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Lynnwood is revitalizing its city center, hoping to establish a true downtown anchored by the future Lynnwood Link Station.  Commuters might become Lynnwood city center customers, while expansion of apartments offers homes for those who want to live near the station. The Link station will sit just to the southwest of the red Priority 2 area (see below), but Lynnwood is pushing for improvements to existing street plans and transit access sooner rather than later.

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The Priority 1 blue circle contains darker dots indicating a primary focus on improving transportation in that street grid at those particular spots, though the color key is confusing.

There are four primary road and amenity projects in downtown:

1: Poplar Way Extension: A new bridge over I-5, conceived by the Lynnwood Access Study, would connect Poplar Way and 33rd Ave W. (north-south, and near 196th & I-5), and is labeled as second highest priority. It it also furthest along in development, with the second phase of final design and environmental documentation underway and funding ($2.9m in federal grants) acquired. The prioritization makes sense, as the new bridge would allow an alternate route over I-5.

Robert Victor, project manager of the extension, stated that the current work tasks mainly consist of engineering and permitting plans, along with environmental assessment.

As of this point in time we are trying to position the project for a tentative 2015 construction date,” he said. “However, this assumes that we are able to procure additional Right-of-Way and Construction funding.  The construction time frame could slip depending on when Right-of-Way and Construction funding could be acquired.”

2: 196th and 200th St. SW improvements, including Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes, wider sidewalks, and median barriers in general, with a $1.73m design grant. The plans currently have BAT Lanes in each direction from 48th Ave W to 37th Ave W on 196th, and lanes without specified location between 64th Ave W to 40th Ave W on 200th.

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“We have been working with the Edmonds ferry to connect to the park and ride,” Lambert said. “Basically the BRT lanes could act as a trolley service. The findings of a recent study are that while the existing park and ride is good, there will be issues [with increased commuting] since 196th has a full interchange, but 44th has a half interchange.”

Lambert added in an email that there are changes to 196th with the widening and improvement project, but also planned are a new street at 42nd Ave W and the extension of 194th from 40th Ave. W. to 33rd Ave. W in the City Center.

David Mach, project manager for 196th and 200th St SW improvements, had more to add:

“The curb lane acts as a transit lane…non-transit traffic has to turn right. It’s very similar to what Shoreline did, across Aurora. And it’s not just for turning transit, it just serves to get even more turning traffic across. We have more closely spaced turns, so I think we’ll get more usage than Shoreline.”

There’s more material and details in this prioritization project draft (used only for planning purposes, according to Lambert) from Nov. 2012, while final details are from here, and the development page online.

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3. Town Square Park, which has a complete conceptual master plan, will serve as the “heart of Lynnwood’s downtown” and “a place for civic events”. It’ll cover 4.63 acres and is estimated to cost $15.47m. It’s as yet undecided whether Town Square will sit atop parking, or whether it will be developed at-grade in order to provide a park while leaving finer details for later build-out.

4. Civic and Billiards Parks, in the northeast and northwest areas of the city center. They also have a complete conceptual master plan. But as Lambert said, “The Town Square Park is the real focus.” The plan estimates that Civic will cost $4.9m and Billiards $2.1m.

Billiards Park
Billiards Park
Civic Park
Civic Park

The Transit Center, on which so much depends, will have an additional 500 parking spaces added by Sound Transit.

“There are not changes to zoning anticipated; the city center zones anticipate higher density from development and the proximity to increased transit provisions we hope will help facilitate that,” Lambert said in an email. The city downtown is currently zoned mixed-use, with varying heights depending on proximity to residential areas. For example, the maximum building height shall be 350 feet in the city center core, but from the centerline of 196th St. SW “north up to but not exceeding a distance of 360 feet, the maximum building height of any portion of a building shall be 240 feet.” There are more specifications and details here, beginning at section 8 on line 274.

In that same zoning code ordinance is a handy table at line 335 specifying floor-area ratio:

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Parking minimums and ratios are also summarized below:

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Other city center changes, from Lambert:

“…the Lynnwood City Center Senior Living development in the City Center core zone near the Convention Center received project design review approval early this month. This development will replace the existing 820 sf building on 1.8 acres with the balance of the site as surface parking with 308 new multi-family units with 8 stories total (2 floors of underground parking). This is the kind of catalyst private development that will begin to affect the downtown, increasing livability and bringing day/night uses into the City Center.”

 There is a city Transportation Impact Fee exemption, up to $600,000 each, for the first three qualifying projects in the private-development, city-center-improvement vein, with the development summarized above as the first to qualify. A public hearing on July 29th will examine the exemption development agreement. It appears that all the development regulations support higher density mixed-use development, according to Lambert.

It appears that there are quite a few projects in motion, but the pace and improvements need to keep up with Link’s progress; the Draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding the Lynnwood Link extension is available and open for comment now.

23 Replies to “Lynnwood City Center Project”

  1. A downtown for Lynnwood seems like a good idea, but I don’t think that just cleaning up a few streets and adding a few parks is going to make this a reality. Maybe the station being present will spur a bit of TOD, but I have to think that the lack of a downtown is largely due to the existence of the Alderwood mall complex, which, along with the nearby big box stores, contain most of the retailers you would normally expect to find in a normal city’s downtown core.

    The fact that these retailers are surrounded by a sea of parking lots both essentially requires shoppers to come by car and encourages them to live much further away. This also (it seems to me) greatly discourages any significant density near the mall site, leaving it pretty soulless as a city center.

    Unless the city can convince a number of retailers to abandon this space and join them in this supposed new downtown (without bringing the giant parking lots), I fear it will remain just as empty as the current “downtown” Lynnwood.

    1. Agreed. Most of the successful urban village projects I can think of begin with a pre-war urban core to build around. Much of New Ballard wouldn’t exist if Old Ballard wasn’t where it is.

      FWIW, Everett actually has at least one somewhat attractive street with intact prewar urban buildings. That seems like a far more promising starting point to attempt or continue an urban revitalization than from the nothing there is at Lynnwood.

      (Which is not to say that I think we should spend a zillion dollars to build fully-grade-separated rail out to either place.)

      1. The difference is that the station to Lynnwood is going to happen anyway.

        They might as well make use of it… but I think pulling back some of the height limits around the station and working with the private sector to get a bunch of TOD right around the there is more likely to get that ball rolling than building a bunch of parks several blocks (or miles?) away.

      2. @Bruce: There’s downtown Bellevue. As I understand it (not perfectly) “new” Bellevue didn’t really build around Old Bellevue, and as a result Old Bellevue is pretty far from the focal point of Bellevue and will grow even farther when the train stations in the shadow of 405 are built.

        I generally give Bellevue a lot of credit for having the courage to accommodate concentrated growth… it would have taken even more courage to build up their new downtown on top of a place that was even remotely functional. And… given how much new development is worse than what it replaced, and when badness is practically mandated in zoning and building codes, it’s hard to blame people for opposing even good developments.

      3. Downtown Bellevue is a great example of a dense, vertical city where nearly everyone drives: it’s full of highrises perched on top of huge garages connected by monster arterials. This is far better than American suburban sprawl, but it’s a crappy place to walk and bike around, so people don’t get around by those means. By contrast, even kitchy Old Bellevue has interesting street life, and is a nice place to wander around, if just for a short while, before you’ve seen the whole thing.

        So yes, I’m aware of Bellevue, but I don’t consider it a complete success as an urban village, which to me is a place where you can both live and have a life, without a car.

  2. Garrett: Do you know the current transit weekday daily boardings at the current TC? And a breakdown by how they access transit (car, walk, bike, bus xfer)?
    It’s hard to comment on where you’re going without knowing where you’re at.

    1. Sorry mic, got a bit swamped over the weekend at my other gig. Thanks for the tip;, table 3.1.7 and the surrounding pages have some figures on boarding I was debating consulting. I didn’t go in-depth on the current transit weekday daily boardings as my post was intended more as a summary of the current situation and plans, without commentary (as I have not had the opportunity to study Lynnwood’s transit as much as I should like). If I were to opine on the developments at length, I’d definitely do what you recommend.

  3. While I like the direction that this is going in, I think it’s missing a good opportunity to integrate the Link station into the core better. Right now, the plan is for it to be on the very edge of this city core. I think instead they should move it to more like 199th and 44th, and then have the transit center be adjacent to it (busses go up 46th and then cross over 200th). This would lose out on it being immediately adjacent to the P & R, but given that there are 2 other very close P & R’s (Ash Way and Mountlake), it’s probably better for the long-term vision of the downtown core to not waste a bunch of land on commuters that don’t even live/work there.

    1. Lynnwood has said that they want two more Link stations: one near 196th and 36th near the Lynnwood Convention Center, and another by Alderwood Mall. However, that is outside the scope of the current Lynnwood Link project, which only goes to the Park and Ride.

    2. Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if Sound Transit had planned far enough ahead to send the line straight up 99 from Northgate onward to begin with…

  4. “Town square” is a hilarious name for a park that might sit on top of a parking garage, and certainly won’t have buildings in it. Without that it isn’t a square, it’s just a park. You don’t even have to go to medieval European cities to figure this out, any American college campus has examples.

    1. The “on top of a garage” part is particularly silly to me. If there are no large retail and/or residential places immediately next to this thing, no one will go there.

      They might just park their cars there and go somewhere else….

    2. My understanding of “town square” from my midwestern upbringing is that it is surrounded by buildings, not with buildings on it. Maybe it has a monumental sculpture or two on it. It shouldn’t matter if there is underground parking below it.

      Here’s an American college town example:

      1. See, the block north of that has a proper square. A space between buildings that people might reasonably use to walk between buildings without going out of their way to do so. That “square” looks like it’s just a park. If it’s lucky it’s near enough to stuff, and the streets around it are walkable enough, that you might choose to go out of your way to walk through it (like, for example, Cal Anderson Park or Downtown Bellevue Park).

        A square that functions as a square in any real way has buildings that enter directly onto it. Some random examples:

        – The main quad at the University of Illinois
        – Chinatown Square in Chicago (but not, for example, Logan Square, which is just a messed up, confusing intersection around an unusable park).
        – Place Guillaume II in Luxembourg

      2. Another example of a “real” square that I think is illustrative (I just walked through it today): the block south of Bellevue Transit Center. Buildings on that block have entrances on the interior side and people actually do walk through the square.

        This “real” square, however, is limited by a couple things. One is the incursion of vehicle driveways, some of which seem totally unnecessary (some are the route from the parking garages to the street, but others are just pick-up/drop-off access to the buildings, which can be accomplished on the side of the buildings fronting the public street!). Another is the monotony of the ground level; what we’d usually call “street activation”, but here it’s “square activation”. Signs on the outside of the buildings indicate, in rather small print, that there are some public amenities in the buildings (maybe there’s a food court or something in one of them? I didn’t look all that closely), but the facade presented to the middle of the square is blank. I was once listening to a talk about plans for a company’s campus expansion, in which the speaker commented that the office park they were located in had restrictions about the external appearance of the buildings that made it “sort of like a historic district”, which was funny, because the buildings basically all looked like concrete warehouses — anything distinctive, even something ugly, would have been an improvement. I wonder if the same sorts of restrictions are in place on this square.

        Downtown Seattle has a bunch of half-squares, that look like they formed because of street vacations leaving a pedestrian plaza fronting buildings on one side, and across a street from buildings on another. Westlake Park is an example… say what you want about Westlake Park, one thing it is is half of a square. Occidental Park is another. Meanwhile various places called squares (Westlake Square, McGraw Square, Union Station Square) are just random spaces in the middle of intersections with nothing happening in them at all. Pioneer Square is a half-square, and a really neat looking one at that. Pike Place has many of the functions of a square, but it gets really crowded because it’s only a street, and a narrow one at that! On the other hand, Seattle Center is, if anything, too big and spacious to be a very good square, and somehow nothing in it is connected with everyday life…

  5. The draft EIS has three potential sites for the Lynnwood station, one at southwest corner of the existing TC, one slightly north at 200th & 48th, and one at the southeast corner next to I-5. (Executive summary, page 15, figure S-8.) I guess the northern one would be the most central, although I don’t know the future walk circle well enough to say if it’s central enough.

    There will be public meetings on the DEIS August 14-22. with the Seattle meeting on the 20th at the Northgate Community Center gym.

    By the way, the DEIS has six Seattle/Shoreline alternatives, with 130th+145th stations, 130th+155th, and 145th only. It has four Mountlake Terrace alternatives, only one with a 220th station.

    1. In my opinion, the key is to have a station at 130th. The others aren’t that important to me. A station at 130th allows for fast and frequent service to Lake City Way, and to a slightly lesser degree, Bitter Lake. These areas are very important, arguably the most important areas north of Northgate.

  6. The mind boggles.

    The transit “center” is outside of the supposed civic areas it’s supposed to serve.

    It’s only accessible by long, boring walks across parking lots, ultra-wide streets, and pointless planted areas that only serve to further de-densify the area.

    The illustrations of their new “downtown” are all about highly configured seven-lane highways that criss-cross the area, or frankly ridiculous “parks” with names like “Field Billiards” (not a thing) and “Gathering Lawn” (not a thing).

    Real downtowns don’t gather lawns, they gather people, and they do so not with shrubbery and pedestrian overpasses but with friendly, interesting building faces which enclose outdoor civic rooms, with a minimum height-to-street-width ratio of 1:3. And the transit is RIGHT THERE, not a mile away across ten acres of unmarked parking lot.

    1. Downtown might be the wrong word, but the idea is not a bad one. In the article, they suggest that they don’t need to change zoning, but will get density when demand increases. I can understand this. There are plenty of areas where people just don’t want to build there. Then, the city puts up something interesting and you get tremendous momentum. Lake City Way is a good example of that. They didn’t build a park, but changed the street alignment to be a lot more friendly to pedestrians. I’m sure a lot of drivers whined about it (the poor drivers have to slow down). Next thing you know, dive bars get replaced with Thai restaurants and big apartment buildings go up. This has continued, and will continue, completely changing the nature of the area.

      Most of Lynnwood is just plain boring. Even outside the mall, the area feels like a mall. There are some nice little parks (so maybe this isn’t what is needed) but I think the effort is a reasonable one. Time will tell if it really changes the nature of the area (to be fair, I used to live there and have only visited there occasionally, so my assessment might be out of date).

      1. Another impact that may change things is the political climate in Seattle city government. The City Council is punting on upzones and toning down every plan for density – the demand for housing has to go somewhere. As Seattle hangs the “no vacancy” sign, border suburbs on transit trunks, like Lynnwood, will be made to absorb that pent up demand for housing. Urban refugees locked out of the restricted Seattle housing market could wind up turning what d.p. calls “imaginary downtown Lynnwood” into a true downtown.

      2. Good point. In general, I think these sorts of things are fine. As I said, Lake City Way is a great example. There is a center of sorts (a series of interesting street level shops) surrounded by (or on top of) big apartment buildings. What I worry about in a place like Lynnwood is large office buildings. I think this leads to sprawl just as the offices in Redmond lead to sprawl.

      3. Seattle puts in more housing in a day than Lynnwood puts in in a month. Lynnwood has thankfully got the zoning right, but it’s only talking about upgrading downtown and at Swift stations, not in neighborhoods all across the city. Mountlake Terrace is even less excited about upzoning its downtown, at best it may go from two stories to, gasp, three or four stories. We need a downtown Lynnwood urban center because it’s close to Snohomish County residents and jobs, and it will provide some alternative for those who can’t/don’t want to live in King County, but I don’t think it’s going to reverse overall migration patterns and make most people seek housing in Lynnwood. There’s still south King County if you want inexpensive, and I think overall south King County is easier to live in if you don’t have a car, and closer to destinations in Seattle and the Eastside. (Except destinations that are right near Link, where Lynnwood will have an advantage over the 150 or 120 or 566.)

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