19 years ago this week, Mountlake Terrace residents were in fear of yet another fire. On August 6, 1990, the East Plaza (current location of Elite Gymnastics) was destroyed by a fire. Five days later, the West Plaza (Double D Meats, Prime Pizza, etc.) was severely damaged by another fire. Two weeks later, another fire destroyed a home in Mountlake Terrace, nearly killing the elderly woman who lived there. In the next 9 months there would be 13 more fires in Mountlake Terrace.
About a year later, James Arthur Schmitt, a MLT resident, was sentenced to 20 years for starting the fires.
These fires were the nail in the coffin for Mountlake Terrace as an economic center
With heavy development in the Alderwood area in the 70’s, Mountlake Terrace was already struggling economically because of the close proximity to the major shopping center to the north. The neighborhood that at one time was bustling with small businesses, had been reduced to only a few. As anyone who is reading this probably knows, Mountlake Terrace has never fully recovered.
A brighter future in site
If you are a Mountlake Terrace resident, you will soon find in your mailbox the August issue of “City Happenings” [pdf], the city’s monthly newsletter. There is an article titled “Building Momentum” that talks about the many infrastructure projects that are happening currently and private development projects that are in process. The city has a vision of the Town Center neighborhood being a bustling business, civic and cultural center once again.
Town Center zoning has been changed to allow buildings up to 6 stories in some places to make private development in Mountlake Terrace more appealing to developers. There are preliminary plans for a new civic center that will be an anchor in the neighborhood. Availability of funds and the bad economy has slowed development plans but there are still many projects underway. You can count on MLTnews to keep you up to date with the status of construction projects in the city.
It’s taken many years but Mountlake Terrace is once again a city that people are looking at to live in and do business in. We will never be able to compete with Alderwood for many businesses, but then again we don’t want a Best Buy in the middle of our downtown area. Seattle Magazine has even rated Mountlake Terrace as one of the best neighborhoods in the Seattle area due to the affordability, low commute times and many parks.
From the City’s newsletter:
“Envision a place for you and your family to enjoy shopping, eating out, easy access to transit, with city services and parks to visit within a short walk, bike or bus ride from your home.
This vision is coming true.”
Mountlake Terrace 1990 Fire info:
- August 7, 1990: Mountlake Terrace Fire Ruled Arson — Damage Could Reach $1 Million
- August 12, 1990: Arson Suspected Again — Shopping Center Burns In Mountlake Terrace’s 2nd Big Fire In A Week
- Januar 25, 199: Fire-Weary Mountlake Terrace Neighborhood Has Another Arson
- April 12, 1991: Police Tie Suspect To Mall Fires
- August 14, 1991: Born Of The Ashes — One Year Ago, James Arthur Schmitt Set Out On An Spree Of At Least 14 Arsons In Mountlake Terrace And Lynnwood That Terrifed Residents And Caused Millions Of Dollars In Damage. But With The Fires Ended And The Debris Cleared, The Town Braces For The Biggest Challenge Of All – Starting Over Again.
- October 4, 1991: Mountlake Terrace arsonist is sentenced to 20 years in prison