Home to 100,000

EVERETT – The city’s population is on pace to reach 100,000 when the state releases its official 2006 population projections this week.

The release won’t noticeably change how the city operates, but joining the six-digit club does carry symbolic weight.

“It’s a significant milestone,” said Mayor Ray Stephanson, an Everett native who has seen the city’s population more than triple in his lifetime. “We’ve hit the big time as far as cities across the country go.”

The state Office of Financial Management’s annual population estimates are scheduled for release Friday.

Everett was the sixth-largest city in the state by population last year with 97,500 residents, ranking between Bellevue’s 115,000 and Federal Way’s 85,800, according to state statistics.

Home construction, annexations and several other growth indicators are factored into the estimates, said Theresa Lowe, the state’s chief demographer.

Given what’s known about how the city has been growing, officials say there’s a good chance that Everett will top 100,000 people this year.

Annexations in the past year added 1,631 residents to the city’s population, said Dave Koenig, the city’s manager of long-range planning and community development.

Another 700 new houses started in Everett since the state’s last population count also pushed up the city’s population.

Stephanson’s greeting message on the city’s Web site already uses the 100,000 figure.

While Everett’s population has grown steadily over the years, its share of Snohomish County’s total population has declined.

One in three Snohomish County residents lived in Everett in 1900, but by 2000, that number dropped to about one in six .

Even so, Everett remains the county’s largest city. In 2005, Edmonds was the second largest Snohomish County city with a population of 39,860. Lynnwood was third with 35,430, according to state figures.

When jobs are factored in, Everett’s weekday population grows to well over 100,000, according to the city.

In the next two decades, the population of Everett could climb to nearly 170,000, if you include the city’s urban growth boundary.

More growth could happen sooner, with redevelopment of the city’s core bringing a projected additional 2,000 residents downtown, and planned condos in the north marina adding more than 1,000 residents there in the next few years.

Stephanson said grappling with congested streets and developing a more integrated mass transit system is vital to making sure the city grows gracefully.

He said he welcomes the state Department of Transportation’s widening of I-5, but said that is only one way to ease the region’s transportation woes.

“We can’t just keep building extra lanes of asphalt,” he said. “That’s clearly our collective challenge.”

Bill Barnes, director of the center for research at the National League of Cities, said the 100,000 mark could lead to small changes in the way some city employees do their business.

Nothing earth-shattering though.

“I suspect they’re lives will not change dramatically,” he said. “It’s not a magic key either to heaven or hell.”

Everett officials don’t expect that crossing the 100,000-population threshold will mean big changes for how people at City Hall do their jobs.

The city now qualifies in a different category in the almanac. And maybe it would earn a bigger dot on a map.

It also gets to run with the big boys of crime. Paul Bresson, a spokesman with the FBI, said a population of 100,000 will place Everett on the agency’s big cities category on its annual crime report. The city already contributes crime data to the FBI.

Everett grew up, first as a mill town, then home to people who built jets, and now is a community thousands of Seattle-bound commuters call home.

Kemper Freeman Jr., a Bellevue developer whose family has been a driving force in that city’s growth for 60 years, said Everett’s expected arrival at the 100,000 population level marks the community’s graduation from suburbia to urban center.

Freeman is chairman and CEO of Kemper Development Co. His mother was born in Everett. He developed and managed Bellevue Square and Bellevue Place. He also took over the Lincoln Square project, an upscale shopping and residential center with 20 restaurants in the heart of Bellevue.

He said Everett’s plans to become a pedestrian-friendly urban hub have potential.

Making a livable city takes work, he said.

“Everybody talks about walkable, but it takes a while to be walkable,” he said “You need a good mix of development. And the key is retail.”

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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