(This originally was posted on the The Future of 35th website.)
About 10-15 years ago, the City of Kirkland began the process of revitalizing their downtown. The City developed a strategic plan to identify those things the City could do themselves and those things the City wanted to encourage private development to accomplish. Some of the City’s targeted improvements included improved transit, creating public gathering places, and improving traffic circulation. However, with all of these potential improvements, the City still required private development to come in and bring the types of projects and amenities that were important for improving the vitality and success of the downtown core experience. To do this, the City in part turned to incentives to encourage these things.
While downtown Kirkland may not be the same scale and type of commercial corridor that we may aspire 35th Ave NE to become, the principal of using incentives to achieve those things important to the community may be something for us as a community to consider. In order for a development to occur, the financial reality of development is that it must “pencil out” (e.g., result in a reasonable return on investment to the developer). In this capitalist environment, economics generally wins out.
The question in these capitalist conditions is what is the appropriate “give and take” relationship in order to achieve not only a successful project economically for the developer, but also a successful project for the community. At our most recent Coffee Talk at the end of July, Ellen Miller-Wolfe, the Economic Development Director for the City of Kirkland shared some of the projects and methods they’ve used to encourage successful developments. Some of those incentives Kirkland has offered developers include additional height (a bonus floor) and reduced setbacks to incentivize such things as residential uses within the business core or including shared public parking. Now, the City is trying to incentivize specific types of retail uses including a grocery store downtown and movie theater.
As we move forward with the 35th Ave NE neighborhood planning,we might ask ourselves,
What are those things we most want along 35th Ave NE and what are we willing to give up in order to get them?
One place we can begin to look to for those things of most value to the community are those business types and features called out in the Wedgwood Vision Plan community survey results. Another place to look may include those things that other neighborhoods have done within their commercial corridors that we may want to replicate. The 35th Ave NE Steering Committee has begun to tour other communities and are getting ideas.
Our FINAL Coffee Talk is next Thursday, August 23rd, at Wedgwood Presbyterian Church from 7-8:30PM. Join us to learn about the trade offs of land use planning. For more on Incentivizing Successful Development, relive the magic of Coffee Talk 6 and Ellen Miller-Wolfe’s fantastic presentation on what Kirkland has done.
Coffee Talk 6: Financial Realities of Development. Incentivizing Successful Development from Wedgwood Community Council on Vimeo.