EVERETT — Drive east on 41st Street toward the Snohomish River and you’ll see the city’s newest neighborhood taking shape.
Construction crews are building 30 homes in Overlook at Riverfront, the first of two new developments along the river that will add 425 homes to the city.
That’s a massive project for the Puget Sound region where in-fill development — building just a handful of homes on any available lot — is more the norm.
“Master-planned communities of this size really are not possible right now, because of the amount of land you need,” said Alaina Robertson, director of sales and marketing for Polygon Northwest, the builder for the developments.
It’s also quite a turnaround for the area, the site of the former Eclipse and Simpson mills and the city’s former landfill, the scene of the infamous Everett Tire Fire in 1984.
The city of Everett has spent decades — and nearly $90 million — to clean up and prepare the industrial land for homes, a 3-acre city park and an area for shops and restaurants.
“It’s a huge boon to our city,” said Lanie McMullin, Everett’s Economic Development executive director. “It’s going to be a beautiful riverside neighborhood with trails and parks and a lifestyle entertainment area. It’s going to be a beautiful asset to our community.”
If all goes well, the first homeowners will move into Overlook by December. “Sold” signs already are sprouting outside unfinished homes.
“We have eight sold and that’s without model homes,” Robertson said last month. “People bought them before we even added cabinets or even had them painted or the dry wall up.”
In all, 235 single-family houses are expected to be built in the Overlook development and another 190 town homes in a nearby development called Towns at Riverfront.
While home construction progresses, details about the retail area still aren’t fleshed out. Shelter Holdings has taken over development of the commercial area from Polygon.
The company is run by Gary Young, who used to own Polygon Northwest before selling to William Lyon Homes, a publicly traded company based in Newport Beach, California.
Young said he couldn’t offer many details about the commercial project, other than saying that there will be more information in the coming year.
“We’re following in the spirit of a more dynamic shopping area that encompasses restaurants, some type of housing and a possible movie theater,” Young said.
When it bought the property, Polygon took on the obligation to build at least 400,000 square feet of commercial property — and as much as 1.1 million square feet of space — in the Riverfront area.
Everett City Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher has worried that Polygon will build the homes and then say that the commercial area isn’t feasible.
While the land needed to be cleaned up, the city always expected a return on its investment, Stonecipher said. A commercial area will generate sales tax revenue to help offset the city’s costs.
“We keep hearing they’re working hard on a lot of announcements, but we haven’t seen what those are,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with.”
The Riverfront area includes more than 100 acres that can be built on, plus wetlands and other areas where development is not possible.
The city has been planning this development at least since the early 1990s. The land encompasses the former Everett landfill that began operating in 1917 and was closed in 1975.
It also includes two mills that were part of Everett’s early history.
The Simpson Paper Co. mill operated from 1891 until it shut down in the early 1970s. The Eclipse mill was built in 1897 and burned down in 1962 in spectacular fashion with flames shooting 300 feet in the air.
The city plans a 3-acre park along the Snohomish River and is expected to keep at least one reminder of the river’s working past, Robertson said.
“They have the old boom that used to pull the logs out of the river that will remain there as a historical piece,” she said.
San Diego-developer OliverMcMillan purchased the land from the city for $8 million in 2008 and agreed to build a mix of homes and shops in the area.
But the developer never carried the project forward. In 2013, OliverMcMillan sold the property to Polygon Northwest.
Polygon has a great deal of experience building homes in Snohomish County, including projects at Silver Lake, Lake Stevens, Mill Creek and Bothell. The company also has worked throughout in King County, where one project, in Kent, also occupies a former landfill.
In all, the company has built more than 14,000 homes in Washington and Oregon.
For Overlook, Polygon is offering homes with several floor plans that include three-, four- and five-bedrooms. The houses range in size from 1,600 to 2,500 square feet.
Prices range from the high $300,000s to the high $400,000s. Each home will have landscaped front yards and fully fenced back yards.
For the Towns at Riverfront, Polygon also plans several floor plans with two- to four-bedrooms apiece. Prices haven’t been set.
Schools include Lowell Elementary and Evergreen Middle for Overlook as well as Jackson Elementary and North Middle for the Towns.
Students would go to Everett High School from both developments.
Depending on demand, the company expects build out to be complete within the next three years.
As a master-planned community, Polygon was able to pick the colors and styles of homes that would bring both developments together and allow it to mesh with their view of the area, Robertson said.
“You’re going to see homes that fit in the Northwest and really speak to the history of the Riverfront and the Everett area,” Robertson said. “People aren’t going to drive down here and think they’re being transported to beach community or sky rises and brownstones in New York.”
And presentation is something that the company views critical for its developments.
“We believe that when a customer first comes in the reason we spend the time and money on landscaping and the design of the sales office is we want to communicate the quality of the homes,” she said.
Something that shouldn’t be a problem is flooding, she said. The company has received a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to that effect.
“We are not in the flood zone; none of our homes are,” Robertson said. “We are actually physically above the flood level so we don’t have any concerns.”
Polygon has never been about building million-dollar homes on top of hillsides. Instead, they’ve built homes that are more affordable for families, Robertson said.
And that will be a boon for Everett, where home ownership rates are some of the lowest in the state.
“These are what we do best, which is focus on building community,” Robertson said. “Making it an opportunity for all walks of life to own a home and live in a home … for years to come where their families can grow in.”
The public is invited to see the first model homes at Overlook at Riverfront. The event is planned from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 19 at 4312 30th Drive SE, Everett. Light hors d’oeuvres and children’s activities are planned.