LYNNWOOD — As light rail crawls its way toward Lynnwood, the city is preparing for an expected influx of more than 17,000 residents by 2035.
The skyline is quickly changing to accommodate that projected growth.
A new seven-story apartment complex across from the Lynnwood Convention Center dominates a stretch along 196th Street SW. A few blocks to the west, an eight-story apartment building resides over 40th Avenue West.
Along Alderwood Mall Boulevard, a Hilton Garden Inn is taking form. There also is talk of building two six-story, multi-family apartment buildings at the former Sears site.
These are some of the nearly two dozen planned projects the city expects to see completed within the next decade.
“The biggest driving factor is the potential for new development next to the light rail station,” planning manager Todd Hall said.
Lynnwood’s population currently sits at about 37,000. With an expected growth of about 2,000 residents per year, the estimated population for 2035 is 54,400.
From 2017 to 2018, Lynnwood gained 1,310 residents, according to the state Office of Financial Management. That’s just behind Everett, which saw 1,400 new folks move to town in 2017.
Some of Lynnwood’s largest construction projects are clustered in what has been designated its City Center. That concentration is intended to reduce the construction’s impact on existing single-family neighborhoods, Hall said.
This area, near the convention center, was marked as a growth hub by the Puget Sound Regional Council in 1995, Hall said. Plans for development have been in the works since then, but construction didn’t begin until 2014.
“Lynnwood was traditionally more of a suburban city with more affordable housing,” Hall said. “Now, we’re seeing significant interest as more of an ‘inner core’ city. It’s not Seattle or Bellevue or Tacoma, but it’s one of those secondary ring cities that will see significant growth.”
Wally Webster moved to Lynnwood in 1978. The view from his front window portrays the city’s transformation.
When he moved in 41 years ago, the nearby arterial — 168th Street SW by Meadowdale High School — was two lanes with a caution light at a crosswalk. Now it’s four with a center turn lane and three traffic lights.
It took him 20 minutes to drive to his former job at Rainier Bank in downtown Seattle. Thirty, if traffic was bad.
“Lynnwood was a residential city,” he said. “We basically slept there and worked somewhere else.”
Webster said he believes the city’s recent growth is pushed by a need for housing. As more businesses like Amazon and Facebook have set up shop in and around Seattle, house prices in Lynnwood have gone up and more multifamily buildings have been built.
He doesn’t see the changes as good or bad, but as a fact of life.
“I think we can expect the growth because our population is growing,” he said.
In 2012, city planners set goals for what they wanted to see. That included 1.5 million square feet of retail space, 4 million in office space and 3.5 million in dwelling space. That works out to 3,000 homes. So far, they’ve added 655 apartments in the City Center area.
Two apartment buildings, the CityCenter and City Center Senior Living,are the first major developments to wrap up.
The pastel green, yellow and gray senior apartments overlook the city center off 40th Avenue. Inside the 347-unit building’s serene courtyard, the bustling of nearby I-5 is muffled.
Less than a quarter-mile away, the red and gray CityCenter apartments are between Alderwood Mall Boulevard and 196th Street. The 308 units are a 15-minute walk or 10-minute bus ride from the future light rail station.
More living space and bigger projects are in the pipeline.
Around the time light rail is supposed to roll into the city in 2024, an 18-story apartment building may tower over Alderwood mall.
In the City Center core, the maximum building height allowed is about 32 stories.
The Lynnwood City Council last May approved the high-rise Cosmos building, which will include 349 apartments, parking and retail space. Construction is set to begin this year or next.
Just north of the mall, next to Costco, the planned Lynnwood Place development will include The Home Depot and multi-family housing.
At the former Sears site, Avalon Alderwood will have five residential floors with the bottom level reserved for commercial space. It will hold 328 residential units.
The city is now working on a development agreement for a massive, 18-acre mixed-use project. It would be located on 44th and 196th by the Grocery Outlet and could include over 1,000 apartments in addition to retail, commercial and public spaces.
“That’s the big one that could really change the face of our city,” city spokeswoman Julie Moore said.
Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood also is constructing a $36 million science, engineering and technology building on campus. The Edmonds School District also has started work on a new school to replace Spruce Elementary.
A Sprouts grocery store recently opened along Highway 99.
The city is working to make sure its infrastructure can support the influx.
Major sewer upgrades also are are underway to increase capacity.
“There’s a lot of things that are happening here,” city planning manager Hall said. “We’re particularly well-suited to see that growth happen in the next decade to decade and a half. The light rail is coming. Once it’s done, we’re less than half an hour to downtown Seattle.”
Webster said he thinks Lynnwood is on its way to becoming a metropolitan city in the next 15 to 20 years. He hopes affordable housing and support for lower-income residents will keep pace.
“I’m just hoping that as we grow, we grow the social services that will be needed to keep us a safe and healthy city,” he said.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.