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Tuesday, March 09, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Kirkland to see waterfront lid ideas

By Nick Perry
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

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A dramatic proposal to change the face and feel of downtown Kirkland by constructing a 2-acre sloping lid from the waterfront to the main business district will be introduced to the public tonight.

The city is spending $50,000 studying the "Big Idea" of the Downtown Action Team, a group of residents, business owners and developers. The group wants to build the lid over a city-owned parking lot to create a new plaza of restaurants, entertainment areas and landscaped open spaces with more parking spots below.

"Our vision is to open up the downtown to the waterfront," said group chairman George Lawson. "Historically, the way the city has evolved, our downtown has turned its back on the waterfront."

But even before the proposal has been widely discussed, some affected businesses owners are questioning its feasibility and effect on the city.

The proposed development, named Lakeshore Plaza @ Marina Park, would rise east and north from the Marina Park beach through continuous slopes or cascading terraces, said Lawson, a semi-retired real-estate investor. The lid would reach about 12 to 15 feet in height, covering the first floor of buildings along Lakeshore Plaza and reaching the level of Central Way and Lake Street.

Meeting tonight

Public discussion of the proposed Lakeshore Plaza @ Marina Park begins tonight with an open house from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Peter Kirk Room, Kirkland City Hall, 123 Fifth Ave. Residents will be able to look at photographs of similar plaza developments elsewhere in the country. A workshop follows from 7 to 9.30 p.m., during which the public will be encouraged to suggest ideas for the proposed plaza.
The project would cost an estimated $4 million to $6 million, Lawson said, and would likely need to be a joint partnership between the city and private developers. The $6 million estimate includes an additional level of underground parking, which would present design challenges because it would be below the lake's water level, he said.

There are 128 free parking spots in the city's lot, a number that could be increased to 200 with the lid and 390 with an additional parking level, Lawson said. If the site became paid parking, visiting motorists would help finance the project, he said.

City Manager David Ramsay said the city is looking for more parking and is excited about the lid concept.

"The big theme is that we have turned our back on the lake and need to reorient ourselves to capture the beauty and power of Lake Washington," Ramsay said. "It is definitely a big idea. We have a lot of questions."

The idea of putting a lid over the parking lot is not new — it has been kicked around for at least 20 years, according to Ramsay. But there has never been a formal study.

Seattle architecture firm GGLO will be paid $40,000 for a concept study. GGLO architect Kent Scott said he plans to present three concepts tonight — for a formal look, an informal look, and for possible plaza uses. Based on feedback, he said, he will come up with a preliminary design and cost estimates by July.

Tonight's meeting will be followed by two more public meetings, tentatively planned for May and July. The city is paying $6,000 for a facilitator to moderate all three meetings. Lawson hopes the City Council will give the go-ahead to the project by late summer, and he estimates design review and construction could take three years.

Tom Joselyn, who works at the Kirkland Library, supports the idea: "The city is really hurting for parking. If we can create some more open space that people can enjoy, and help out parking, that's great."

But the idea is not sitting well with Alex Meyler, owner of the Coffee and Cone cafe, which would be covered by the lid. "I think it's ridiculous," said Meyler. "It would kill our business. They would have to spend millions and millions of dollars, and in my view, it won't help anything."

Jeff Fritz, whose business J. Fritz — Connoisseur is one that proponents argue could gain from the development, remains skeptical. "In the end, we have no idea of how disruptive this would be to the downtown," he said.

Jenny Truong, 17, a Lake Washington High School student who was visiting the park yesterday, said she fears the plaza would attract too many people to Kirkland and would turn a cute downtown into something resembling a mall.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or


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