In the scientific world, they would call it an “emergent quality.”
In the world of business and local land use they call it “redevelopment.”
In either world, there is an air of inevitability, a recognition that change will occur as circumstances shift, that things will evolve and what once was a viable strategy is now a losing proposition. In such situations, change can be embraced, adaptations made or one can face the likelihood of extinction.
Scientists, developers and government officials share a bit of understanding about change: It is hard to predict. Knowing when a tipping point will come – when a species has absorbed more abuse than it can stand or when economic realities have out-paced zoning regulations – is difficult. Many in that disparate group also realize that once that point is reached, trying to hold on to the past is futile.
Most cities in South Snohomish and North King counties are in the midst of some version of coping with change in their business communities. Some are further along than others.
Mill Creek is well on its way toward achieving critical mass at its new Town Center, a project 10 years in the making.
Shoreline is ripping up Aurora Avenue N. and 15th Avenue NE. with the vision of a more viable atmosphere for business and residents. Lake Forest Park is working on how to make an historically underutilized Towne Centre area into a sustainable economic engine.
Despite a recent step back to tie their shoelaces, Lynnwood officials remained committed to taking a giant step forward with their City Center plans.
In Edmonds, while the downtown core bends under the weight of a building-height debate, work moves ahead on an International District along Highway 99 and in smaller neighborhood centers.
The stewards in all these cases, elected city officials, are working through tough questions. Successful evolution is all about the details and the right answer in one area may not work in another. Still, they must realize that change, while inevitable, can be shaped by those with the will and vision to do it.