Kirkland City Council approves Totem Lake Park master plan

A rendering of the spiral overpass proposed in the Totem Lake Park master plan. Architecture firm Berger Partnership created the plan over the course of 2013. - Courtesy of the city of Kirkland
A rendering of the spiral overpass proposed in the Totem Lake Park master plan. Architecture firm Berger Partnership created the plan over the course of 2013.
— image credit: Courtesy of the city of Kirkland

The hidden, and some may say "forgotten," lake in the heart of the Totem Lake business district finally has a plan for greatness.

But finding the funds to implement that plan could take some time.

Last month, the Kirkland City Council approved the Totem Lake Park master plan, which would turn the 17 acre piece of land and lake into a park with a looping boardwalk, a restroom facility and a play area.

However, construction could cost between $9.7-12.5 million and those funds will take a couple of years to secure, said Parks and Community Services Deputy Director Michael Cogle.

“I think [the biggest challenge is] probably just going to be the funding,” Cogle said. “It’s definitely a doable vision, but it’s going to take considerable funding. People need to be patient, it’s not all going to happen at once … When you’re talking about projects $10 million-plus, those can take several years, if not decades, to get fully implemented.”

Because there are no funds designated in the current Capital Improvement Program, city staff will be preparing a recommendation to include Totem Lake Park in the 2015 Capital Improvement Program update. Work on the recommendation will begin as early as this spring with approval by the end of 2014.

Between now and then, city officials will submit a 2014 grant application to the State of Washington’s Recreation and Conservation Office for matching funding for the first phase of project construction.

“It’s a good candidate,” Cogle said. “We think it’s a very exciting project that meets a lot of the goals of the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office.”

City officials will also negotiate the transfer of Totem Lake from the King Conservation District to the city, as it is currently co-owned between the two entities. However, the improvements could still occur without land acquisition from the King Conservation District as they occur on the park propriety itself, Cogle said.

City officials will also pursue partnership opportunities with developers of adjacent and surrounding private properties so they can fully implement the plan.

“In looking at the adjacent properties around the lake, the Yuppie Pawn site has met all objectives,” Cogle said. “Brian Lurie, the owner, has been part of the process and has encouraged us to consider that property for an upland parcel.”

The master plan, created by staff at the architecture firm Berger Partnership, divides the park into six parcels, each with an upgrade.

The upland parcel is located near the Yuppie Pawn Shop and Tavern, and Cafe Veloce. It is the park’s current entrance and would continue to be a gateway into the wetland area. Hoping to eventually purchase the Yuppie Tavern owner’s property, city officials plan to create an area with a restroom facility, 10 stall parking lot, a lawn terrace, play area, benches, picnic tables and bike racks. The area would serve as an entrance to the boardwalk that would loop around the lake.

The north edge parcel, where the current overlook pier is located, would be served by a new and improved overlook deck, a seat wall and some wetland enhancement. This section could also include pathways to two sets of switchback stairways leading up Evergreen Hill toward EvergreenHealth Medical Center. But because the proposed Evergreen terrace climb is along the Seattle City Light right of way, city officials will need to negotiate with Seattle City Light to address concerns over the high transmission lines overhead.

The east edge will add an entirely new section of boardwalk, surrounded by untouched wetlands. The boardwalk will connect to the Cross Kirkland Corridor’s section by a bridge. The Cross Kirkland Corridor, which has its own master plan by Berger Partnership, will include amenities along the regional bike trail. The east edge bridge will continue over the corridor and to the King County parcel, reconnecting a small stream to the lake.

There will be a seating and viewing area along the Cross Kirkland Corridor, which meanders south and will connect to a spiral overpass. The overpass, which connects to the west edge of Totem Lake Park, will also allow pedestrians and bicyclists to bypass traffic at Totem Lake Boulevard Northeast and at Northeast 124th Street.

The west edge of the park will cut through wetland and is adjacent to Totem Lake Boulevard Northeast. This piece of boardwalk is the last section, completing the loop around. The master plan calls for additional wildlife habitat pond enhancements that would be achieved by creating shallow pools.

Because there are some sensitive wildlife areas, bicyclists will be encouraged to slow down when biking the looping boardwalk.

Cogle said while there may be some trees or vegetation removed during construction, the end result with be a net positive impact. The city will add more conifer trees, they’ll revegetate native plant species and improve the overall wild life habitat.

The Council will prioritize the construction phases during the bi-annual budget process. Cogle said while depending on which phase is under construction, it could be done in a way that doesn’t close down the park.

“One of the things we’ve heart a lot from the community was to create a looping-trail experience around the lake,” Cogle said. “We can begin to accomplish that by doing an initial phase that would connect the trail to the Cross Kirkland Corridor and then from that you can pretty much walk around the lake.”

The phases would be complete as funding allows, which could include construction of multiple phases at once or each consecutively.

The city will go through the typical permitting requirements and will begin to hash-out details as they go through the “robust” permitting process.

But for now, many rejoice that the forgotten lake now has a concrete plan for the future.

“I’m really excited how have a vision of how this beautiful undervalued hidden asset can be shared as jewel in the Totem Lake area,” Cogle said. “When you think about how that area is going to redevelop over time with taller buildings over time, there’s just not a lot of green.”

For more information, visit and search “Totem Lake Park Master Plan.


A map of the Totem Lake Park improvements, which are outlined in the Totem Lake Park master plan. A legend is available here. CONTRIBUTED

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