Bothell considers guidelines for downtown makeover

Bothell planners last week unveiled draft guidelines that will determine future characteristics of the city’s greater downtown area.

Bothell planners last week unveiled draft guidelines that will determine future characteristics of the city’s greater downtown area.

A final land-use plan and development regulations are expected by year’s end.

The city will use these guidelines to ensure new private developments match the community’s vision for a downtown makeover.

The overall goal is to create a bustling, pedestrian-friendly core that attracts investors with the promise of consistent land uses.

“It’s really getting back to how the downtown area was originally built,” said Bothell Senior Planner David Boyd.

Bothell’s design consultants say the city lacks proper zoning to make development predictable in the downtown core.

“You can do anything next to anything,” said consultant Michael Freedman. “This has created a very big problem for investors.”

Advisers suggest reversing these “forces of disinvestment” with development controls that focus more on building layouts rather than density and use.

They’ve proposed dividing the downtown area into nine types of districts, each of which would have a different set of uses and form-based regulations.

At the heart of this plan is the Downtown Core, consisting of Main Street and Highway 527 below Northeast 191st Street.

This area would include pedestrian-oriented retail and office spaces, as well as multi-family housing.

The idea is to bring condos, shops and a few big-box stores to the area.

All buildings along the SR 527 portion of this district would have to be at least two stories high, with the exception of retail anchors.

The proposed maximum height for this area is six floors at 76 feet.

Most of Main Street would maintain its existing elevation requirements.

The city’s proposal also encourages parking structures in the downtown core, and allows surface parking only behind or alongside buildings.

The idea is that the district will be more attractive and pedestrian-friendly without surface parking lots along front streets.

Boyd said the city has considered allowing developers to pay a fee in lieu of providing on-site parking for their buildings. The money would be used to create a common parking structure within the downtown core.

“That’s an aspect that will have quite a bit more discussion and planning, but it’s a possibility,” Boyd said.

The city’s advisers have also proposed maximum block-size requirements for the downtown core. This would force developers to build new streets to divide larger lots, thereby adding capacity and making the area more walkable.

Conceptual designs indicate that the 18 acres of Northshore School District property located along SR 527 could be divided into nine blocks.

The city is working on a deal to purchase that site. Pop Keeney Field and the surrounding recreational facilities would be excluded from the agreement.

Bothell planners unveiled the overall land-use plan and regulations proposal during an April 28 City Council meeting.

Several residents grumbled about the way higher building elevations would affect single-family homes in neighborhoods surrounding the downtown core.

Councilmember Joshua Freed also raised concerns about the number of floors allowed within certain height limits.

“I’m sure there will be further discussion on council about height,” Boyd said. “What we’re shooting for is a balance that makes sense in terms of reasonable provisions for developers and protecting the surrounding residential neighborhoods.”

Bothell’s Planning Commission is scheduled to hold public meetings to review the proposed guidelines May 14 and June 4.

The City Council will also hold further discussions on the matter.

Bothell currently has over $100 million devoted to projects that are designed to stimulate downtown revitalization.

Part of this funding will go toward the Crossroads SR 522 Realignment, which would uncouple the existing intersection of Bothell Way Northeast and SR 527.

A second project would create a pedestrian-friendly boulevard along the southern portion of SR 527. Preliminary plans call for a multi-way road with a landscaped median and street parking along both sides.

The city is also making plans for a new city hall.

Potential locations for this facility include the existing City Hall site, the Northshore School District’s Anderson Building, and a parcel of city-owned property that currently holds the Bothell Landing shopping center.