MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — This city of cinder block ramblers is growing up.
Anybody driving I-5 can look east and watch the latest spurt taking place just north of the King-Snohomish county line.
Earthwork started last week on the former site of Evergreen Elementary School, where a developer is planning hundreds of apartments plus ground-floor businesses. The first step is punching through a new north-south road connecting the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center with 244th Street SW. Once finished, Gateway Boulevard, the new thoroughfare, would serve as a welcome mat of sorts.
That’s not all. Things could really change with the arrival of Sound Transit light rail, now expected in 2024.
“This is a transit-oriented development, with the idea that people who live there will be able to walk to the light-rail station,” said Roger Collins, the CEO of Woodinville-based Sierra Construction. “I think it’s going to bring a vibrancy that Mountlake Terrace has not seen to this point. It will tie in with the city’s gateway project to provide a new front door to Mountlake Terrace on 236th (Street SW).”
Leaders in the city of more than 21,000 people have been promoting denser development, taking advantage of the commuter-friendly situation along I-5. The City Council voted earlier this year to make it easier to build townhomes in the commercial district, east of the transit center.
The council approved a contract for the current project, now known as Terrace Station, about two years ago.
“Terrace Station is one of many current projects to implement a Town Center Vision established by our City Council several years ago,” city manager Scott Hugill said.
“This high-profile project gives Mountlake Terrace more housing choices and commercial opportunities in close proximity to our future light rail station.”
The nearly 10-acre campus of Evergreen Elementary accounts for most of the 14.6-acre site. The Edmonds School District voted in 2009 to close the school as a cost-saving measure. The district sold the property for nearly $4 million in early 2016.
The developer purchased the neighboring parcel in 2014 for $3.6 million.
Collins hopes to finish work on Gateway Boulevard by the spring of 2020, at a cost of about $8 million. Then, the developer plans to dedicate it to the city.
The road would connect to 236th east of the transit center entrance, Hugill said.
Soon after the road opens, Collins expects to complete the first of the three planned five-story buildings. The initial building would have about 250 apartments.
Under the city agreement, the deadline to complete all of the buildings is 2026, Hugill said.
All told, there would be about 600 apartments plus about 80,000 square feet of retail. A mix of shops, restaurants and possibly a fitness center could make a good fit, Collins said.
The project could bring healthy activity back to a vacant area that became a gathering place for homeless people after the school’s closure, he added.
Light-rail tracks will travel up the freeway right-of-way, just west of the construction site, to a stop at the transit center. By 2024, Link light-rail trains should connect Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace with downtown Seattle, Sea-Tac International Airport, Bellevue, Redmond and Federal Way.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald net.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.