director of programs for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.
Nick Bratton, policy director for the nonprofit conservation group Forterra, said once a developer pulls off the first project, others are bound to follow.
“Once the ice is broken, people really see that there’s a market and a path to redevelopment and that there’s energy in a neighborhood that wasn’t an attractive place to live before,” Bratton said.
Forterra has worked on similar projects throughout the region, including ongoing work with Mountlake Terrace and Shoreline.
Bratton and others cited the development now occurring around the Northgate transit area in Seattle as a potential model for Everett Station.
Development patterns will have to change, if population forecasts are on the mark.
The Puget Sound Regional Council’s “Vision 2040” plan calls for Everett to prepare to accommodate up to 60,000 new residents in the next 25 years.
City officials have identified the area stretching from downtown east to Everett Station as the likeliest neighborhood that will be able to absorb that growth, said David Stalheim, Everett’s long-range planning director.
Everett is launching its own effort with an open house on Monday, with the intention of creating a subarea plan for what it’s calling “Metro Everett.”
The hope would be to have a plan approved by the City Council by next spring, Stalheim said.
The territory overlaps with that of the District Alliance, but Stalheim said the two efforts are not mutually exclusive.
“That’s the hope, that we would see these things fitting together,” Stalheim said.
The next step for the District Alliance will be to start hammering out the details.
That includes committees focused on creating incentives for developers in the neighborhood, green building and fostering stronger connections between the station and other parts of the city.
It also means taking a close look at problems in the area, such as a lack of parking and the city’s persistent population of homeless people.
While the steering committee for the alliance wants to move forward, that will take resources that the group hasn’t had to date as an all-volunteer organization that met once a month.
“There’s a question here as to how much community interest and support there is,” Petersen said.
“Tonight’s kind of a catalytic moment,” Petersen said.
Open house for Metro Everett
The City of Everett is hosting an open house on Monday to kick off a planning process for the downtown and Everett Station area. The open house starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave. More information is online at everettwa.gov/metro.