A map provided by the City of Kirkland shows the Houghton Everest Neighborhood Center, the area being examined by the city (inside the dashed white line) for possible land use code amendments. Submitted art

A map provided by the City of Kirkland shows the Houghton Everest Neighborhood Center, the area being examined by the city (inside the dashed white line) for possible land use code amendments. Submitted art

First of three meetings tomorrow on Houghton/Everest Neighborhood Center, Sixth Street corridor study

Those interested in hearing more about the City of Kirkland’s potential land use code changes to the Houghton/Everest Neighborhood Center and the Sixth Street corridor study will have three opportunities next week.

Following last month’s study session on the project, the Kirkland City Council has requested a second study session, specifically targeting the transportation aspects of the study, for the Feb. 21 meeting date. The study session will start at 6 p.m. at Kirkland City Hall.

“We’re in the process of doing a detailed analysis of seeing how they could improve transportation in the area,” City of Kirkland Public Works Transportation Manager Joel Pfundt said on Tuesday, adding the results of the analysis will be presented to the council next week.

The Kirkland Transportation Commission will meet at 6 p.m. Feb. 22 at city hall to take a closer look at the project as well, followed by a joint study session of the Houghton Community Council and the Kirkland Planning Commission at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at city hall.

Additionally, there will be an open house and public hearing on the project in a joint meeting of the planning commission and Houghton Community Council on March 23 at city hall. The open house starts at 6 p.m., followed by the hearing at 7.

On March 27, the community council will meet to make a recommendation to the Kirkland City Council about the project. The planning commission will meet on April 13 to make its own recommendation as well.

The city council will make its decision on the project following the planning commission’s meeting, but the community council does have veto power on whatever the city council decides, according to Andrea Ruggeri, City of Kirkland senior planner. If the Houghton Community Council reverses the city council’s decision, it only affects the area in Houghton, not the Everest part of the project.

“We spent the summer (and fall) reaching out,” Ruggeri said, adding the staff is now in the process of reviewing information with the city’s elected officials and commissions so they can make informed decisions.

Thoughts on the project

The project has been a divisive issue for community members and those looking to redevelop in the Houghton/Everest Neighborhood Center, which is located at and around the intersection of NE 68th Street and Sixth Street S/108th Avenue NE.

City staff is looking into the possibility of allowing properties in the center to be five stories tall, something commercial property owners are eager to see go through to provide the community with access to multi-family housing, retail stores and service-based offices such as doctors or accountants.

“The community needs diversity of housing,” Doug Waddell, president of Waddell Properties, said.

His company currently owns a multi-family housing development in the area and plans to redevelop should the possibility of increasing to five stories become available.

Waddell and commercial property owners in the area see additional multi-family housing as vital in keeping the neighborhood thriving, hoping to draw employees from nearby businesses who may not be able to afford the multi-million-dollar homes in the area. The property owners hope that drawing those people to live there will increase the walkability of the neighborhood and decrease the number of people commuting by car to companies in the area such as Google.

”Five-story mixed use would be a real benefit to the community,” Tom Markl, Nelson Legacy Group CEO, said.

Nelson Legacy Group owns the Houghton Shopping Center, where businesses such as Bank of America, Metropolitan Market, Starbucks and Bartell Drugs are currently located. Markl said if the city were to move forward with land use changes, his company’s property likely wouldn’t undergo any redevelopment until at least 2030 due to lease commitments.

Many community members are seeing red when it comes to the project, mainly in the brake lights of an intersection that is already plagued by heavy traffic, especially during the evening commute.

“The project is out of scale with the surrounding community,” Sandy Helgeson, who has lived in Houghton since 1991, said. “It will overwhelm our already congested streets.”

Like Helgeson, Everest Neighborhood Association (ENA) Chair Anna Rising and other community members have been vocal in their criticism of the project and have begun to feel like their voices aren’t making a difference, as they say the city is continuing to pursue the project in alignment with the interests of the commercial property owners.

“Our quality of life doesn’t seem to be a concern,” Rising said.

She has also been disappointed with the lack of the inclusion of her neighborhood in the process for this project. She said she attempted to contact the consultants working with the city on the project to make a presentation to the ENA, but she was turned down.

“We’ve had very little opportunity to participate,” Rising said. “It’s really baffling.”

Those who can’t attend a meeting or are looking for more information about the project should visit kirklandwa.gov/HE6th or contact Ruggeri at 425-587-3256 or aruggeri@kirklandwa.gov.

“I pass (all the comments) along to the Houghton Community Council and the planning commission,” Ruggeri said, adding they will also be shared with the city council.

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