Downtown Waterfront Activity Center
From the City of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan
A number of public plans and projects have been taking shape in recent years, and these will have a profound impact on the future of the city’s downtown waterfront area. Some of these ongoing activities include:
- Transportation planning and the Edmonds Crossing multimodal project which will move the existing ferry terminal at the base of Main Street to a new multimodal transportation center at Pt. Edwards.
- Continued development of the city’s waterfront parks and walkways into an interconnected necklace of public spaces.
- The South County Senior Center is undertaking strategic planning to look at its facilities, programs, and services.
- Public access to the water and the natural beauty of the waterfront figures prominently in the Port of Edmonds’ plans, including new plazas, improved walkways and public art. Public pedestrian/bicycle access across the railroad tracks to the waterfront, in the vicinity of the south end of the marina, near Marina Beach Park, should remain a high priority.
- Arts plans continue to be implemented throughout the downtown, including such projects as the Edmonds Center for the Arts, the Artworks facility, and the continued expansion of downtown festivals and events.
- Edmonds Community College has expanded its downtown presence through new initiatives with the Edmonds Floral Conference Center and is working with the Edmonds Center for the Arts to enhance overall operations.
Taken together, the goals and policies for the Downtown Waterfront Activity Center present a vision for Edmonds downtown waterfront. By actively pursuing the ferry terminal’s relocation, the City has set upon an ambitious and exciting course. It is a course that holds promise for the downtown waterfront, but it is one that will require concerted action by the entire community, including local, state and federal public officials, business groups and citizens. While the challenges presented in this effort are substantial, the possible rewards are even greater, for with its existing physical assets, future opportunities and the energy of its citizens, Edmonds has the potential to create one of the region’s most attractive and vital city centers.
Components of the overall vision for the downtown waterfront area include:
- The Edmonds Crossing multimodal transportation center provides convenient
transportation connections for bus, ferry, rail, auto and bicycle riders and makes
Edmonds an integrated node in the regional transportation system. The new terminal
reduces negative impacts to downtown Edmonds while still providing a link between the
terminal and downtown Edmonds. The project provides the community with varied
transportation resources and an economic stimulus to the larger community.
- Downtown is extended westward and connected to the shoreline by positive mixed-use development as well as by convenient pedestrian routes. Redevelopment of the holding lanes and SR-104 is pursued after the ferry terminal relocates to Point Edwards.
- The shoreline features a full spectrum of recreational activities, park settings, marina facilities, and supporting uses.
- There is a more efficient transportation system featuring commuter and passenger trains, increased bus service, pedestrian and bicycle routes, and adequate streets and parking areas.
- There is a more active and vital setting for new retail, office, entertainment and associated businesses supported by both nearby residents and the larger Edmonds community, and that attracts visitors from throughout the region.
- The downtown supports a mix of uses, including traditional commercial and multi family development with new mixed-use development types. Single family neighborhoods are a part of this mix of uses, and contribute to the choice of housing and character of downtown.
- Opportunities for new development and redevelopment reinforce Edmonds’ attractive, small town pedestrian-oriented character. Pedestrian-scale building height limits are an important part of this quality of life, and remain in effect.
- Provide incentives to encourage adaptive reuse as an alternative to redevelopment of historic structures in order to preserve these resources.
- Auto traffic is rerouted to minimize impact to residential neighborhoods.
Goals for the Downtown Waterfront Area
To achieve this vision, goals for the Downtown Waterfront Activity Center include:
- Promote downtown Edmonds as a setting for retail, office, entertainment and associated businesses supported by nearby residents and the larger Edmonds community, and as a destination for visitors from throughout the region.
- Continue to plan for and implement the Edmonds Crossing multimodal transportation center at Pt. Edwards – pursuing the design, permitting, land acquisition and development of the project. The completion of Edmonds Crossing will help address the competing needs of three regional facilities (transportation, parks and open space – including the Edmonds Marsh, and the Port of Edmonds) while providing opportunities for redevelopment and linkage between downtown Edmonds and its waterfront.
- Define the downtown commercial and retail core along streets having the strongest pedestrian links and pedestrian-oriented design elements, while protecting downtown’s identity.
- Identify supporting arts and mixed use residential and office areas which support and complement downtown retail use areas. Provide for a strong central retail core at downtown’s focal center while providing for a mixture of supporting commercial and residential uses in the area surrounding this retail core area. Emphasize and plan for links between the retail core and these supporting areas.
- Focus development between the commercial and retail core and the Edmonds Center for the Arts on small-scale retail, service, and multi-family residential uses.
- Develop gateway/entrance areas into downtown which serve complementary purposes (e.g. convenience shopping, community activities).
- Explore alternative development opportunities in the waterfront area, such as specifically encouraging arts-related and arts-complementing uses.
Primary goals of the City’s Downtown Waterfront Plan include integrating the downtown core with the waterfront, improving pedestrian access and traffic circulation, and encouraging mixed-use development. Current conditions limit the city's ability to achieve these plan goals by making it difficult to move between the two areas, thereby minimizing the value of the shoreline as a public resource and amenity while adversely affecting the potential for redevelopment.
A number of studies and public involvement projects have been completed to determine how to meet the variety of transportation needs that converge within Downtown Edmonds. Following an initial 1992 Ferry Relocation Feasibility Study and a visioning focus group convened by Edmonds’ Mayor in April 1992, the importance of the conflicting transportation needs culminated in the City of Edmonds, Washington State Ferries, and Community Transit signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in November 1993. The MOU called for the cooperative development of solutions to the conflicts between the City’s growth plans and ferry traffic in particular. In response to that agreement, preliminary engineering and environmental analysis of alternatives began in late 1993.
In 1994, the Edmonds City Council held public hearings on the possibility of relocating the existing ferry terminal and incorporating a new terminal within a larger multimodal project. As a result of the hearings, the Council expressed support for a regional multimodal facility. The Council also approved the 1994 Edmonds Downtown Waterfront Plan which specifically supported the facility’s location at Pt. Edwards.
Further environmental review and facility definition resulted in a recommendation that an alternative site (other than the existing Main Street location) should be developed as a multimodal facility serving ferry, rail, bus, pedestrian, and bicycle travel needs.
Several alternative sites for the relocated ferry terminal and the proposed multimodal center were evaluated as part of the early environmental screening process. During this screening process, federal, state, regional, and local regulatory agencies—including affected Tribes— provided input regarding issues that could impact selecting reasonable alternatives.
Based on this extensive screening process, two alternatives were recommended for further analysis in the Environmental Impact Statement process. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was issued on February 25, 1998, and the Final EIS was issued on November 10, 2004. Pt. Edwards is the preferred alternative for a multimodal terminal site.
In addition to the transportation benefits of moving the existing ferry terminal, a number of redevelopment opportunities will result within the downtown waterfront area. These range from park and public access improvements to opportunities for significant redevelopment and connections between the waterfront and downtown.
Edmonds Crossing is a multimodal transportation center proposed to be constructed at Point Edwards, the former UNOCAL oil storage facility south of the Edmonds Marina. This multimodal transportation center will provide the capacity to respond to growth while providing improved opportunities for connecting various forms of travel, including rail, ferry, bus, bicycle, walking and ridesharing.
The project is supported by local, regional, and state plans, including the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Destination 2030 Metropolitan Transportation and VISION 2020 plan; Washington State Ferries’ (WSF) System Plan for 1999-2018; Snohomish County’s countywide Transportation Plan; the City of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan; and the Port of Edmonds Strategic Plan and Master Plan.
Edmonds Crossing will provide:
- Intersection improvements at Pine Street and SR-104;
- Interconnection of Amtrak service to Chicago and Vancouver, B.C., Sounder commuter rail service between Everett and Seattle, and other regional transportation modes;
- Connections to the regional transit system with direct bus service to communities throughout the urban growth area;
- Enhanced ability for people to rideshare, bicycle and walk to connect with travel opportunities at the multimodal center;
- Improved safety and travel on Edmonds local streets and along SR-104 between the ferry terminal and I-5.
- Linkage between Navy facilities at Everett and on the Kitsap peninsula.
The project includes:
- A ferry terminal;
- A train station;
- A transit center for bus and regional transit, as well as the opportunity for riders to connect to downtown businesses via a local circulator service;
- The flexibility to operate the facility to respond to changing travel demands;
- Safety features including grade separation of train traffic from other modes of travel, designated vehicle parking and holding areas, and improved passenger waiting areas.
While the Edmonds Crossing project will directly benefit the transportation system, the project will also provide significant benefits to downtown Edmonds. Completion of the project provides an opportunity to redevelop the existing ferry terminal facilities and the related holding lanes in the downtown area. Providing a connection from the new multimodal terminal to downtown Edmonds will potentially bring more visibility and visitors to the downtown area.
To learn about other developments in Edmonds' future, visit the City of Edmonds Planning Division.