Using Bothell as an example, expert says smart growth is key to community economic advancement
By ERIC S. ALLAN
Bothell Reporter Contributor
February 10, 2011 · Updated 7:30 PM
“Freeways and airports were America’s life, but we need to shift from that.” That is how Peter Calthorpe, of Calthorpe Associates from Berkeley, Calif., led into his talk about “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.”
On the morning of Feb. 9 in the North Creek Events Center at the University of Washington, Bothell/Cascadia Community College, Calthorpe addressed several dozen city and county leaders from across the Puget Sound region. He encouraged them to embrace the idea of “growing smart” by developing public-private partnerships through local high-density development in a talk sponsored by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) of Seattle.
ULI gathered an expert panel in Bothell for the event and noted that the city is an example of a well-planned approach for public-private development, due to its municipally-directed and -managed revitalization effort that will redevelop a total of 529 acres.
“Public land in cities can be a great asset for urban investment,” said panelist and Bothell City Manager Bob Stowe. "Smaller cities are becoming more active in the planning, management and interface with private investors in order to leverage public land to create urban, sustainable communities."
Calthorpe presented the benefits of smart growth, which incorporates transit and walkable communities to reduce the need for vehicle travel. One of the major benefits is the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) would drop by 4.2 trillion miles by 2050, which is “equivalent to taking all cars off California roads for 15 years.” Calthorpe also listed off benefits such as carbon-emission reductions of 66 percent, savings of 1,700 square miles of land, saving enough water to fill San Francisco bay 15 times, and $1.66 billion saved in respiratory illness treatment. Ultimately, Calthorpe envisions communities with 55 percent compact, transit-oriented and walkable communities, while only 10 percent of land will go to large-lot development.
Calthorpe concluded his talk by saying, “The Holy Grail is that we find the right kind of development and the right time to do it,” before turning the program to a panel of experts to add their ideas to the smart-growth solution.
John Finke, director of the National Development Council in Seattle, said the ultimate basis for public-private partnerships to work is for both sides to understand each other, saying, “Up here (government) focuses more on process than outcome and thinks very rigidly of regulation, while the private process is ... profit oriented. Short-term public-private partnerships must fall between the two.”
Bothell's Stowe added that the community needs to be involved and educated about the benefits, saying that Bothell has taken extra steps to know its citizens are aware of all the potential benefits of upcoming projects, like the Bothell Crossroads and Downtown Revitalization plans. The recent deal with Oregon-base McMenamins to build a large hotel destination and community center at the old Anderson Building site is an example of a public-private partnership Bothell has already brought about. One of the most notable benefits to the community is the reopening of the Northshore Pool, which will be open to the public for free. This change of hands will save the city of Bothell $150,000 a year in operating costs.
After the program was completed, city leaders were to host guests on a tour of the UW-Bothell/Cascadia campus, followed by a tour of downtown Bothell.
• Bothell has launched one of the largest downtown redevelopment projects in Washington state, and new development in downtown will create space for higher density mixed-use residential, retail and office uses. The revitalization will strip away decades of auto-oriented retail and replace it with new urbanism development that capitalizes on the historic charm of the city’s 102-year-old Main Street, according to the city.
Over the next five years, the city is investing more than $150 million in public infrastructure improvements, preparing for an anticipated $600 million in private development. This type of land use and resource management is being regarded as a possible mechanism in assisting the likelihood of revitalizing cities.