Published August 2005

North Marina project
a 'sweet spot'

The North Marina development, dubbed Port Gardner Wharf, is precisely the kind of large-scale, public/private investment development that the region — and Everett — needs.

It will develop Port of Everett property with a mix of condominiums, retail centers, offices, public open space, new boat slips, a hotel, a state-of-the-art marina, a fisherman’3s memorial and restaurants.

For private investors, it seems the financial risk and return lines are crossing at that “sweet spot” in ways that make the area a viable place for investment in ways it has not been in the recent past. Unfortunately, the viability of this wonderful new amenity for Everett and North Puget Sound is at risk in broader ways than most citizens appreciate.

Due to the fairly recent discovery of a tideland water-table berm under the section of the development slated for condominiums, the private developer, Maritime Trust, is asking the City of Everett to approve another 15 feet of height for its condominium project. That would enable the company to keep most of the parking underground and still maintain the aesthetics, market appeal, open space, and economic viability of the project.

But some homeowners along Grand Avenue in North Everett are arguing that the proposed additional 15 feet will impact their view and, consequently, their home values will be negatively affected. Yet, judging by PowerPoint presentations at recent neighborhood meetings, when the additional 15 feet — to be applied only to a small portion of the structures — is superimposed on views of the Port of Everett project, the visual impact of this heavily debated 15 feet appears to be nominal at best.

In fact, what will surprise those homeowners is that buyers will more than likely reward sellers of view homes along Grand Avenue for replacing the two tall cranes in the view corridor today with the proposed lower profile condominium roof-tops.

Also, having an amenity of the quality and type proposed would be a positive element for Grand Avenue home buyers, since walking esplanades, shops, restaurants, bike paths and more would be just minutes away.

Presently, in fact, home listings and sales in the “affected” neighborhoods are doing just fine.A recent review of city records shows that those homes are continuing to appreciate at the same pace as, or better than, the market at large - even as the issue of the North Marina development and misperceptions of the view impact are already out there in the marketplace.

The Everett City Council will vote soon on whether to grant the 15-foot height variance, an issue that has become a political one reaching well beyond what 15-feet that sits more than a quarter-of-a-mile from the nearest view home might suggest. Unfortunately, the discussion puts the viability of this “sweet spot” in jeopardy.

Certainly, anti-developer sentiment is a factor in the debate over this 15-foot issue, seemingly tied in some way to a sense that a deal was already made on the height impact and that now it is somehow being re-traded. This emotion may be understandable, perhaps, but it’s not based in fact.

Indeed, the agreement between the city and Maritime contemplated changes - as is common in development projects - and the process is operating as planned. In this case it provides a forum for discussing how to resolve the unfortunate reality of the water table berm.

It has never been clear to me where the anti-developer culture comes from, since all of us live in homes, condominiums or apartments that were provided by risk-taking developers. But you can feel that sentiment in the room when Maritime Trust is making its presentation on this 15-foot issue.

In fact, it is a commitment to open space and accessibility that causes Maritime and the Port of Everett to fight for parking underneath the condominiums by way of the additional 15 feet. The homeowners’3 suggestion to simply cut off the top floor of the condominiums is rejected by Maritime as it cripples the economics that are necessary to support bringing this accessible waterfront amenity to Everett.

To some, the anti-developer culture seems like a selfish view that says, “I’ve got mine, but you can’t have yours.” Yet no one on Grand Avenue owns the view corridor they enjoy. They may not like the changes, but they do not own air rights over the North Marina. They have a right to influence their elected representatives’ decisions on the development of this public property - but that’s really it.

One neighborhood meeting attendee summed up the situation by comparing the current debate with the Everett Events Center opposition a few years back.

“People around here don’t like change. We fight it. . . then when it comes, we buy season tickets to the Silvertips,” she said. Perhaps she is right. This issue will be battled but in the end the opposition will likely become regular customers at the “Wharf’s” retail establishments and find themselves making a walk around the esplanade a regular part of their outdoor activity.

Much is at stake with this Port Gardner Wharf issue — much more than the 15 feet. The message the city council sends on this vote will have long-term implications. Their decision will determine if the city’s attitude will stimulate other investment interest in our community — or not.

From a business climate perspective, it should matter to all of us that this project gets the support it de-serves, and we should encourage the Everett City Council to vote in favor of it. The commercial real estate investment community is watching Everett very closely.

Tom Hoban is CEO of Everett-based Coast Real Estate Services, a property management and real estate advisory company specializing in multi-family and commercial investment properties. He can be contacted at 425-339-3638 or by e-mail at


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