By Jack Stubbs
“Like a lot of areas, Woodinville is on the verge of the redevelopment, and this project has explicitly been set out as very much setting the bar for what we want the future redevelopment of downtown to look like,” said Woodinville city manager Brandon Buchanan of a new mixed-use development set to change the fabric of downtown Woodinville, a city in King County just east of Bothell.
The city of Woodinville is working with developers MainStreet Property Group and HAL Real Estate on the Woodinville Civic Campus School Restoration Project, which will include private residences, various open spaces and commercial businesses and look to become the new focal point for downtown Woodinville.
Construction on the project is slated to begin in May 2019 and scheduled to be complete in Spring 2021.
Located at 13203 NE 175th St. just west of the city’s Town Center, the 3.3-acre development site has been a long time in the works, and will restore the historically-designated schoolhouse that occupies the site, which still remains a historic building in the context of Woodinville, according to Buchanan. “This project goes back at least 17 years to when the city moved out of the historic schoolhouse; since then, the project has gone through many years of conversation about what that space could be…so many of the efforts focus on the old school itself,” he said.
Along with the preservation of the existing schoolhouse, the development will look to retain and restore approximately 8,000 square feet of the on-site YMCA and create an additional 6,000 square feet of community recreation space. Additionally, the project calls for over 20,000 square feet of proposed retail, commercial and restaurant space and between 260 and 275 multifamily residential units. The Civic Campus project will also include more than 30,000 square feet of open space comprised of an outdoor movie viewing area, an interactive garden, a performance stage and a community lawn and plaza, among other uses.
The planned project occupies a prominent location in the heart of downtown Woodinville and has been a community-engaged undertaking since its inception, especially over the last couple of years. The city of Woodinville issued a Request for Quotation (RFQ) in Summer of 2017 and co-developer MainStreet Property Group has since viewed it as a unique opportunity to create a new focal point for the city, according to Kim Faust, senior vice president of development at MainStreet Property Group. “We saw it as a huge opportunity to make this the community gathering place for Woodinville; it has so many natural amenities already with the ball fields, the historic schoolhouse renovation, City Hall and the neighboring parks,” she said. “It is in such a great downtown location, and it’s a big opportunity for a project that can bring the city’s goals together to help them realize their and the community’s vision.”
The Woodinville Civic Campus project has taken shape over the last couple of years in accordance with the Woodinville Downtown Vision and Illustrative Guide drafted in October 2017, which solicits community input and outlines a framework for how the city might evolve in the coming decades. The Illustrative Guide buildings upon the previous Comprehensive Plan and the Little Bear Creek Master Plan, and emphasizes how downtown Woodinville now sits at a key transitional point in its evolution.
The redevelopment project has gained traction over the last couple of years in particular. In 2016, the city brought in Portland-based Leland Consulting Group to work through establishing some of the initial design concepts for the project, which has since served as a model for how public and private entities can collaborate on projects like the Civic Campus. “This project quickly evolved into a better example of how private sector developers could make this project viable to them…the last iteration in 2015 just focused on the old schoolhouse, where a private developer was going to renovate the old building into a restaurant-type facility,” Buchanan said. “Where we’re at today is markedly different, and a good portion of the property will be a private development…but the goal from the start was that this project would still feel like a very public place,” he added.
One of the primary challenges with the Civic Campus Schoolhouse Restoration was to ensure that the project would both retain the important characteristics of the existing site and also provide a truly community-oriented asset. “From the beginning, the city knew that it was going to be a long-term presence and partner in this project, it wasn’t just simply about selling the property to a private developer,” Buchanan said. “Another distinct challenge was that it’s a very visible project. There’s been a lot of interest for a lot of years in the community to see this project done and done right.”
Given the extensive amount of local community in the undertaking, MainStreet spent a considerable amount of time studying and implementing the city’s goals and input from the surrounding community, and worked with the YMCA, the local Farmer’s Market and the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce to help the city realize its vision. “Projects like this are really a good way to bring the city’s goals to life,” Faust said, also emphasizing how the preservation of the schoolhouse was of paramount importance throughout. “The Schoolhouse was a little bit of a challenge; we needed to get our arms around what the scope of that was going to be,” she said. “But it’s not very often that you get a project that has a historic building on it that can be the beacon of the project; we built everything around the schoolhouse to ensure that it retained its prominence,” she said.
In the wider regional context, the city of Woodinville hopes that its in-the-works project serves as an example of the long-standing positive impacts that a collaborative project can have, according to Buchanan. “We’re very proud of our identity in Woodinville; this project had to be a model of that; it’s what we want the architecture and the uses of space for our downtown to be,” he said.
Further afield, Faust hopes that the Woodinville Civic Campus Restoration—and the emphasis of the project on revitalization of the city’s downtown core—can become a template for future development moving forward. “This does seem to be a trend, where these suburban cities are really starting to create vibrant downtowns in areas like Kenmore, Bothell, Redmond and certain areas of Sammamish,” she said.
Given the extensive regional growth occurring beyond the borders of Woodinville, the key moving forward is how to maintain a city-specific identity while also recognizing the growth of cities in the wider context of the Puget Sound region, according to Buchanan. “We had to go beyond saying that we didn’t like to be like every other city, but we also of course understand that we’re part of a larger region and all the economic activity,” Buchanan added. “We’re willing to take some of the regional growth and accommodate that, but we also want to ensure that it doesn’t jeopardize the character of Woodinville that we all love so much.”