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Gateway taking shape, sort of

A current study looks at the impacts of redevelopment options, strategies.

Magenta for mixed-use, gamboge for multi-family, cucumber for open space.

An entire arsenal of colors were spread across various maps at City Hall Monday, each representing possible future land uses in the Ferry/Gateway District.

But as community members surveyed the rainbow, it was the colorless void at the south end of the planning area, rather than the bright sections surrounding it, that drew the most attention.

The void, planners said, represents the ever-controversial Washington State Ferries maintenance facility, over which the city and the ferry system remain embroiled in litigation.

In light of the dispute, the city decided to omit the property from its plans and move ahead with an effort that will eventually transform the area surrounding the ferry terminal.

Still, the explanation didn’t stop many attendees at Monday’s meeting from wondering: whither the white spot?

“It seems absurd to me to have a white spot right in the center of everything,” said one man, at the beginning of a lengthy Q/A session. “That property has been totally left out of the planning.”

Nonetheless, the city kicked off its six-month long environmental review for the project, which is separate from, but will aim to mesh with State Route 305 corridor planning, Winslow Tomorrow and the now-delayed ferry terminal project.

The planning boundary stretches from Waterfront Park at its southwestern edge, east to Ferncliff Avenue and up a narrow strip surrounding 305 that ends at Wallace Way.

The city will spend the next two months drafting an Environmental Impact Statement, a required document that analyzes a project’s potential impacts on natural and built systems.

The draft will be presented at a public meeting in September, with the final EIS due in December.

The parameters of the study – which will include land use, aesthetics, transportation, drainage, shorelines and recreation, among other things – are based on public comments gathered by the city earlier this year.

Three alternatives were presented for review Monday. None of the three, planners said, will be adopted wholesale. Instead, the city likely will select a preferred alternative that blends different elements of all three. None of the alternatives discuss specific projects; they simply outline potential uses at different points throughout the planning area.

The first alternative, dubbed the “No Action” alternative, would maintain current Comprehensive Plan policies and zoning regulations.

It would likely allow for 475 additional residential units, 9,000 square feet of retail space and 5,600 square feet of office space, and would include some mixed-use development around the terminal. Shoreline restoration and non-motorized boating improvements would be included at Waterfront Park.

The second alternative would lead to moderate redevelopment, including 404 residential units, 20,791 square feet off retail space and 32,780 square feet of office space. It would include open space on a five-acre, privately owned parcel just north of Harbor Square and, potentially, docks at Waterfront Park.

The third, and most radically transformative alternative, would lead to 1,253 residential units, 32,070 square feet of retail space and 45,194 square feet of office space. It would include a more aggressive redevelopment of Waterfront Park that would be more “urban” and would require some code changes.

The first two alternatives would keep the police station at its current location, while the third would move it to somewhere in the center of the island.

All three alternatives will study the possibility of some kind of hotel somewhere near the ferry terminal; two of the three will study possible east-west connectors spanning 305.

But audience questions and comments continually veered toward the uncertain future of the maintenance yard, where many would like to see a public boat yard or some other community use.

Less uncertainty surrounds the near-term future of the ferry terminal, which was scheduled to undergo a $160 million overhaul beginning in 2009 before what WSF planner Rob Berman called a “watershed” legislative session.

After a study pointed to an estimated $410 million worth of unfunded capital projects, the Legislature ordered a re-tooling of ferry financing that is expected to take two years.

Four years later, the council substantially revised the commission’s duties, making it able only to recommend salary changes. This then put authority over pay increases in the hands of the council. According to state law, however, such council-approved salary hikes cannot apply during the terms then being served by councilors.

Bainbridge ferry terminal, which planners say is riddled with connectivity issues, have been put on hold.

Still, Berman said, the Bainbridge project has faired better than others in the system, getting $2.4 million in funding to sustain some activity over the next two years. That activity will include working with the city on Ferry/Gateway planning and the continued meetings of a local Citizen Advisory Group originally convened to guide terminal design.

Now, instead of reviewing specific designs of the terminal, Berman said the CAG will follow the ongoing study of ferry financing now being undertaken by various groups.

Even short-term safety improvements at the Bainbridge terminal have been put on hold, though for different reasons. The improvements – new traffic signals, striping and bicycle lanes – were stalled when the ferry system last month received a lone bid on the project that was “much higher” than anticipated, Berman said.

“We’re a bit hamstrung with what we can do right now,” he said, referring to the stall to major capital projects. Regarding the interim fix, he said the ferry system plans to go to bid again later in the year.

“We’ll try again in the fall,” he said. “It could be a better bidding season.”

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Documentary

The city has begun environmental review of coming redevelopment near the ferry terminal. An outline of the three alternatives presented at Monday’s Ferry/Gateway District meeting is available at http://www.cobifgud.com/inovem/inovem.ti/CommunityFGUD/view?objectId=1049381

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