Those who know me, and there aren’t that many, might be taken aback by my headline. I am referring to Peter Newland, with whom I strongly disagreed when we were both at the Snohomish County Public Utility District—he as a commissioner; I as a policy aide within the office. But that was a long time ago, and we’ve both moved on, though I didn’t go very far. I now occupy his previous seat on the board. He continues with his private businesses.
Newland offered his opinions on what to do with the site formerly occupied by Kimberly-Clark. The paper products company shut down the mill, which had been around for decades, then demolished the empty buildings. When I drove by the other day, there was nothing but rubble. What emerges will largely define what kind of place Everett will be for generations to come. (Photo from the Herald.)
The closure sent hundreds of employees to the streets. They were making family wages with good benefits. Sympathy for their plight and legacy may have induced the city council to designate a “water-dependent” usage. Newland believes that this is a mistake. He has an alternative in mind.
[The council’s decision] tries to preserve the status quo even though that ship has already left the dock. If Everett’s downtown core is ever to be vital again, we need to rethink our goals like successful, forward-looking cities and towns across America have done for as long as I can remember.
I share this sentiment. Everett does have an opportunity for a “fresh start” on the waterfront. In his vision, the site would be transformed into a mixed-use development in the manner of Baltimore, Maryland.
In the 1970s, Baltimore’s leaders realized the city would be in dire financial straits if they allowed their waterfront to languish. They decided to redevelop the city’s ramshackle inner harbor. Their years of work and millions of dollars of public and private investment have added residential and commercial space to an empty harbor and made Baltimore’s renewal an overall success.
Revitalization is hard. I tried for years in Marysville, Wash., a suburb of Everett. To make it happen requires bold leadership from both the public and private sectors, people willing to collaborate on a shared vision. I was not that catalyst for change. It appears no one else was either. So Marysville languishes still, with no conversation about what to do.
Newland wants such a conversation to begin in Everett, while there is still a chance. His goal is a lofty one:
If we put our minds to it we can make Everett the most livable city on the I-5 corridor.
Good for you, Peter. Let’s talk.