City taking charge to attract investors…

Most cities wait like hopeful dancers at a school ball. Others get up and ask or just start dancing, like West Palm Beach, St. Louis, and Everett, Washington, profiled in its local newspaper, The city plots the next stage of its downtown renaissance.

The map shows strategic investment areas that the City of Everett (within the Seattle metropolitan area) is proposing for its downtown plan. Incentives include promoting greater residential densities downtown, sponsoring a model project (a CoolTown strategy), investing their own $ in public places to inspire complimentary buildings, eliminating minimum parking requirements, and providing a vision from its community. The vision statement includes language like, “Downtown is a pedestrian friendly, active neighborhood where people are prioritized over accommodating the automobile. The city center has a lively atmosphere on weekends and in the evenings, as people come from surrounding communities to enjoy the arts, entertainment, cultural offerings, dining and shopping opportunities year round.

However, like in any city success story, the private sector is taking an equal lead. Craig Skotsdal, the largest property owner in the city, has a rather cooltown vision, “The goal of creating market-rate housing in downtown is not about creating a safe haven for yuppies. It’s about attracting and retaining talented people who will create opportunities for others – active urbanites who start businesses, energize service groups and generally make things better.”

Finally, it also helps to have a model third place to set the tone for the statements above, and that’s definitely Zippy’s Java Lounge. “Named after her Dalmation dog, Zippy’s is the kind of place where eclectic decor, cozy reading corners and frequent entertainment keep customers coming back. Prosecutors and lawyers hold meetings there; artists and young people hang out and talk. Evening events, such as speed dating, poetry readings and nonprofit fundraisers, have brought in crowds.”

Let’s check back in five years (when there’ll be more photo opportunities as well)…