City to consider restrictions on downtown businesses

Nov 06, 2013

Looking to improve the vitality of downtown Edmonds, city officials are considering a limitation on the kinds of businesses that would be permitted on ground floor street frontages.

An issue that was previously visited in early 2011, the proposal would generally bar businesses that operate mainly on appointments, such as financial advisers, health care services, accountants or similar “office” type enterprises.

Those businesses would be relegated to upper floors or off the downtown retail core zone.

Instead, ground floor frontages would be limited to businesses that welcome passersby – restaurants, taverns, coffee houses, galleries, clothing stores, gift shops, jewelry stores or other retail type operations.

Stephen Clifton, Community Services/Economic Development Director, told the City Council on Monday that the goal is to create economic vitality.

He said office-type businesses generally close on evenings and weekends, giving the impression to visitors that the area isn’t inviting.

Conversely, retail – such as galleries, restaurants and other businesses that stay open evenings and on the weekends – “creates a downtown core that invites people to hang out,” Clifton said.

Noting that tourism is the fourth largest industry in Washington state, Clifton said, “When tourists are shopping downtown, they’re supporting the growth of smaller, retail businesses.”

The Economic Development Commission unanimously supported the proposal, he said, and no property owners have spoken in opposition.

Staff studied several other cities that implemented similar restrictions, including Kirkland, which has had restrictions in place since 1990, and found they have experienced success in boosting the economic and cultural vitality of their downtown cores.

Clifton emphasized that existing office-type businesses would neither be asked nor encouraged to move.

But once they did leave, that space would be limited to retail type businesses.

The council will set a public hearing on the issue in the coming weeks.

– Paul Archipley


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