Revised Riverfront Development plan moving forward to council
EVERETT - Revised plans for a suburban neighborhood at the Riverfront Development in Lowell are moving forward, and some of the plan’s sharpest critics seem to have dulled their discontent.
People seemed to accept developer Polygon Northwest’s plans at last week’s planning commission meeting. The revised plans make minor modifications to the approximately 100-acre development that will include a neighborhood, a commercial area and a section of townhouses.
The public’s response differed from initial outcry that Polygon’s plan won’t achieve the dense, urban vision that city officials laid out in the mid-2000s with a prior developer that since sold the development rights to Polygon.
Polygon listened to the public’s concerns and changed the plans, many residents said last week.
Planning commissioners unanimously approved the plan last week, but had remaining concerns about the lack of housing density. The City Council will address the Riverfront Development soon, and council members could completely reshape the development.
Polygon still plans to build 233 single family homes on a plot called the Simpson pad, but made changes that make the neighborhood look less uniform. The new plan reorients the garages of approximately 88 houses off to the side of the house on private alleyways.
A number of houses are angled to further avoid a uniform neighborhood appearance.
The original plans drafted by prior developer OliverMcMillan would have put a mix of more than 650 single family and multifamily units on the neighborhood site.
Polygon officials have countered criticisms on density that their plan meets what the current real estate market will bear. OliverMcMillan’s plans also did not account for shoreline buffer requirements that reduce how many houses actually would fit on the plot, Polygon land acquisition manager Nick Abdelnour said last week.
The city’s development agreement lets Polygon choose the housing mix, city attorney David Hall said last week.
The planning commission, as an advisory body, can’t change the minimum density thresholds for the property but the City Council can.
Some other changes to the neighborhood plan involve green space and architecture.
Polygon brought back the large “central park” green space for the middle of the suburban development in its latest plans. A separate 3-acre city park is planned for the Eclipse pad off of Pacific Avenue that is proposed to have townhomes.
Polygon also proposed building a new walking trail around the entire neighborhood.
Pictures of example homes built by Polygon in Bothell and Issaquah suggest the Riverfront Development will get two-story houses possibly with front porches.
The company said in December that the homes would range from $325,000 to $400,000 for an entry-level 1,700- to 2,200-square-foot house with a backyard to a set of larger mid-level homes sized between 2,200- and 2,600-square-feet that would sell at a starting price of $425,000.
The lack of a housing mix could create a socioeconomically segregated community next to existing Lowell, resident Megan Dunn said.
Commissioner Loren Sand said post-meeting he is confident the council will change the density regulations.
Other people are not so sure.
The City Council will approve the new plan without question, resident Charlene Rawson predicted post-meeting.
“We wanted it to be an urban village, that’s what we were promised,” Rawson said post-meeting.
During the meeting, Rawson told commissioners she appreciated that Polygon accommodated public concerns through the revised plans.
The development agreement between Polygon and the city was created because the city still has a controlling interest on the land until everything is built.
So far, the city has invested $80 million in redevelopment work to make the site buildable. The city plans to invest $20 million more to complete the work, public works director Dave Davis told a local business journal in October.
The single family neighborhood would be built on the former Simpson-Lee pulp and paper mill site. The commercial district would be built on the landfill site of the infamous 1984 tire fire. The townhouse sector would be built on the former Eclipse Mill said.
The company began preparing the land last fall to start constructing homes and previously scheduled to have homes ready by this fall. The company wants to have the central commercial area set with anchor tenants by 2016, and is seriously considering adding 300 to 350 condominiums to the commercial area.
Polygon is under tight city-generated timelines to have the property fully populated by 2017.
The timelines were set a decade ago when the city sold the land to OliverMcMillan. OliverMcMillan sold the development rights to Polygon in January 2013.
Polygon intends to build what’s outlined in the revised plans, Polygon president Gary Young said post-meeting.
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