North Marina: A little higher, but a lot better

Few vistas rival the one from the bluff above the Port of Everett Marina. The bustling activity of a working waterfront and a Navy base, set against the backdrop of Port Gardner Bay and the Olympic Mountains, offer a spectacular view.

So it’s understandable that owners of homes that overlook the marina are concerned about the height of buildings on the waterfront. Several residents of the bluff above the marina have expressed worries about – and opposition to – a request by the port to raise the maximum height of some condominium buildings at its North Marina redevelopment from 55 to 70 feet. How much of their valuable view would be obscured by such a change, they wonder.

Thanks to computer technology, we have an answer: next to none.

Maritime Trust Co., the project developer, has put together a presentation to share with neighbors and city leaders that combines photos taken from various spots along the bluff with computer drawings that compare what the development would look like with height limits of 55 feet and 70 feet. You have to look closely to see any difference. The port commission has delayed a decision on the change so neighbors can see the presentation.

In return for this marginal change, bluff residents will look down on a much more visually pleasing neighborhood, because the change in heights will allow most parking to go underground. Rather than cars and blacktop, folks on the west side of Grand Avenue will look down on a waterfront neighborhood with walking and biking paths, grassy courtyards and well-planned view corridors.

Some neighbors argue that the proposed change breaks faith with a public process that produced the original 55-foot height limit. Since that accord between the port and the City of Everett was reached in 2003, however, it was discovered that the water table below the development is too high in places to allow much construction underground. To make room for below-surface parking, while ensuring enough condo space for a profitable development, some buildings need to go a bit higher.

Up to 660 upscale condo units, along with restaurants, shops, office space and a boat-repair yard, are planned. The 70-foot limit, which would apply to only a few buildings near the center of the project, would leave room for maximum public access. A wide promenade would encircle the development and a public amphitheater would sit at the open, waterfront end of 13th Street. Attractive plazas and courtyards between buildings are also part of the plan.

It’s a development that’s far more likely to raise the value of neighboring homes than undermine them. And it’ll be infinitely more attractive than the industrial sites it will replace.

The Port Commission and city Planning Commission must weigh in on the height change, with the City Council having the final say. All should approve it, making this the best development it can be for everyone – including its neighbors.

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