After three failed attempts to pass a City Hall measure by voters in Mountlake Terrace, the city and architects are taking a different approach. Part of that approach includes bringing in community voices sooner.
On Tuesday night, a group of about three dozen community members gathered at the Mountlake Terrace Senior Center to have their voices heard on the project. Rex Bond from ARC Architects lead the meeting focused on getting preliminary ideas for the new building.
City spokeswoman Virginia Olson began the meeting with an introduction of the project’s concept.
“The focus is a cost-effective City Hall,” Olson said. “We’re focusing on just what we need because we know your tax dollars are high enough, and we need a new City Hall.”
Bond then took the floor. He began by looking at the past.
“You’ve gone through this three times before, and we want to make sure this is the last time you have to do this,” he said.
Then, Bond began asking questions to the group at large. Answers were shouted back at him from among the crowd.
Bond first asked attendees whether they supported the most recent measure for a new City Hall, which was on the ballot in 2013. The measure at that time received 53 percent of the vote. It needed 60 percent to pass.
The room was split between those who voted yes and those who voted no. Those who supported it said it was just time to get it done, and the $25 million proposal seemed more reasonable than the previous $37 million proposal.
Many who voted no on the previous measure were also in attendance, and they all echoed the same reason for not approving it: it was just too expensive. One community member likened the proposal to a “palace.” Another felt the last proposal was not transparent as to how much exactly she would have to pay, and wants to see an online calculator or some way for her to determine exactly how much her taxes would increase.
While Bond told the group he is currently working with a consultant to determine space needs for the new City Hall and what a building of that size will cost, he wanted very specific feedback from the community as to where on the parcel of land the building should be situated.
For example, if it is at the corner of 58th Avenue West and 232nd Street Southwest, it could allow for a larger interior plaza close to the library. However, if it’s set farther away from the corner, it could allow for an exterior plaza along the street.
Most community members seemed to favor the second approach, based on the feedback community members gave. They said it could give nearby residences a bit of a buffer between the road and City Hall. It could also make the street feel a bit more inviting to have the plaza facing the street. Community members also saw potential in the open area and adjacent streets being used for community events, such as a farmer’s market or as a staging area for Tour de Terrace.
Bond also asked for single words that community members hoped would describe the new building. Responses included safe, friendly, inviting, welcoming, efficient and functional, among others.
These words, Bond said, will help him create preliminary designs for the building. While the building specifications are still largely unknown, Bond said he expects to have several concept designs and rough cost estimates available during the next community meeting, set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 at the Mountlake Terrace Library, 23300 58th Ave. W. During that meeting, he will seek feedback on which elements of each design community members prefer, so that he can then create a single design by the third meeting, set for Wednesday, May 10 at 6 p.m. at Cedar Way Elementary, 22222 39th Ave. W. After receiving feedback from that meeting, a final design will be prepared for a fourth community meeting on Monday, June 5 at 6 p.m. at Interim City Hall, 6100 219th St. S.W. before the City Council meeting.
Those who cannot attend the community meetings may give their feedback through the online comment form available at this link. Other smaller neighborhood meetings with City Hall Advisory Committee members are also being scheduled regularly, with the next one on Saturday, April 1 from 9-11 a.m. at Countryside Donut House, 21919 66th Ave. W. Click here for more information about future neighborhood meetings.
–By Natalie Covate