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City looks to move urban center to include LWIT

The city of Kirkland is looking for ways to have the Lake Washington Institute of Technology take advantage of the Totem Lake neighborhood’s higher priority access to transportation funding as a part of the city’s urban center. The institute is currently just outside of the urban center’s border and a part of the North Rose Hill neighborhood.

The planning commission is examining ways to move the institute into the designated urban center but nothing concrete has been decided.

Under the Urban Growth Management Act (UGMA), a city’s urban centers are given higher priority when the city applies for transportation funding because it is designed to absorb more growth. Under UGMA, Kirkland applies for transportation funding under the Puget Sound Regional Council. Transportation funding goes towards road improvements and expansion, as well as trail and sidewalk construction, things the institute would benefit from if they are placed inside the urban center, according to Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett.

“To have an institution (like the institute) inside the urban growth center helps when you’re applying for funding,” he said.

If the institute was moved inside the boundary, the city would also be able to obtain higher levels of transit service in that area, according to AICP Director Eric Shields.

Triplett added that additional transit service has become important due to recent announcements by Metro Transit to cut bus routes.

Dr. Amy Goings, the president of the institute, said they are highly supportive of the city’s plans, as it will also help connect them with companies and businesses in Totem Lake, as transportation improvements will occur around them as well as the rest of the urban center.

“Our orientation is very much focused on the Totem Lake area and serving employers in the Totem Lake area,” she said. “For us at the college, that is exciting as well because it’s more opportunity for students, both local students and international students, who come to the college to live very close by and take a short walk to the campus or ride their bikes. So, ideally with this revitalization comes the opportunity for more students to live in the Totem Lake area.”

Some confusion arose when the planning commission also looked into reconciling boundary differences with neighborhoods and the business districts. Business districts are defined under the city’s comprehensive plan. Triplett said there is no practical necessity to change them other than for the sake of simplicity. Eventually word reached the North Rose Hill Neighborhood Association that the city was considering moving the institute from their neighborhood into the Totem Lake neighborhood. When contacted by the association the city admitted it had not communicated the proposed changes directly with them but also assured them that the institute will remain in their neighborhood.

Shields said that there is no formal proposal yet for the institute, and the planning commission is still weighing their options. Meanwhile, Shields said residents are free to attend their meetings and express their thoughts on the proposals.

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