With light rail headed to Mountlake Terrace in 2024 — along with potential population growth and development — the City of Mountlake Terrace is preparing to update its plan for the Town Center.
On Monday, Dec. 17, the Mountlake Terrace City Council and Planning Board conducted a joint meeting to officially receive a draft Town Center plan from the all-volunteer Economic Vitality and Town Center Task Force.
At the start of the meeting, the council held a moment of silence to honor late Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith, who died in his sleep Dec. 14.
The city council appointed the task force in March 2018 to assist consultant SCJ Alliance in identifying and developing recommended updates to the city’s Economic Vitality Strategy, development codes and Town Center plan. The task force has 11 citizen members, plus two representatives each from the city council and planning board.
The Town Center is the nearly-68-acre area bordered on the north by 230th Street Southwest, on the east by 55th Avenue West, on the south by 237th Street and western boundary is Interstate 5.
Presenting the task force’s preferred alternative for the Town Center — approved by the group unanimously last week — was former City of Mill Creek Economic Development Director Bill Trimm, hired by the city to assist with planning-related matters including the Town Center Plan update process.
Trimm noted that the task force came up with a vision statement for the Town Center, describing it as “the heart of the City with a blend of attractive mixed-use transit-oriented neighborhoods connected to the light rail transit station, civic campus and surrounding residential neighborhoods.”
The preferred alternative presented to the council and planning board Dec. 17 was the result of 11 task force meetings that have been conducted since April of this year, Trimm noted. The focus is on four goals and policies: land use, circulation, urban design and development incentives.
“Once the goals and policies have been developed to implement that, we need to prepare zoning that is incorporated with those design standards,” he said.
The three proposed zoning districts — labeled above as District 1 (Transit Center or TC 1 – purple on the map above), District 2 (TC 2 – blue on the map) and District 3 (TC3 – green on the map) — are aimed at providing “a full range of housing options for all economic segments of the population,” Trimm said.
Transit Center 1: With a building height of 6-12 stories and closest to the freeway, primary uses for the TC 1 zone would be professional office, multi-family and “limited retail” focused on the needs of the office workers and residents in the immediate area, Trimm said.
Transit Center 2: At 4-8 stories, TC 2 is the center for retail, entertainment, cultural activities and multi-family residential and non-residential ground floor activities, Trimm said.
Transit Center 3: TC 3 is primarily a multi-family residential neighborhood of 4-6 stories that provides a buffer for adjacent single-family homes outside the Town Center, he explained.
The preferred alternative also identifies 57th Avenue West as “the primary pedestrian, retail, and arts and cultural spine,” as well as the east side of 58th and 233rd Street Southwest, Trimm said. “The focus is to really kind of define a ‘Main Street Area,'” and 57th Avenue has potential for becoming a pedestrian-oriented street, he added.
Walkability is a key element of the plan, Trimm said, noting that the Town Center is located within a five- to 10-minute walk from both the new light rail station and the city’s new Civic Campus, now being designed. There was also a focus on market trends and the potential for future development and land use opportunities, both in terms of providing residential and employment options.
“There is a demand for professional office (space) in Mountlake Terrace that is not being addressed at this time fully, and that’s a great opportunity for employment,” Trimm said.
The task force also looked at the balance between jobs and housing, finding that there is about one house for every job in Mountlake Terrace. However, Trimm said that only 420 people who live in Mountlake Terrace actually work in the city. A total of 11,121 residents who live in the city work elsewhere, and 6,345 who live outside Mountlake Terrace come here to work.
The hope is that by adding more density to the Town Center, there will be more jobs available in Mountlake Terrace itself, so the people can both live and work here, Trimm said.
The task force determined that architecture — from pop-outs to insets to window treatments — “can really mitigate a lot of issues the come with increased density,” Trimm said.
As for next steps, the Mountlake Terrace Planning Commission and City Council will begin formal discussions and deliberations on the draft plan and related documents in early 2019. This will include public hearings so that the additional input from the community.
Citizens also had an opportunity to review and comment on the draft plan and provide feedback during a Dec. 4 open house.