Mill Creek's Main Street
Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau
MILL CREEK - When Mill Creek was envisioned in the 1970s as a planned community built around a golf course, Main Street wasn't part of the blueprint. Today, it's the centerpiece of the city's future.
Construction of Mill Creek Town Center, a Main Street-style commercial development that would bring a retail core to a city without a business center, could begin this summer.
The $40 million first phase would include shop-lined streets, the city's first movie theater and public plazas. It would perch on 56 acres near the Bothell-Everett Highway and Mill Creek Boulevard.
The Mill Creek Planning Commission has coordinated public meetings this winter to complete details of the plans, and the City Council plans to vote on the commission's recommendations this spring.
If approved, construction would bring to fruition the citizen-initiated effort started seven years ago.
"This is not the developer coming up with a plan - this is the developer responding to a plan from the citizens," said Bill Trimm, the city's director of community development.
Citizens remain vocal in the planning effort. At recent public hearings, speakers said they would like to increase the size of the public plazas. They also opposed suggestions for one block of angled street parking to increase the parking capacity of the planned Main Street.
"Some people don't want a Town Center, they don't want a development," said Dr. Jon Pazevic, a former member of the Planning Commission and City Council. "But this is an urban corridor, and we have some control about how that development occurs."
Most of Mill Creek's existing commercial development spreads out along the Bothell-Everett Highway.
After the adoption of the city's comprehensive plan in 1992, citizens participated in panels that shaped the planned Town Center's design, a remedy for residents yearning for a true downtown.
But city officials couldn't proceed without a developer willing to build within the limits of Mill Creek's plan. The proposed center would be about one-third the size of Redmond Town Center.
"The message we got is that it's great, but it's too small," Trimm said.
The city retained its vision that bigger is not necessarily better, Trimm said, and it chose Randy Kyte, developer of Redmond Town Center.
"The whole premise of the Mill Creek Town Center was a grass-roots effort to get a community place instead of a bunch of strip centers," said Kyte, now senior vice president of Bellevue-based Langly Properties.
The proposal calls for a "pedestrian friendly" Main Street bounded on both sides by storefronts of local businesses. It would be surrounded by residential development, most of which has been approved, but construction has not yet begun.
The center would sit on 56 acres of raw, undeveloped land west of the Bothell-Everett Highway and north of City Hall on Mill Creek Boulevard. About 30 acres of that land would be commercially developed, with the rest providing a buffer from the highway to the east and North Creek to the west.
The land is owned by Buchan Brothers Investment, which is working with Langly Properties on the project. Langly is proposing to build the first phase: 233,000 square feet of retail space that would include a grocery store, small shops and a cinema.
The Town Center would also have plazas that could be used for public gatherings. Construction would be completed in three to five years. If the City Council approved the plans this spring, construction could begin by August.
Mill Creek Town Center should retain some of the local dollars now spent at Alderwood and Everett malls, Kyte said.
But the purpose of the Town Center is not to compete with big retail stores but rather offer smaller shopping alternatives. Kyte said the tenants would likely be small stores and local business offices.
Phase two of the Town Center has not yet been designed, but it would likely contain a public plaza as well as a community center, Trimm said. Mill Creek residents also would be a part of that planning process.
"The community . . . has the opportunity to project what they see as the new downtown," Trimm said.
Frank Vinluan's phone message number is 425-745-7814. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org ------------------------- Next public hearing
The Mill Creek Planning Commission's next public hearing on the proposed Mill Creek Town Center is at 7 p.m., March 16, City Hall, 15728 Mill Creek Blvd.
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