Four Corners is on its way to becoming the heart of Maple Valley, and the city wants to make sure that it happens just right.
To that end, city officials have been working with the Planning Commission, the Economic Development Committee and consultants to gather public input during the past two years to put together the Four Corners sub-area plan. The goal is to develop a blueprint that will guide how the area is developed during the coming years as the city grows.
In January, city officials hosted a public meeting which drew more than 150 people to discuss Four Corners. “The Planning Commission and the EDC (Economic Development Committe) got together right after that and reviewed the public input,” said assistant city manager Philip Morley. “About that time, the City Council said, ‘Let’s hold off a little bit here.’ There had been in the works a joint EDC/commission/council meeting.”
That meeting happened on March 31, Morley said, and the council members asked that the EDC and the commission take in their broader goals for the community that it developed out of an economic visioning mini-retreat on March 22.
Morley provided a monthly progress report to the council at its May 19 meeting.
“We are working to set a date for a developers and commercial real estate brokers forum in the first or second week of June,” Morley said.
He said the forum, “with major players in economic development in Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest, will provide the council, Planning Commission and EDC some real-world input on what elements are needed in order to successfully create a vibrant, special place in Maple Valley that is economically viable. This will be important information as the council (finalizes) a preferred alternative (or vision) for Four Corners as the basis for creating a sub-area plan.”
The south sub-area is bounded by Southeast 272nd Street and State Route 169 to the south, and the Legacy Site that fronts Maple Valley Highway across from the Tahoma School District headquarters to the north. It is divided into eight chunks of land, mostly vacant, with the existing Four Corners commercial area at its core.
Uses proposed for the area include a mix of of residential (houses/townhomes/low-rise condominiums), retail, mixed-use with either residential or office over ground-floor retail, offices, hotels or inns, and possibly a new home for City Hall and other civic uses.
The council should soon select a plan from among three proposed alternatives, which shared a number of similar features and suggestions, as well as encourages connection to existing recreation areas like Lake Wilderness Park and will be pedestrian-friendly while maintaining the city’s smalltown feel.
“The council also indicated that after the (developers and real estate brokers) forum that they may want to take several more meetings to finalize a preferred alternative,” Morley said.
The city is looking to other commercial developments for inspiration, such as University Village, Mill Creek Town Center and Juanita Village Center.
Part of the planning process has included evaluating the environmental impact of new development as well as increases in traffic and other potential effects of development of this area of the city.
Formal adoption of the sub-area plan is slated for February 2009, according to Morley, which means the goal is to have it finalized before the end of this year.
Heath Anderson, chairman of the EDC, said the committee is pleased with the progress that has been made, including the City Council’s interest in allowing big-box retail stores over 100,000 square feet if passed at some future time.
“We feel pretty good about it right now,” Anderson said. “We feel like we’ve made great strides in the past several months. This is a positive step moving forward.”
Anderson said the sub-area plan is critical for the city’s economic development for a number of reasons, including “being able to master-plan a walkable and viable economic center and creating a vibrant community and synergy among uses through mixed development.” This will allow the city to build a tax base once residential building has slowed, while developing a strong sense of community.
“The EDC felt that critical aspects of this plan were to include citizens, landowners, business owners and developers currently within the Four Corners sub-area and around the rest of the city, as well as other cities and communities similar to Maple Valley,” Anderson said. “It was vital that the plan include important design and aesthetic guidelines to further enhance the look of our community. The EDC took tours of various cities to see what worked and what didn’t work.
“One of our most important accomplishments was determining that growth must be controlled and regulated through design and aesthetic guidelines, rather than user size and height limitations.”
Anderson, who works from home so he can take care of his son, Aidan, 6, is a home loan consultant for Countrywide Loans and is in his third term as chairman of the EDC. He has been chairman since the committee’s formation in 2006.
The Planning Commission was expected to complete its recommendations on a proposed preferred plan May 21, then forward it to the council for review, acording to officials.
Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and email@example.com