EVERETT — Imagine multi-story buildings rising around the Everett Station; apartments above stores, restaurants or office space, with plazas and parks mixed in.
Realizing the vision is decades off, but work has begun to transform the neighborhood of warehouses and parking lots that dominate the area today. The Everett Station District Alliance believes the area is ripe for redevelopment, especially with the arrival of light rail set to happen in 2036. And to be actively involved in shaping the area as it grows, the group wants to form a business improvement area, also known as a BIA.
Everett Station opened to great fanfare with the thought that the neighborhood would be a place people would want to live and work, said Ed Petersen, president of the Alliance’s board, at a recent meeting. “But there’s been little interest over the last 17 years. We’re looking to create a more enticing environment for development.”
Petersen is also chief strategic officer at Housing Hope and HopeWorks, which together have several properties in the district.
The Alliance launched in 2014 and became a nonprofit three years later. Now the group, with more than 60 members, wants to raise funds by establishing a BIA. Not all owners are supportive of the idea calling the proposed special assessment, the additional charge on owners in the district, too expensive. They also worry improvement area would duplicate services already provided by the city.
The district boundaries stretch from 41st Street in the south to Hewitt Avenue to the north. The western border generally follows Broadway and the eastern edge includes rail line and I-5. A few parcels west of Broadway were recently included.
The plan is to charge each property based on assessed value and square footage — $0.67 per $1,000 of assessed value and $0.04 per square foot. If established, the BIA would take in about $495,000 a year.
In return, the Alliance proposes offering services they say would address public safety and cleanliness, and promote investment in the neighborhood.
That includes hiring street ambassadors whose job would include monitoring criminal activity and assisting people experiencing homelessness or mental illness by connecting them with services. Crews would also be tasked with cleaning up litter and removing graffiti.
The public safety and cleaning services would make up about 60 percent of the BIA budget.
Other priorities include advocating for the city to impose parking restrictions in the station area and addressing RVs that park for long stretches. It also would push for dense, mixed-use structures and recruit businesses.
The group wants to see the future light rail station along Broadway closer to Everett’s core, rather than next to the Sounder station and bus depot.
The only other BIA in Everett is downtown. Established in 1995, it collected $480,000 last year, according to the city of Everett. Its rates are $0.14 per $1,000 of assessed value and $0.08 per square foot.
John Hull, director of strategic initiatives for the Everett Gospel Mission, signed onto the BIA immediately. He sees it as a way to rally the neighborhood, keep it cleaner and change perceptions people have of the area.
“Having a presence and activity makes a difference in how people perceive the community,” Hull said.
Some businesses aren’t sure the price is worth the services.
Steve Corotas, who owns property along Broadway in the station district area and in the downtown BIA, said the Alliance’s proposed special assessment seemed excessive.
He said his two sites were comparable, but the assessment for the building near the station would be about twice as expensive, he said.
Corotas wants to see the Alliance save money by not hiring for the social worker-type roles, which he says duplicates city services. While he sees a benefit from the existing BIA, he also questions why the two BIAs can’t be run together to reduce overhead costs.
Another Broadway business owner Cecilia White echoed many of Corotas criticisms.
“I don’t see the added benefit beyond what the city of Everett services should be doing,” White said.
Forming a BIA allows businesses and organizations to pool resources for the mutual benefit of the group, said Brock Howell, the Alliance’s executive director. And it allows property owners to have a voice in major changes happening in the neighborhood.
While the Everett City Council ulitmately approves the formation of BIAs, the Alliance needs to show support from property owners who represent 60 percent of the assessed value of the neighborhood.
The group has started collecting signatures, and is about three-fourths of the way to the 60 percent target, Howell said.
Several long-time business owners are supporting the BIA and the owner of one to the largest sites — the Lowe’s property — has signed on, he said.
The city of Everett has the largest stake in the area, owning roughly 15 percent of the total assessed value of the properties in the district, according to Howell.
Dan Eernissee, Everett’s economic development director, said he anticipates the city will sign onto the BIA.
The Alliance aims for council approval this fall, with a special assessment going into effect this year or early next. If the BIA goes forward, there are about 160 different owners within its boundaries.