The 26-acre Mukilteo waterfront is the topic of community outreach to develop a unified plan. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The 26-acre Mukilteo waterfront is the topic of community outreach to develop a unified plan. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Got ideas? 26-acre Mukilteo waterfront beckons improvement

There’s an open house on Thursday. See what’s on the drawing board so far from 11 landowners.

MUKILTEO — The waterfront changed dramatically with addition of the splashy new Mukilteo ferry terminal.

That was well over a year ago.

Little has changed since.

Much of the 26-acre waterfront is blighted, unwelcoming and inaccessible to the public.

For years, there has been endless talk about developing that prime real estate into a destination for eating, shopping, culture and recreation.

Now there’s even more talk — but this time with possible action in the forecast.

Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber said the goal is a unified plan among the mix of private and public owners for the shoreline from Mukilteo’s Lighthouse Park to the port’s Edgewater Beach.

“There are 11 different property owners throughout the Mukilteo waterfront,” Lefeber said. “There’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen.”

Rather than the 11 cooking in different directions, the port enlisted NBBJ, an architecture, planning and design firm.

“We partnered with the city of Mukilteo to embark on the project and hired NBBJ to establish a vision and guiding principles through a stakeholder group and public outreach that will guide development, assuming we are able to get to the next phase of the project,” Lefeber said.

The cooks want to hear from you and share their ideas.

An open house will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Rosehill Community Center. An online survey through May 26 is another option.

Want a sushi bar? A water slide? Kayak rental? Speak up.

“More than anything we want to get moving forward on it,” Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said. “Discussion is a critical part. If we can get as many of the property owners all on one page, we know what we’re going to be doing. My fear was always that everybody was going to do their own little piece in a silo, and then we’ll see when it’s all done what we end up with.”

A big piece of the waterfront is the former Mukilteo Research Station, where a boarded-up World War II-era barrack stands. In 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration canceled plans to build a large modern facility when the bids were over budget. The port is regaining ownership of the 1.1-acre space between the Silver Cloud Inn and land owned by Mukilteo.

“We took it as an opportunity to say, ‘Let’s look at the whole waterfront, the projects and how we can develop a meaningful waterfront that meets all the goals,’” Lefeber said.

The new ferry terminal set the stage. It’s a showcase that has won state and national awards for design, and for passengers it’s a huge step up from the rickety structure it replaced. The building’s longhouse form was a collaboration with Coast Salish tribes and boasts tribal artwork. A new fishing pier is nearby.

A person walks their dogs along an undeveloped portion of the Mukilteo waterfront. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A person walks their dogs along an undeveloped portion of the Mukilteo waterfront. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Tulalip Tribes own a large portion of land that was once the fuel tank farm between the new terminal and Edgewater Beach. It is fenced for safety reasons.

Waterfront parking is a key issue.

“I would like to see some type of parking structure down there — rather than sprawling out the parking, stacking it so we can all kind of utilize one location,” Marine said.

All this takes time, likely years.

“My goal is to get some interim access while the planning process is underway,” Lefeber said.

That splotch of asphalt that paved over the former ferry approach ramp should soon look inviting.

The parklet, as it’s called, is an overlook for people to lean on the railing and soak in the view of Puget Sound and Whidbey Island.

Last summer, neighboring Ivar’s struck a deal with the port to use about half of the parklet for customers, but the outdoor dining experience was short-lived when the city shut it down due to permit hurdles.

This year, the permitting process is in place. The Port invested about $300,000 in parklet upgrades that will include benches, planters and nice bollards.

“We’re trying to do some decorative elements to make it look attractive as you come down (Highway) 525,” Lefeber said.

Ivar’s will use a portion of the space for diners and maintain the entire property.

“Everyone is rowing in the right direction,” Lefeber said.

Andrea Brown:; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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