Mountlake Terrace, the small suburb of 21,000 often confused with the even smaller fiefdom of Montlake, is looking at big plans for development around its sole light rail station. On Thursday, the city council approved an update to the Town Center Subarea Plan, which was adopted in 2007 to guide development of the fledgling “downtown” of Mountlake Terrace.
The Mountlake Terrace Transit Center and light rail station will sit at the southwest corner of the town center, which spans 18 city blocks that stretch from 230th Street to 237th Street in the south and east to 55th Avenue. The updated plan calls for buildings up to 12 stories tall with a focus on pedestrian-friendly frontages and mixed uses throughout the town center. At full buildout, the town center would have 3,000 new multifamily housing units, 410,000 square feet of office space, and 215,000 square feet of retail, supporting 6,600 new residents and 1,953 new jobs.
The main subarea is divided into three “districts” that determine height limits and other zoning rules. District 1 (TC-1), split between sections along 236th Street Southwest and 60th Avenue West, has a maximum height limit of 6-12 stories. District 2 (TC-2) surrounds 58th Avenue West and the future civic campus, and is limited to 4-8 stories. District 3 (TC-3) forms the outer boundary on the north and east and is limited to 4-6 stories. An additional district to the south of TC-1 is designated as a “reserve” with heights of only 2-4 stories.
The light rail station will be connected to the town center by two pedestrian connections in addition to 236th Street Southwest, a busy street that will soon gain bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks. The town center plan also includes designated uses for frontages that face streets, including several new connections meant to complete the grid. At the center of TC-2 is a “pedestrian core” corridor on 57th Avenue West that would have a concentration of retail with large storefronts. Many of surrounding streets will be designated for “landscaped” frontages with buffers between the street and residential units, with a transition zone between the two zones.
Parking will be restricted to structures and surface lots behind buildings to prevent encroachment on pedestrian-dominated areas. The city plans to introduce limited paid and restricted parking areas for on-street spots, but there are still minimum parking requirements for multi-family housing projects. The draft zoning regulations document spells it out: 0.50 to 1.25 stalls per unit for the area immediately surrounding the transit center; and 0.75 to 1.5 stalls per unit for the rest of the town center.
While the building heights are dwarfed by those allowed at suburban stations in other metro areas, Mountlake Terrace has potential to have some of the tallest TOD on the Link Red Line. The town center proposal survived a proposed cut to the size of TC-1 (the zone with the tallest buildings) by the city council, but citizen testimony convinced the city to reconsider. The areas west of Interstate 5 are also in play for potential upzones, as reported here several years ago, but faces accessibility issues due to its proximity to Interstate 5.