What could Mukilteo’s waterfront look like?

Master Plan briefed; different projects given timelines
By Brandon Gustafson | Aug 07, 2019

In case you haven’t noticed, Mukilteo’s waterfront is undergoing some major changes.

A little over a year from now, a new ferry terminal will be up and operating roughly one-third of a mile east of the existing one, and even more drastic changes are on the horizon – both short-term and long-term.

In early 2016, the City adopted its Downtown Waterfront Master Plan after an extensive public outreach project, which included a mix of elected officials, residents, and business owners, Community Development Director Dave Osaki said.

The plan helped give a clear vision for what the City wanted arguably its most desirable asset to look like over the next two decades.

“Part of the rationale for the plan is that in 2013 the Air Force transferred property to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and also the Port of Everett as part of the Tank Farm transfer,” Osaki told City Councilmembers at their Aug. 5 meeting, “and more recently, since the plan was adopted, it anticipated the ferry terminal relocation and possibly redevelopment of NOAA.”

The terminal relocation has been ongoing for the last few years, and is expected to be completed fall 2020. NOAA recently announced it received funding to reconstruct its Mukilteo waterfront facility.

In addition to the Aug. 5 meeting, Osaki sat down with The Beacon Monday and discussed different waterfront projects and when they are expected to be completed.

The Downtown Waterfront Master Plan is considered a “subarea plan,” and the City has others , such as Japanese Gulch and the Downtown Business District. The plan calls for the use of grants more so than City funds, thus some aspects of the project may take longer than others due to funding availability.

“This plan was adopted in accordance with the Growth Management Act, and really what it means is (this plan) is a component of (the City’s) comprehensive plan,” Osaki said at the council meeting. “So this is an expression of the City policy, and even though it’s general and conceptual, it provides direction for the staff and the City in terms of actions that we want to do to implement changes to the waterfront.”

The plan is broken into two main areas – east and west of the new ferry terminal – and gives plans for different parts of those areas. On the west side, for example, there’s the possibility for a “pocket park” at the north end of Mukilteo Speedway, next to the water. The main aspect of the plan is for the waterfront to be pedestrian oriented, with “playful” waterfront uses. Additionally, the plan aims to have visitors experience both “urban environments,” such as shops and restaurants, with a natural shoreline. As part of this, the City has the Japanese Gulch Daylighting project, which received $400,000 from the state Legislature this year, said Osaki.

The key aspect that connects all the waterfront’s features together, Osaki said, is the planned waterfront promenade. The City will be constructing it on various parts of the waterfront, and Washington State Ferries and NOAA will assist with segments on their properties.

“That’s kind of the bow that ties this all together,” he said.

While the plan is just over three years old, some aspects of the project may not happen, Osaki said.

“The plan expresses the vision on a general level,” he told the council.

Some waterfront property isn’t in the City’s control, such as land owned by the Tulalip Tribes east of the new terminal, which the tribes and the Port of South Whidbey have considered using for a parking lot. Osaki told councilmembers that the plan actually had that property marked as a potential area for parking in 2016.

Councilmember Steve Schmalz, who was on the plan’s committee, wants to know what the process is for altering the plan. He pointed out that the plan has a pedestrian bridge parallel to the SR 525 that’s unlikely to occur, and that the council may look at trying to get the SR 525 bridge replaced instead.

Osaki said the council would likely have to go through the docketing process, as the plan is part of the City’s policy, as it’s part of Mukilteo’s Comprehensive Plan.

Council Vice President Anna Rohrbough said she is frequently asked what the plan is for the area where the current ferry holding lanes are. Because that’s privately owned, Osaki said, it’s not abundantly clear. However, because of the plan and zoning, if something is constructed there, the ground level would need to be for commercial use.

“It could be a shop, an art gallery, retail, but no industrial uses,” Osaki said.

Former City Councilmember Charlie Pancerzewski told councilmembers he thought the plan should be reopened for the public, and that there seems to be a conflict between past actions and the current discussion.

“We spent millions of dollars to acquire Japanese Gulch so it wouldn’t have any development in it, yet we seem to be promoting (development on the waterfront),” he said.



In addition to the current ferry terminal, there are a number of waterfront projects scheduled during the next few years.

Osaki sat down with The Beacon on Monday and discussed different waterfront projects and when they are expected to be completed.

To help with pedestrian safety, the SR 525 bridge will have one of its sidewalks widened, while narrowing the lanes on the bridge. That should be completed either late 2019 or early 2020.

NOAA’s redevelopment will get underway soon, and the current estimate for demolishing the current facility, constructing a new building, lab, and boat storage, is 2022.

The daylighting of Japanese Gulch, which will create an open creek channel to Possession Sound, along with restoration to expand public beach access and a creek channel and estuary, is estimated to be complete in either 2021 or 2022. The City received a portion of the total funds needed to complete the project.

Some unknowns are the future of commercial development near the current holding lanes, the future of the Tulalip property, improvements to Edgewater Beach, and the creation of a future City park east of the NOAA facility and west of the new terminal.



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