By Dan Catchpole, April 22, 2014, Everett Herald
What happened to the Port of Everett’s plan to turn land around 13th and 14th streets into a gleaming gem of urban renewal?
After a very bumpy road that stretches back to 2000, port officials are putting the final touches on a revised plan for the 65-acre waterfront site that will focus on creating jobs and opening the waterfront to the public. The plan is expected to be submitted to Everett city staff for review by July.
Upscale housing was the focus of a previous plan called the Port Gardner Wharf project. It, too, included commercial, retail and public open space.
“If we were going to build the Port Gardner Wharf, we could start today. But that was a gentrified version of the port,” said Terrie Battuello, the port’s chief of business development. “How many Pottery Barns do you need to go to on the weekend? You want go to a place that’s authentic.”
This time, the renamed Waterfront Place project will tap into the area’s maritime legacy, rather than pave it over, to create that authenticity. The goals have shifted from cashing in on a hot housing market to creating jobs, supporting boating and opening the waterfront to residents and visitors — part of the Port of Everett’s mission. Housing — mostly apartments and condos — is still part of the project but primarily to help pay for the rest of the work.
According to projections by Economic Alliance Snohomish County, the site could support between 1,550 and 2,250 new jobs. That includes 277 jobs that have already come to the site thanks to early improvements related to the project and already finished, such as Waterfront Center, a mixed-use building adjacent to the development area.
Trails, parks and other public spaces will make up about one-third of the land. That includes a two-acre park at the end of the pier and an esplanade for walkers, joggers and bikers encircling the site.
Officials are reconfiguring — rather than rewriting — the original plan. For example, the previous plan put housing at the center of the site. Now, port officials are considering putting more shops and less housing there. They also have reduced the space dedicated to commercial and retail uses and increased room for marine sales and services and a hotel.
The changes they are making will have to be cleared with city staff, and the larger plan alterations will go through a public review process and require the Everett City Council’s approval, said Allan Giffen, Everett’s planning and community development director.
Port officials aren’t trying to change things such as building heights and density. That would require a new and lengthy environmental review.
The plans which will be submitted to the city this summer will give a general outline of the work and specify some capital projects. Many details can’t be nailed down until later in the process, in part because they depend on input from private developers the port plans to partner with.
That is partially by necessity and partially by design.
The port wants the plan to be as flexible as possible so it can respond to market conditions, said Lisa Lefeber, a spokeswoman for the port.
Also, many specifics depend on input from the developers, Battuello said.
At this point, port officials can only say that between 340 and 660 housing units — apartments and condos — will be built.
One big variable affecting that number is parking. Garages take up less space than parking lots. The previous plan focused heavily on underground parking, but this time, the port is leaving both options on the table.
Port officials hope to start shopping for development partners later this year and to begin construction in 2015. That will be eight years after ground was broken on the Port Gardner Wharf project.
Work on the Waterfront Place project would proceed in four phases — each lasting between 15 and 24 months — over a total of seven to 10 years.
With so many details to be decided, there is no estimate for the total project cost. Port officials had estimated the Port Gardner Wharf plan would cost about $400 million.
Under the new project, the port will spend about $33 million on parks, trails, upgraded utilities and other improvements.
It has already spent about $83 million on various capital projects connected to the work, such as the Waterfront Center, environmental cleanup, a marina for bigger boats and a commercial area for marine businesses called the Craftsman District.
In the latest plans, the first phase will cover the site’s east side, adjacent to West Marine View Drive. Its main uses will be for retail and hospitality businesses. There will be some housing. It will be “the heart and soul of the project,” Battuello said.
The second phase will be to the west, at the site’s commercial center, which will include a transit stop.
The third phase will be to the west on the pier and will involve mostly housing.
The final section will cover the end of the pier, which juts out into the East Waterway. It will feature a two-acre waterfront park, a hotel and a high-end restaurant, she said.
The port will pick a private developer for each phase. That is different from the Port Gardner Wharf project, when the port tapped Everett Maritime, a subsidiary of a Chicago-based company, to be the master developer. The project stalled when Everett Maritime’s financing fell apart amidst the Great Recession. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.
This time, the port is keeping the role of master developer for itself.
Partnering with developers makes sense because they know “how to build projects better than the port,” Battuello said. But “the port wants to stay in the driver’s seat so the public gets the development it’s promised. If you turn it over to a private developer, you lose that control.”