EVERETT — A big federal grant could help bring permanent jobs back to the fallow stretch of waterfront that once housed Kimberly-Clark’s mill — and people could be working there as soon as mid-2021, port officials said.
The Port of Everett took ownership of the 58-acre site Nov. 1.
Days later, federal lawmakers announced that the port would receive a $15.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Leaders at the port expect that money to cover roughly half the cost of readying the land for cargo.
“We are full speed ahead,” port CEO Lisa Lefeber said. “There has already been enough time without the site producing jobs … Our top priority is getting that site back into productive use.”
Design, engineering and permitting are necessary before any paving. Utilities and stormwater infrastructure must be installed as well.
Prior to construction, contractors for Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark also must remove contaminated soil that covers the area. That process is expected to finish within a year.
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, along with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, worked to secure the money from the transportation department’s BUILD program (Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development).
“This grant award is a win-win for the Port of Everett that will clean up a neglected environmental hazard while also restoring the former Kimberly-Clark mill site to support maritime freight and commerce — stimulating Everett’s waterfront economy, and creating hundreds of new jobs in our state’s fastest growing county,” Murray said in a press release.
About 700 people lost jobs when Kimberly-Clark closed its paper and pulp mill in 2012. Ground at the once-teeming complex that had employed Everett families for generations sat vacant. Soundview Pulp Co. and later Scott Paper Co. owned the mill before Kimberly-Clark acquired it in the 1990s through a merger with Scott Paper.
Port commissioners voted to condemn the land in June over objections of well-established figures in the seafood industry, who also eyed the land. Many in the community also wanted to see the property in private hands.
A partnership of seafood companies in May announced it had reached a deal to buy the land from Kimberly-Clark. They had hoped to build out operations and corporate headquarters, arguing they were better-equipped than the port to bring back jobs quickly.
Port officials, however, disagreed. They said they were the only viable buyer with the wherewithal to see through costly environmental cleanup along the shore. They also were intent on securing the area to federal standards, as a buffer to Naval Station Everett next door.
Port commissioners authorized a $33 million purchase price last month. As part of the deal, the port received a $17 million credit to clean up the East Waterway.
The same day, port leadership announced an agreement to bring Everett Ship Repair LLC, an affiliate of Whidbey-based Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, to land immediately south of the Kimberly-Clark property. The maintenance shipyard, among other economic advantages, is part of a strategy to entice the Navy and Coast Guard to station more vessels in Everett.
Under the port’s plan, a facility now located on the site, the Foreign Trade Zone used for imported goods, would be moved to free up space for Everett Ship Repair.
About 30 acres or less of the old Kimberly-Clark property is available for redevelopment, Lefeber said. The overall area includes tidelands, a dock and a remaining warehouse from the mill complex. An electrical substation also will take up a couple of acres.
The port is looking to lease the vacant warehouse, the only piece of the old mill complex that wasn’t demolished.
“Now we’re going to be able to move forward more aggressively,” Lefeber said. “What we’re doing is we’ll be out in the street for engineering services. Our goal is to have that terminal in productive use within 18 months. That includes engineering, design, permitting, K-C’s environmental cleanup and execution of the construction project.”
That’s just the initial phase. Further development likely would occur over five to 10 years, she said. Rebuilding the dock is among the longer-term priorities.