Downtown’s big dig

Work for shopper-friendly downtown could be delayed until 2010

Shovels may not hit the ground for the start of Snoqualmie’s downtown revitalization project until early 2010.

Part of the city’s master plan update for downtown, the revitalization project would build new utilities, water and sewer along Falls Avenue, upgrade street lighting, add street trees, widen sidewalks and maximize parking on Falls and Railroad Avenue.

“We want to give the best face we can to downtown,” said Paul Fuesel, an urban designer with the Seattle firm of KPG, who updated the council on the revitalization plan at their Monday, June 8, regular meeting.

The $3.2 million project is paid for with a $1.4 million grant from the Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) and a $1.8 million city utility bond.

Federal grant rules mandate that the project start by September, but the city is asking for an extension to dodge the upcoming flood season.

“I don’t want to open up the street” during flood season, Snoqualmie Special Projects Manager Alan Lobdell said. “If we had a flood and a trench was open, it would be terrible.”

High ground water levels in the winter time would also make the job more difficult.

A delay would also allow more time for negotiations with Puget Sound Energy on ways to bury or hide transmission lines on Falls Avenue.

The city has several options for cleaning up the overhanging wires and power poles on Falls Avenue, including undergrounding lines, realigning poles and placing transformers just above ground level on concrete berms, or burying the transformers in waterproof vaults. There are ways to disguise above-ground poles or transformers through design, according to Fuesel.

Grant rules state that the project must be done by September 2011.

The job is intricate, but small, and should progress fast, Lobdell said.

“This shouldn’t take two years to build,” he said.

Even if the EDA does not allow Snoqualmie to wait to start the project, Fuesel said the designers plan to have their work complete before fall.

“We’re going all cylinders ahead,” he said.

The city will need to communicate with business owners to minimize the impacts of months of construction downtown, Fuesel said.

Downtown design

While not yet approved, revitalization plans calls for the city to promote themes of local history, the rairoads and the area’s natural setting downtown.

“The storefronts needs to sing,” Fuesel said.

In his presentation, he displayed a visual of a seating rock, giving the example of large stones at Seattle Center.

The boulders could anchor downtown corners, acting as an organic gateway to each part of downtown.

“We want to draw people into the next block,” Fuesel said. “Our idea is to get them along Falls Avenue. How can we get subtle gateways to draw people in?”

Fuesel also showed slides of sidewalk possibilities, including concrete stamped to resemble boardwalk that is used in a few other Northwest communities.

Councilman Bryan Holloway cautioned that some families with strollers may not like such a bumpy surface.

Snoqualmie residents will have an opportunity to view and comment on the proposal later this year.