Community dreams about new downtown Maple Valley

City wonders how to build a downtown with an enriched atmosphere

Maple Valley community members were invited to the second Downtown Visioning Summit meeting on June 3 to share what they think the future downtown Maple Valley should look like.

At the previous meeting on May 6, community members were asked to submit a city they like to spend time and why they like it, that way there’s something to compare the new downtown to.

Around 20 community members submitted a suggested city.

Two presenters spoke at the visioning meeting, including Kim Selby and Daren Crabill who are with NBBJ Consulting, an architecture firm in Seattle. Shelby and Crabill said Enumclaw was the city most people were attracted to when choosing a favorite downtown.

Crabill at the meeting said people really like Enumclaw because it has a small town feel, there’s an active community, local shops, local eats and it’s historical. Another point made about Enumclaw was it’s very walkable and pedestrian friendly.

Another city that had aspects community members liked was Kirkland.

It was said at the meeting people chose Kirkland because it’s pedestrian friendly, has open patio seating, lake views and no curbs.

“One thing that we were coming across with a lot of the towns and the cities that people suggested they liked, what that most of those cities had existing buildings of usually a historical nature that lent to a certain feeling, both visual and just as a consumer or resident of those towns,” Crabill said in a phone interview.

But this is not the case for Maple Valley, as its downtown would be built from the ground up and would not have much historical value to it.

That’s why Crabill and Selby did some research and found Barkley Village in Bellingham to be a good comparison to what Maple Valley might want for its future downtown.

In their presentation, they said Barkley is a new development that was built from the ground up and has retail space that includes both big box stores and local retail.

Barkley also has pedestrian trails and is considered walkable.

Crabill and Selby said Barkley Village also has a lot of mixed-use space including restaurants and office spaces, plus the city plans on adding more residential units too.

“Not that that’s what Maple Valley wants to be or what we think it should be, but there definitely attributes that sort of lent it being a good example of how these things can come about,” Crabill said.

At the meeting, community members and city officials agreed and disagreed with what they saw the new downtown being.

But the few aspects Crabill said he felt most people seemed to want was for the new downtown to be walkable. And to him, this meant being able to park your car and walk to several different places without having to go back to your car.

At the meeting, community members agreed they don’t want the main road of the new downtown to be State Route 169 because they do not feel safe walking along it.

Crabill also said people seemed to be interested in not having a big footprint as part of whatever the downtown turns into.

Meaning, people at the meeting seemed to be against big retail stores and want more local stores.

It was stated that residents at the meeting want a more cohesive look in the downtown and big box stores might ruin that.

City Manager Laura Philpot posed the questions “if Maple Valley looks like every other city, then why would people want to come to it?” Without big box stores though, there might not be more job opportunities.

Mayor Sean Kelly said Fred Meyer is the second largest employer in the city, and without it a lot of people would not have jobs.

It was suggested by Councilmember Linda Olsen to maybe have any big box stores outside of the future downtown.

Some said adding more trees and landscaping would help make downtown look attractive, while others said they wanted the city to embrace the rain the city endures by having something like a rain drum.

There was also a lot of discussion around mixed-use zoning and what it could potentially mean for Maple Valley.

Councilmember Les Burberry said mixed use isn’t just retail, restaurants and residential. It’s also office spaces, which he said is something that needs to be considered because office spaces can bring jobs to the city as well.

But maybe the biggest factor that could be agreed on the most was that everyone wants the new downtown Maple Valley to feel safe and welcoming, which was discussed during the presentation.

Crabill said Maple Valley is still in the very early stages of its development for a downtown and said these last two meetings were what he called “dream sessions” more than anything. That way everyone was able to share what they want to see in the future downtown Maple Valley.

“There’s a lot of work to do and I think as the city moves forward there will be many more opportunities for the public to provide input and I think that’s the key,” Crabill said.

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