Face-lift in the works for downtown Marysville

MARYSVILLE — If the dream comes true, downtown Marysville would look a lot different from how it looks today.

People would be walking, on small streets made for bikes and pedestrians as much as cars. They’d be spending money at stores located on the first floor of buildings with apartments and condos on two or three floors above.

Delta Avenue would connect a new Marysville City Hall north of Fourth Street in Comeford Park with trails on Ebey Slough.

At least that’s the ideal. It could take 20 years or more to materialize, or the result could be somewhere between that vision and what’s there now. Much would have to be done through private sector investment. The city aims to get it started, though, by building a new city hall. It also aims to spur redevelopment of the waterfront.

Investment in downtown Marysville has been practically non-existent since the mall was built in the 1980s, city planning director Gloria Hirashima said.

“We want to make sure we don’t lose sight of our downtown and let it decline,” she said. “We want to figure out how to boost some redevelopment interest in downtown and get it started.”

The city will take the plan to the public over the next couple of months, including at a meeting July 30. The draft is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission in September and to the City Council in October.

The first piece, over which the city has the most control, is city hall. The city has been looking for a place for a permanent headquarters for several years. It rents a former office building at 1049 State Ave. City officials considered several pieces of property in the downtown area for a new city hall, including parcels it owns along Ebey Slough.

With advice from Makers, a Seattle urban planning consulting group that worked on the downtown plan, officials have settled on building on the site of the current senior center on the west side of Comeford Park, near the water tower.

The building would be built upward with two or three stories to leave open space in the park. The city probably won’t build for at least another year or two until the economy improves, city administrator Mary Swenson said. The city council has yet to approve any plans and the city does not have a cost estimate.

Behind the main city hall building, Delta Avenue would be transformed into a “woonerf” – a Dutch word for a street where automobiles are allowed but pedestrians and cyclists are given priority.

On the other end of downtown, at Ebey Slough, the plan calls for apartments or condominiums mixed with some commercial. The city envisions itself jump-starting development there, with details yet to be determined.

Multifamily housing in that area would help bring in people who would shop locally by walking or biking. The city also plans to eventually extend walking trails along the slough.

In the middle, between Comeford Park and the waterfront, lies the wild card: the mall.

Home to 17 businesses, the mall and its oceanic parking lot have dominated the city’s central landscape since the early 1980s. A stream, appropriately named Lost Creek, actually runs through a culvert underneath the mall and the parking lot. The plan calls for opening the creek to daylight.

The mall’s owners, Safco Capital Corp. of Los Angeles, aren’t familiar with the latest plan, property manager Tom Klugman said.

“Considering I haven’t heard of this at all I have no way to comment on it,” Klugman said.

Whatever changes occur will have to happen with the participation of the property owners, Hirashima said.

“We’re not going to go condemning property,” she said. “Ultimately if the owner of the property is not willing to work with us we’re limited on what we can accomplish.”

People at the mall on Monday had mixed reactions to redevelopment of the area.

“It sounds great,” said Randy Hill of Marysville, who parks his bike at the mall and rides the bus to Everett. He’d like to see more bike lanes, he said.

Ruth Patrick of Marysville, who shops at Craft Mart at the mall, said she likes to park in a parking lot as opposed to on the street.

“If you have to do a lot more parking on the street and have to fight traffic on the street then I don’t like that,” she said.

At least a couple of the owners of small businesses on Third Street — which serves as something of a model for the downtown plan — like the idea.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Mary Kirkland, owner of the Hilton Pharmacy.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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