Page Two articles are from our reader community.

[I wrote this article last summer and left it for a few days to mature — and forgot to publish it. So the short-term construction projects are doubtless finished and businesses may have changed, but the long-term transit and urban issues remain.]

On Friday, August 7th I took a walk around north Everett. I’d heard it has an old residential area northwest of downtown, more walkable than Broadway’s miles of strip malls and large-lot houses. Studying the map I decided to focus on Colby Avenue, which has buses both north and south of downtown so it must be an interesting street. My colleague who had grown up in northwest Everett confirmed this, saying Colby Avenue was a good place to start. There are two circulator bus routes through the area, Everett Transit 4 and 5, which run the same loop in opposite directions from different starting points. But they’re hourly weekdays and not at all weekends, and I’d originally planned the trip for a weekend. But I had a few hours free Friday afternoon so I decided to do it then.

My journey started at the Ash Way Park & Ride. This is the part of Snohomish County with the most frequent bus service, with both the 201/202 and 512 running every 15 minutes to Everett and Lynnwood. A 202 came one minute later. It runs on I-5 between 128th and  41st Streets. The freeway was solidly packed and crawling the entire way, at 2:30pm. No HOV lane anywhere here. If BRT between Lynnwood and Everett ever happens, they’ll need to build an HOV lane from scratch. Fortunately I was not in any hurry so I just read my book.

Everett Station is where the express buses, Swift, and the 4/5 all meet. Downtown is one one Swift station away away but I decided to walk. That took 12 minutes uphill. At the end was the Snohomish County Campus, a county-government complex with a pedestrianized block in the middle and a nice view. Downtown Everett is basically five east-west streets: Pacific, Wall, Hewett, California, and Everett. These crosses Wetmore Avenue, which is the one place in Everett I’ve been to more than once: an MMA school called Charlie’s Combat Club and the nearby National Guard armory. So I walked a few blocks up and down Wetmore looking for the school but I couldn’t find it! Later I learned it had moved. So I continued west to find Colby Avenue, and it was just one block west of Wetmore, right in the middle of downtown.

It was now 4pm. I turned north on Colby, and saw a diner and tried to go in but it was closed. Next door is a sandwich shop, the Strawberry Patch Cafe, so I went in there. It was about to close too but the owner offered to serve me anyway. I ordered a salad and chatted with the owner. She had just bought the restaurant three weeks ago, and lives in Rainier Valley. I asked why she chose Everett to buy a restaurant. She said it was a place she could afford. I said central Everett will probably grow in the next two decades and she might see gradually-increasing business. I asked if everything downtown closes by 5pm. She said it does. I asked if there were any areas that are open later; she said a couple bars. Then I continued north on Colby for my walk, thinking about what it would be like to live there without a car.

The downtown part of Colby Street is a mix of everyday and not-so-everyday shops. The street and sidewalks are wide, as if it used to have a streetcar, and the space had been filled in with diagonal parking because what else could you do with it? Later I googled, and the Interurban terminated at Colby & Pacific. The part of Colby is south of where I was, but still the street is that wide. As I continued north, at Everett Avenue the street turned residential. There’s one apartment complex a block north of the cafe, but the rest is houses. Everett High School is on both sides of the street. At 19th Street the center lane turns into a tree-lined median.

Many of the houses are from the 1905s-1910s; they look exactly like the houses on 16th Ave NE in the U-District and 16th Ave E on Capitol Hill. Front porches, bay windows, a certain kind of wood architecture, and no garages or driveways. There are a few 1960s or newer houses with 2-car garages. Then came Providence Medical Center. At 10th Street it started going downhill, and it looked like things were just going to get more isolated, so I turned west. Central and north Everett is a narrow penninsula hilltop going down on three sides, like the top of Beacon Hill but wider.

I continued west three blocks to the last street above the cliff, Grand Avenue. Beyond that is the railroad track and Marine View Drive. All the residential streets are very wide, and the houses have deep setbacks like in Magnolia. You could fit another full-sized row of houses in the front yards and sidewalks. The empty space bothers me because it makes walking distances longer. In San Francisco the back yards are deep and narrow like this, and people have large gardens. But when setbacks are in the front, they tend to be plain lawns that are rarely used so I don’t see the point. Several streets and sidewalks were closed; the city is apparently resurfacing several of northwest Everett’s streets at the same time.

I went south on Grand until the large mansions got to be too much; I wanted to see ordinary-sized houses. So I turned east to Rucker Avenue. All these residential streets are wide for some reason. At 18th Street I saw a linear park, so I went back to Grand Avenue. Finally a good view of the water. The navy base is right below, with a football field next to it. The base consists of several buildings clustered around a turnaround street. That makes it look like — believe it or not — a casino resort.

The impression I got from northwest Everett is, if you want to live there without a car, there are a lot of houses and a few apartments within a  20-minute walk of the downtown Swift station. With a bicycle you could get to pretty much everywhere in Everett. I like the houses on Colby Avenue, both the 1910s and the mid-century ones. The houses further west are too large for my taste. And I don’t like the wide streets and setbacks. But the area is walkable and has a complete street grid, and people with kids would appreciate the high school (which I saw) and the elementary school (which is just beyond where I went). I didn’t see many people: downtown there was one military-looking dude, but everyone in the northwest area was middle-aged or older.

I went back to Rucker Ave and continued south until downtown started again. I passed the library and a bar called Prohibition. I went east on Hewitt looking for the Swift station, then got out the bus schedule and saw it’s two blocks south, at Pacific & Colby. (The Interurban terminus, remember.) I didn’t want to sit in freeway traffic again or look at a freeway, and I wanted to see what’s in the neighborhood’s transit circle, so I took Swift south to Aurora Village, which took 50 minutes. The most plentiful thing along the way is car dealerships. Can that many dealerships really stay in business? It looks like more than Auburn or Bellevue have. Snohomish County residents certainly don’t have to worry about not having enough cars to choose from. I wonder how many people take Swift to the car dealerships. At Aurora Village I stopped at Costco which is next to the transit center, and then took the E to Seattle. When I got downtown it was 8:30pm, and it was a slight culture shock to see so many pedestrians, twenty on one block. And that’s my northwest Everett trip.

10 Replies to “North Everett Walk”

  1. Thanks very much for this review. In 2012 and 2013 I explored parts of Everett, but wound up on the far north end (as it turns out American Legion Memorial Park is basically mostly a golf course so it looks a lot more impressive on the map than it really is, but the arboretum is sort of nice) and a little bit of the waterfront.

    It’s kind of strange that there is no connection between the waterfront and the rest of the city, except at the far north end and very south end.

    I also visited Jetty Island Park. That whole arrangement means they have an awful lot of valuable waterfront real estate tied up in parking.

    1. In the early 1900s waterfronts were considered unimportant dumping grounds for oil refineries, railroads, and highways, so it’s not surprising that parking built decades ago reflects this attitude. As for the accessibility of the waterfront, it’s such a steep hill that I would not walk down it often and would try to find an alternate destination. So you’d really need frequent buses down to it, if that’s feasable. The park at the top of the hill seems to work well enough: it gives a view of the Sound, and you can see the waterfront far below. That’s what viewpoints in Discovery Park are like: they’re at the top of the bluff and you can look down to a small sandy beach far below. The effect is interesting and original, even if at first you wish the beach were at the same level.

      1. It’s odd to think of the railroads on the waterfront as being a dumping ground. Back in that era, didn’t most of Seattle’s waterfront peirs have railroad sidings on them?

  2. Thanks for the write-up. As a former Everett resident, I appreciate reading about Everett from a different point of view. A quick aside, I’m not sure what you mean by “No HOV lane anywhere here,” as the HOV lanes were extended from SR 526 to north of US 2 in 2008 (though they are quite packed).

    There are many areas of Everett ripe for redevelopment. In fact, the city of Everett has completed planning work for the Broadway and Evergreen Way corridors, but that was years ago and unfortunately I don’t think there is any huge push for redevelopment. In addition, when Everett Station was completed over 14 years ago, I do recall a push for TOD and a potential WSU branch campus; again, those efforts stalled and has contributed to Everett Station’s numerous crime problems, due to a lack of activity outside of the peak-hour commute periods, in my opinion. The past two efforts at massive redevelopment projects, Port Gardner Wharf and the Everett Riverfront projects, all fell apart due to the recession in 2008.

    While the city’s leadership has done a good job promoting some Downtown projects (Hampton Inn, Aero Apartments, Library Place, Courtyard by Marriott hotel, and Potala Place), I do hope they can revisit their past efforts at redevelopment projects elsewhere in the city.

    1. The HOV lane must have not been effective that day because all lanes were equally slow, the same as in areas without HOV lanes.

    2. Everett’s feedback to Sound Transit for ST3 was that it opposed an Evergreen Way light rail alignment because it thinks Evergreen Way is fine the way it is and the disruption of revising it would be detrimental. That implies that redevelopment of Evergreen Way has been rejected. Lynnwood is going in a sharply different direction. Lynnwood has rezoned all of its Swift station areas for TOD. The stations themselves have cute names, which I don’t know if they’re historic neighborhood names or it created new names for the future urban villages. That’s the kind of environment I’d like to see on Evergreen Way and Broadway, if Everett is inclined to someday.

      I also hope Everett’s downtown revision is successful. Everett has tried to revitalize downtown several times in my lifetime, and none of them have succeeded so far, other than the fact that the events center is apparently succeeding and music bands are still playing.

    3. The WSU campus is starting to be built. There’s a new building (complete with tower crane) in the parking lots just east of EVCC that will house WSU Everett’s permanent classrooms.

      That part of North Everett, between the hospital and the college, will need some (relatively) dense housing in the near future. Would do even better with a potential Link terminus station (I pray that Link does not extend further north than Tower Street, even as a Marysville resident).

  3. An HOV lane runs continuously from Everett to Northgate on I-5. Service is direct and all bus stops are in the center of the road between Everett and Mountlake Terrace. Unfortunately, just to the south of the Everett transit center is an open air drug market. Despite the distance between Rainier Beach and Everett, they are only one bus transfer apart and eventually, the Link light rail will reach the entire distance with predictable times.

    1. The street people congregate by the mission just south on Everett station and then spread out on the swift since there is little fare enforcement. at times there are 50-100 people at the underpass, passed out, drugged out,etc. the methadone clinic is nearby too.

  4. I can comment on a few things, since I recently walked through that part of town on a recent sunny day:

    The repaving projects are still going on most of the east-west streets, meaning a long pedestrian detour was in order.

    The 201/202 has a 50-50 chance of using the HOV lanes from 128th to 41st/Broadway, provided they can merge over fast enough. The traffic signal at Broadway & 40th will sometimes slow down a run that comes off the HOV offramp, which would’ve been avoided by using the general-purpose flyover ramp.

    I would hope that ST3 has some pocket change to complete the Ash Way P&R bus ramps to smooth the 512’s runs there, since it will be the primary Link feeder for Everett. Similarly, I hope that Swift II brings some kind of solution to the 128th Street overpass that can be shared with CT 201/202 (which could be split into two sets of routes at Everett Station to avoid these kinds of problems).

    Grand Avenue Park is getting a small upgrade in the form of a new pedestrian bridge to the waterfront coming in the next few years.

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