Totem Lake Park could be catalyst for economic development | Editorial

The new year brings opportunity. No one knows that better than new Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen and the rest of the Kirkland City Council. The Reporter staff would like to congratulate the new leaders of the Kirkland City Council. But the council has many issues to deal with this year and they will have an impact on Kirkland residents’ lives for decades to come.

For a long time now the biggest issue in Kirkland has been the underachieving Totem Lake area. Just off I-405 and right next to the biggest employer in the city, the area has been underutilized by retail for far too long. The Totem Lake Malls is a big part to the puzzle. Ownership has been locked in a contentious court battle for years, making it impossible for the property to be redeveloped. And while that part of the equation has not changed, the city has been working on making redevelopment in the area more desirable for when the court case has come to a close.

The redevelopment of Totem Lake - and yes, there is an actual lake - would help exponentially in making redevelopment desirable. The lake is just a stone’s throw away from the malls. It sits next to one of the city’s biggest projects, the Cross Kirkland Corridor, which will link major parts of the city with a biking and walking trail. The lake is also just down the hill from EvergreenHealth. A redeveloped park would bring working professionals from the hospital down the hill and closer to the malls.

The city recently finished the Totem Lake Park master plan to redevelop the park. It calls for new walking trails and turning the old shrouded lake into a destination point. But there are no delusions with this project. It will be very expensive and the funding is easily the biggest hurdle. But the potential economic impact, not to mention to Kirklanders’ quality of life, cannot be overlooked. The cost with this project has to be balanced with the economic rewards.

The city has already worked to improve the area for drainage and transportation, among other things. The city will complete the building of the Public Safety Building behind the Fred Meyer and near Kirkland’s only dog park. It is working toward making the malls and the Totem Lake area as a whole an irresistible redevelopment opportunity. We have already begun to see many businesses and developers move in to capitalize on the work with the construction of Slater 116 and the new Toyota of Kirkland dealership. A redeveloped Totem Lake Malls would be a crown jewel and a big piston in Kirkland’s economic engine of the future.

The new city leadership will have many projects to consider this year. We hope they continue to focus on the Totem Lake revitalization because we are starting to see results.

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