City meets to discuss downtown construction

ARLINGTON The city of Arlington met with its merchants and other community members Oct. 24, to review the progress of the North Olympic Avenue Reconstruction Project to date, as well as to preview the steps still to come in the process.
City of Arlington Capital Projects Manager Paul Ellis and city of Arlington Economic Development Manager Vic Ericson alternated their presentations, with Ellis summarizing how the past year had seen the city conduct research of both historic documents and accounts from local residents and businesses to determine the possible locations of suspected underground fuel storage tanks in the area of Olympic Avenue.
Of the eight underground fuel storage tanks that were discovered, seven were removed and one was decommissioned in the ground. Four of the tanks leaked into the soil, but the city applied for voluntary cleanup grants with the Department of Ecology, to split the cost of cleaning the contamination.
With the first phase of the project completed, Ellis explained that the citys staff has resubmitted a design plan with comments to Perteet Engineering, estimating that several more weeks would be required to incorporate those comments into another review. He expressed confidence that a construction document could be ready by December, in time to begin bidding by December or January, with a groundbreaking projected in March.
While Ellis reiterated that the construction would proceed on a section-by-section basis, from one end of the street to the other, he also emphasized that pedestrian access would be maintained for as long as possible, along the whole length of the street, since the sidewalks would be taken up last. While repairs and replacements to certain sections of water, stormwater and sewer lines need to be made, he repeated his promise to work with businesses as much as we can, up to and including the possibility of allowing the contractors to extend their daily working hours, so long as it gave them an incentive to finish their work sooner.
Ellis admitted that its going to be difficult for events in downtown Arlington, although he suggested that certain community events could be scheduled around by the contractors. He then bridged into Ericsons remarks by acknowledging the examinations that have been made of certain buildings doorway thresholds, describing the challenge of making sure the improvements match whats already here.
As Ericson addressed the issue of refurbishing the buildings facades, he stressed that no one is interested in a theme approach of mandated conformity, but rather, that a rising tide can lift all boats where attractive storefronts are concerned. After flashing through a slideshow of other communities approaches to restoring the character of their buildings, he informed the merchants that the citys staff had already let the local banks know that their businesses might need loans to engage in such restorations, to which the banks were reportedly receptive.
While most of the merchants who spoke at the meeting took time to praise the citys efforts, even their compliments included reservations about the degree to which such aesthetic improvements could or would be enforced. Virginia Hatch, in particular, characterized herself as 99-percent positive about the citys plans, but laughed that that one percent is a strong one, regarding her dissatisfaction with the citys enforcement of its codes to date.
When met with anecdotes of building owners who have failed to comply with such codes in the past, Ericson agreed that the citys response might not have been as stringent as it should have been, before and Ellis both pledged not to drop the ball on this issue.

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