Kenmore reviews economic development plan

City re-evaluates business strategies with growth in population, downtown core.

Times have changed since 2008, and for the city of Kenmore, it’s time to update its Economic Development Strategy.

The plan, which was last adopted in 2009, is meant to inform work plans and investments for five to 10 years to diversify, grow and sustain Kenmore’s economy.

The economic conditions in the city and region are very different now than they were a decade ago, according to consultant Mark Goodman of Community Attributes Inc. Kenmore has grown in population, adding about 2,120 residents since 2010.

The Kenmore City Council reviewed demographics, market conditions and development prospects at its May 29 meeting. The data was used as background for the updated goals, strategies and actions that will be recommended in the economic strategy update. The council will review the new plan on June 25.

The city has made progress on the goals laid out in its last plan: to establish Kenmore’s image by promoting its high quality of life and many assets; support existing businesses and pursue opportunities to expand employment; create a multi-use, vibrant and walkable downtown; and advance the community’s connection to the waterfront.

Kenmore’s downtown redevelopment is well underway, with new private sector investment in downtown Kenmore approaching $100 million since 2014, according to the city’s website.

Though the city has experienced a net decrease in employment (more than 600 covered jobs) since 2010, employment growth is expected to be greater than household growth in the coming years.

Kenmore is known as a “bedroom community,” but the council asked about strategies to get more residents to live and work in the city. Only three percent do so now, with most commuting to Seattle.

Council also discussed Kenmore’s unique assets, including access to nature and the water, along with possibilities for retail and transportation.

Encouraging “community-scale” retail is one of the draft strategies in the economic development plan.

“The council, hopefully representing our citizens well, over the years has sort of stood against large retail outlets,” said council member Milton Curtis.

Goodman said that so far, despite conversations with stakeholders like the Kenmore Business Alliance, they haven’t had a lot of conversations about the format of retail. He noted that some cities build their economic development strategies around attracting big box retailers, but that “no one’s been pushing for it” in Kenmore.

According to the draft plan, retail is identified as both a “challenge” and “opportunity” for Kenmore’s economic development. The city experiences “retail leakage” to other communities, but also struggles with suitable locations for future retail.

Community Attributes Inc. identified several vacant or “underutilized” sites for potential redevelopment. According to the draft plan, the city would like to encourage a co-working office development and satellite offices on certain properties, like Lakepointe.

The draft plan states that the SR 522 environment is a “challenge,” while “improving transportation linkages” are an “opportunity.” The city is looking forward to forthcoming park and ride and Bus Rapid Transit expansions. One of its draft strategies is to “beautify and activate Kenmore’s front door (the 522 corridor).”

Mayor David Baker said that he would like to see ferries included as a multi-modal transportation opportunity. He said he was invited to serve on a panel to explore a ferry or water taxi system on Lake Washington, and that King County Executive Dow Constantine has an interest in reviving this form of transit.

Other opportunities identified by stakeholders and the public include: affordable housing, a community recreation center, farmers market, improved bike infrastructure and waterfront dining, to name a few.

The draft plan includes an expanded list of goals:

1. Promote and differentiate Kenmore’s image

2. Grow new and existing businesses and target sectors

3. Enable high-quality commercial, office and mixed-use development

4. Leverage placemaking and livability for economic development

5. Expand connectivity, access to the waterfront and multi-modal transportation

6. Highlight Kenmore’s welcoming business climate

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