Opinion

Public space

As you may or may not be aware, the city of Snoqualmie has hired a firm by the name of Beckwith Consulting Group to develop a master plan for "Historic Snoqualmie."

I can imagine the refrain from those of you who have seen the consultant caravan come down the pike on previous occasions. There are those who will say, "I've seen this dog and pony show before, it's a waste of my time and energy to participate and get all worked up, and then have the plans that result be so full of good intentions that they are unrealistic, or that they are such a departure from the character of our quaint town as to be difficult to reconcile."

In both instances, what seems to remain after the fees are paid and the designers are down the road is a nifty drawing that gathers dust on the shelf and does not materialize (thankfully sometimes) in much of any measurable physical way. Our frustration with regard to our quest for the revitalization grail is nothing new or unique. This process is as old as the hills. It can be a difficult, drawn-out process that is seemingly unproductive until the moon and the stars align.

But, there is reason to believe that things are lining up. The City needs our downtown to be more vital. Potential tax revenues are not being realized if the historic downtown stagnates and its potential as a more robust revenue center is not capitalized on. We are talking tax revenues and budgets here, folks.

Accordingly, the powers that be have been pursuing a course of action aimed toward these ends, not always hitting the mark, but in action nonetheless. Looks like they are getting somewhere with a Federal Economic Development Grant, the decision to create a master plan, and in retaining the services of Beckwith Consulting. The folks from Beckwith are some in a line of many who have expounded upon the obvious attributes and potential that this area is endowed with (kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, not too hard to do). But they are extremely practical, taking up the mundane subjects of parking and transportation as they try to forge a vision for a vital downtown core. Given the experience and understanding of Beckwith, the most recent round of plans stands a pretty good chance of actually being implemented.

One of the other issues is the future of the "King Street Lot." You know the one - that homely dirt lot that is on the corner of Railroad Avenue and King Street adjacent to the Adventure Bowling Alley, the lot that any developer in their right mind covets highly. It's in a pole position, a gateway property that has the huge and valuable extra benefit of overlooking the Snoqualmie River, Sandy Cove Park, and Mount Si. To date there have been discussions at public meetings that have proposed various options for this prime location. One of the scenarios presented was to make the whole kit and caboodle a public space or parking lot; another was to allow the lot to be developed into an entire block of retail. This last option seems to be the option that this process is headed toward. This makes me very concerned. If this entire lot is developed into a commercial venue, the public will lose a very important potential public plaza space all in the name of short-term gain of purveyors of products. Don't get me wrong, I am a purveyor myself, but this is the one place in this downtown core the city has an opportunity to create an outstanding feature to attract both residents and visitors alike. To reveal to them the incredible beauty of the river and mountain view that is hidden just one block behind the storefronts of the bustling highway of Railroad Avenue, creating a place of repose, a place for people to gather and linger. A big enough space to accommodate current and future events that the city seems to want and needs to hold if it is to realize its full potential as a destination for out-of-town visitors.

I am one of those people who just won't give up. I am very passionate about the place I spend most of my waking hours in, "Original Snoqualmie." I believe that if the entire King Street lot is designated for development, the last place in this downtown core that people seem to gravitate toward is gone for good, and we are headed toward the descent into the ordinary. Let's create a sense of place by putting progress on half of this lot and a place for people on the other half.

Please come to the downtown master plan meeting. The next one is 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at the Snoqualmie Tribe administration building.


Wendy Thomas

Snoqualmie business owner

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