You and Harbor Square—a partnership waiting to happen

By Bob McChesney | Jan 21, 2010

In the coming months you are going to hear quite a bit about Harbor Square. The Port Commissioners of the Port of Edmonds will be reviewing options for what the future of the development might be.

In this column I want to give you some of the background and what to expect as the process moves along. Especially I want to let you know how you can make your views and feelings heard.

Long before there was a Harbor Square, the Edmonds waterfront was a thriving industrial area, largely comprising boathouses and shingle mills. Right after WWII, as the area began falling into disrepair, local leaders took steps to improve the area.

In 1962 the first phase of the marina was built and seven years later the northern portion was added. Material dredged from the north marina was used as fill for what is today the Harbor Square business complex.

The Port leased the land to private interests that constructed all the buildings. In late 2005 we purchased all but two of them and began a collaborative process with the City and other landowners to redevelop the entire near-waterfront area.

Local citizens were heavily involved in the creation of ideas, but in the end the interests of the owners were so divergent that no agreement was reached and nothing happened.

Doing nothing is not an acceptable option, .so   the Port has recently decided to move ahead   under its own authority to continue exploring redevelopment ideas for the Harbor Square property.

In the near future we will be announcing the first of a likely series of public meetings to hear from you, the citizens, about what you would like to see happen. The public process is crucial to whatever the Port ultimately does there. 

At this stage there is no preferred alternative. Rather there is a set of reasonably plausible development scenarios, each with different economic outcomes.

As you begin organizing your own thoughts about what might work best at Harbor Square, it is important to remember there are many factors that influence the type and scale of future redevelopment, market conditions and financial feasibility among them.

The Port is one of the few public entities to operate with a business enterprise and economic development imperative. We can lease space and perform other revenue-producing activities that will offset the cost of development, construction and operations.

Thus, both from a community development standpoint and a business perspective, the question is what redevelopment scenario at Harbor Square will provide the greatest overall benefit, including public open space, larger tax base, jobs and quality of life.

Economic development is mostly a discussion with the community about the future. The Port of Edmonds will be asking for your input.


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