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Downtown plan fires up public
by MATTHEW NASH
Enthusiasm and ideas flowed again at the City of Sequim’s second open house and presentation for its proposed downtown plan. Nearly 140 people attended the Feb. 10 unveiling of the preliminary proposal from LMN Architects of Seattle.
Hot topics included identifying opportunity sites for a cinema and city hall, and short-term and long-term goals, such as increasing the number of downtown events, flanking the downtown core with low-rise higher density housing and redesigning Pioneer Memorial Park.
Interim Planning Director Joe Irvin said the event was fairly positive with a lot of excitement about the looks and esthetics of the housing proposals.
“People thought row housing was attractive and could help improve the streetscape,” Irvin said.
“A lot of people loved the idea of a cinema, too. Some comments were on the need for building basic infrastructure and for work to be done on sidewalks.”
Of the few concerns he heard, Irvin said some people felt the building fees associated with redeveloping were too high on a single lot and that some developers might be deterred from installing multiple houses.
Irvin said he is working on identifying appropriate incentives and credits toward implementing the downtown plan. “We’re in this for the long haul,” Irvin said at the plan’s presentation.
He’s hoping to get a lot of feedback from the community about the plan before the city council reviews the plan at a study session tentatively set for March 28, with a public hearing proposed for a later meeting.
The consultants’ map showed the downtown core stretches from Third Avenue to Matriotti Avenue west to east, and Spruce Street to Maple Street, north to south. It’s for people on foot to visit retail businesses.
Of all transportation items, promoting active alleyways topped the list among citizens.
“People want a place to go on foot, bikes and scooters where they can move in their own way,” said Kendra Breiland, senior transportation planner at Fehr & Peers.
They also determined Pioneer Memorial Park is vastly underused and could be a much more active part of the community. This is included in the city’s long-term goals proposal.
Outside of the downtown core, they felt when promoting medium-density housing, going above three stories with new development was unnecessary.
A few areas were chosen as possible targets for needed projects like a new city hall.
City Manager Steve Burkett said some property owners were concerned that they were stuck to do what these proposals said. Burkett said no and emphasized the plan is a proposal. He, staff and councilors want to see if opportunity sites work today but might not be realistic for 3-5 years.
“At least this gives us an idea,” Burkett said.
Main sites include:
• Small-scale retail development one block east of the Washington Street and
Sequim Avenue intersection
• Mixed use residential space above retail around the northeast corner of Washington Street and Third Avenue
• Leverage city hall on existing area of Cedar Street with a “woonerf” area,
which is a pedestrian-oriented area suitable for festivals, connecting to Seal Street.
• Cinema in Bank of America building on South Sequim Avenue.
Consultants said a typical cinema brings 3,000-5,000 people a weekend but for it to work at this location, a developer would need to partner with the community such as St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church for parking. One LMN consultant said companies like AMC and Regal are looking for sites like this.
Opportunity sites are mostly dependent on independent contractors and developers. Most of the proposed goals can be implemented by the city dependent on funding and other variables. (see inside box.)
Mark Hinshaw, urban planning director for LMN Architects, said Sequim’s downtown has a solid core already.
“You don’t have a problem and (Sequim) is probably envied by other communities,” Hinshaw said.
When asked what could be priority No. 1, he said there wasn’t just one to pick.
“You need to pick five, six or 20 things,” Hinshaw said. “You have to have an agenda you follow and you have to keep on course for many years.”
Attendees seemed in favor of many of the proposals. Renee Brock-Richmond, a member of the Downtown Plan advisory group, said she was excited that so many community members who participated come from different backgrounds.
“I get so excited from that energy,” Brock-Richmond said.
Lorri Gilchrist, a Sequim resident, liked the idea of a cinema and desires more sidewalks and alleys to be cleaned up.
“I grew up here and I want it to be safe, clean and friendly,” Gilchrist said. “I want a town that looks alive, not dead.”
Betty Skidmore, a Sequim resident just outside of city limits, said she’s in favor of about 70 percent of the proposal but she’s split down the middle on adding higher- density housing.
“It’s going to increase traffic issues double or triple,” Skidmore said.
She wants the city to investigate adding handicap parking on the streets first. Skidmore said she came to the meeting because everybody goes downtown for everything they need, so she wanted to check it out.
“(Sequim) is like any older city that’s growing. There’s only so many things you can do with this space,” she said.
Hinshaw recommended citizens let local politicians know what they support and what money should go to for the plan.
Irvin can be reached at Sequim Public Works, 615 N. Fifth Ave., or call 683-4908.
Read more about the proposed Downtown Plan at www.ci.sequim.wa.us .
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.