Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen predicted continued prosperity at the annual state of the city address, which hosted the full City Council, city staff and numerous local business owners earlier this month.
“In 2014, I told you that the state of the city was poised,” Walen said, regarding her past years as mayor. “In 2015, I said the state of the city was strong. In 2016, I said the city was thriving. In 2017, I said that Kirkland was blossoming. Each of those statements remains true.”
The Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce hosted the address during its monthly business meeting. Before the speech began, the chamber thanked its sponsor, which includes the Reporter, and announced a record-high membership of 480 local businesses.
“That’s so amazing,” said Ryan James, president of the chamber’s board of directors. “It’s always great to be a part of a very successful organization (and) it has all come down to all the people in this room to make that happen.”
Walen also thanked the full room of business owners for locating in Kirkland and representing a flourishing business community.
“Those of you who have heard me speak before know that I believe that our city’s success depends on our focus and investment on three pillars: Engaged neighborhoods, flourishing businesses and decisive, responsive government,” Walen said.
She went on to outline the city’s growth in 2017 and trajectory for 2018.
Walen highlighted the 4,700 units of housing, 1.5 million square feet of office space and 564,000 square feet of institutional redevelopment that the city issued through permits. Additionally in Kirkland, the Lake Washington School District is renovating and expanding Juanita High School while also constructing a Peter Kirk Elementary School.
According to Walen, this growth reflects the community’s vision for the city’s future. City staff created the vision through Kirkland 2035, a public outreach project from 2015 that integrated public involvement into the city’s plans and long-term goals.
The major focus of Kirkland 2035 included goals to provide new jobs; diversify housing choices; create walkable, mixed-use urban centers served by transit; preserve single-family neighborhoods and enact thoughtful environmental regulations.
“Our community imagined Kirkland as a vibrant, attractive, green and welcoming place to live, work and play,” Walen said. “We have accomplished each of these tasks.”
She then shifted her speech to focus on the city’s financial future. City staff and council will develop a 2019-20 biennial budget and work plan later this year that will prioritize responsive police and fire services, safe streets and accessible parks.
The 2019-20 budget will be the final budget the council adopts before the city loses its annual $4 million in state support for the 2011 neighborhoods annexation.
“This is a very special time in Kirkland and we’re all fortunate to be a part of it,” Walen said. “But we cannot take this good fortune for granted. These achievements didn’t happen by accident. They are the result of generations of investment by citizens who came before us in our jewel of a city, of entrepreneurial investments by our companies and by intentional, careful planning by the city.”
The state of Kirkland is striving, according to Walen. She acknowledged that while the city’s sudden growth is helping locals thrive, council will face numerous challenges to maintain prosperity.
“The council must respond to the legitimate concerns of our neighborhoods that today’s growth can overwhelm us. That we have come too far, too fast,” Walen concluded. “Let’s strive to work together to make Kirkland the most welcoming and inclusive city in the nation. And by doing that we will keep Kirkland the most livable city in America.”