Opinion

Second Totem Lake Symposium highlights urban center accomplishments | Council's Desk

Kirkland City Councilwoman Amy Walen - Contributed
Kirkland City Councilwoman Amy Walen
— image credit: Contributed

Two years after Kirkland’s Mayor hosted the first Totem Lake Symposium, city officials, residential and commercial property owners, financial, development and design professionals, and local businesses are gathering again to celebrate the private and public achievements that came about from ideas generated at the 2010 Symposium.

Significant work has taken place to reduce flooding in the Totem Lake drainage system, and soon more flooding mitigation will replace culverts (with larger ones able to carry more water away from commercial areas) in front of the Bank of America, the malls and across I-405 and N.E. 120th Street.

Totem Lake is designated as an “Urban Center” in the State of Washington, and as such, is eligible to receive state grant funding that will help it accept growth and density gracefully. Kirkland is actively working towards securing grant funding for our transportation plans for this area. Plans are in place to extend N.E. 120th Street, which will positively influence traffic flow through the district.

Other public improvements include the city’s public safety building and the Cross Kirkland Corridor interim trail - both anticipated in 2014. Zoning codes have been amended to provide for more flexibility, and amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, scheduled to begin in 2013, look ahead to new zoning that may encourage redevelopment. Conversations are taking place with the King County Conservation District for the city to acquire Totem Lake, which could be an important focal point for creating the “sense of place” that 2010 Symposium attendees and the Urban Land Institute recommended.

Totem Lake Conversations, a monthly group created by the mayor to discuss issues that affect the neighborhood, has met to discuss the status of the mall, pedestrian and bicycle safety in the neighborhood, and planning issues. This may develop into an ongoing group, meeting as a chapter of the Chamber of Commerce.

The Kirkland City Council is considering making permanent the suspension of the “change of use impact fees” that were previously charged when businesses changed locations. In addition, in an effort to encourage economic development, and to be an “incubator” of small, start up businesses, the council will be considering suspending the business license fee for small businesses that locate here, for their first year in business.

We are also planning discussions with Lake Washington Institute of Technology about strategies to support the business environment with a skilled workforce.

We believe that the opening of My Home Furniture, LA Fitness, tenant improvements underway to allow for 24 Hour Fitness to open in the mall, and the construction of Totem Station, a mixed-use development, all indicate an increase in vitality in Totem Lake, but there is more work to be done.

On October 26, neighbors, property owners, builders and developers, transportation and environmental experts and the owners of the Totem Lake Malls will gather again to keep looking into the future of this crucial business district. We invite those who are interested to make a reservation to attend by visiting www.TLSymposium.eventbrite.com

Amy Walen is a Kirkland City Councilwoman.

 

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