Part 1 of this series focused on infastructure improvements in the works for Southcenter. This post will focus on the very ambitious and complex proposed revision to the Southcenter-Tukwila Urban Center’s Comprehensive Plan Element recently completed by the Tukwila Planning Commission staff and a consultant, concentrating on zoning and the street grid. A copy from October 2012 can be found here. Highlights of the plan include:
- Locating a “large percentage of the City’s future housing needs” in the urban center, in order “to preserve our existing residential neighborhoods”, encouraged to be within “walking distance of the Sounder commuter rail/Amtrak station” or the bus transit center.
- Flexible zoning regulations for residential, retail and light industrial, per district, with development of regulations for appropriate building heights. (The Kent Reporter covered some possible developments in this arena earlier.)
- Expansion of residential areas.
- Incentives for “providing a variety of different types of open spaces (e.g., plazas, parks, public & private)”.
- And finally, anchored between the upgraded bus transit center on Andover Park West and the Sounder commuter rail station, a new Transit Oriented Development neighborhood will sit, as seen above.
Such an ambitious urban redesign requires a new street plan for Southcenter, broadening the current travel and adding bike lanes while also expanding public frontage as seen below.
The current “Street Tree” road layout will need revisions to accomplish such goals, stated Lynn Miranda, project manager for the Southcenter Plan. The plan focuses regulations and investment regarding siting of new buildings and parking lots on and around Baker Boulevard, and the northern part of the Southcenter area.
The recent First Quarter Update applies to projects all over Tukwila. For Southcenter, it announces that preparation of a Transit Infill Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) that will prevent appeal on environmental issues related to individual developments in the urban center.
“By evaluating the potential adverse impacts at this stage of the redevelopment process, it acts as an incentive for future development. Provided a proposed project is consistent with the type and scale of project evaluated in the SEIS, additional environmental review will not be required – developers know what will be asked of them in terms of mitigation up front,” said Miranda.
Throughout this process, public meetings, comments, and various noticing requirements for the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review will occur, leading to the final SEIS issue and prevention of further project appeals based on the SEPA. The planners must issue the draft SEIS before any changes to draft planning. After that, according to Miranda, the city council will publicly review and possibly adopt the SEIS with the draft subarea plan (current plan), revised development regulations in the Tukwila Municipal Code chapter 18.28 for the Tukwila Urban Center, and the draft Southcenter Design Manual.
“At this point we have not yet adopted any of the revised development regulations,” Miranda stated. “We have used the draft design manual guidelines to review a couple projects lately, to test how well they would work.”
Future challenges include accommodating planned I-405 expansion, given its impact on access to Southcenter. The transit center is even more crucial in that regard, along with continuance of Amtrak facilities (details on transportation elements from the latest planning commission).
“We think of the urban center as an island, separated from surrounding development by highways and rivers, with very few access points, so having many options to getting in, out and around the urban center is extremely important!” Miranda said. “We also strongly support the Amtrak stop here in Tukwila, and want to make sure Sound Transit maintains adequate capacity at their Sounder site for Amtrak parking and facilities.”
Andrew Ciarrocchi, district manager of Westfield Southcenter, noted that the changes won’t occur to Westfield itself. He added: “We welcome the partnership between King County Metro Transit and the City of Tukwila to upgrade and expand the Transit Center adjacent to our property. We are excited to see a project that will improve our employee and guest experience.”
Miranda concluded by stating that the urban redevelopment is slow, but the pace is the cost of developing residential mixed-use areas, parks, high-quality architectural design, pedestrian and cyclist trails, and more.
“We’re trying to work on getting all of this in place and realize it will take a bit of time.”