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Olympic Avenue, Legion Park gazebo officially opened
ARLINGTON The street almost seemed too small to contain the crowds that gathered on the afternoon of Oct. 6 to witness the official reopening of Olympic Avenue in downtown Arlington.
Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson helped cut two ribbons in less than an hour, the first just south of the intersection of Olympic Avenue and Division Street, and the second at the recently completed gazebo in Legion Park.
Former high school classmates David Boulton, president of the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen both shared their thoughts on the changing face of their hometown.
Rick and I grew up on this street, Boulton said. We had three generations of my family in the parade.
Its Class of 83 day, Larsen laughed. I remember when Margarets husband, who was also the mayor, redid French Avenue. When the Lions Club maintained Legion park, it was the luckless sons of the Lions, like me, who had to mow the lawn, so I drove down French Avenue on my riding mower.
Mayor Larson thanked both the attendees and participants of the parade, including the Arlington and Lakewood high school marching bands, before holding up the North Olympic Avenue Reconstruction Project as an example of the community coming together for a common cause.
The City Council made it a priority to designate funds for the project, and all the city departments worked together, Larson said. The downtown merchants met weekly, if not daily, with city staff, and the citys citizens became those stores backdoor patrons. If you couldnt get in through the front, that didnt stop you from shopping.
Arlington City Council member Marilyn Oertle joined Larson in thanking businesses and individuals alike for their support and cooperation, crediting the successful project to those citizens sense of ownership.
Barbara Tolbert, Kelly Penny and Jeanne Watanabe were among the organizers of the Bite of Arlington, in which 19 downtown establishments took part, offering food, drinks and entertainment.
This is a perfect example of how economic development should work, said Tolbert, of the Northwest Experimental Aircraft Association. The city has invested in the street and the merchants are fixing up their stores. It raises the level all around.
Its incredible to see the pride that people are taking in the community, said Penny, of the Cascade Valley Hospital and Clinics.
Its been an amazing experience that I feel privileged to have been a part of, said Watanabe, of 360 Real Estate on Olympic Avenue. It adds a professional scale to Arlington.
While the Arlington Old Time Fiddlers kicked off the gazebos first performance, Arlington Hardware was bustling with activity on its Super Saturday monthly 20-percent-off sale day, even though its front parking is a fenced-off dirt lot soon to be converted into more building space.
The new street looks really good, said Arlington Hardware manager Taylor Jones. They did a good job of designing it and I like that its got trees. Weve already gotten positive comments from our customers about the ease of access, and its cool to see that property owners are already starting to clean up their lots in response.
Arlington Hardware patron David Carlin has lived in town for more than two years and considers the new street a nice facelift for the city.
We already come downtown pretty often anyway, but this definitely makes it more convenient, Carlin said. The more that people use downtown, the more businesses it brings downtown. Its a lot nicer than a thousand-stall parking lot at a mall.
The Local Scoop was serving up polish sauerkraut hot dogs outside its doors, and new owner Beverly Angerbauer expressed just as much enthusiasm for the projects results as 27-year residents Erna and Doug Exum.
Were brand new to the community, so all I can say is that we love the city for helping to bring more customers in, Angerbauer said. The workers would always eat here during construction.
Its nice to see a lot of people here, said Doug Exum, as he paid for his hot dog. Thats the way it should be. Its got a real European feel to it, where people stop and talk to each other. Its a sense of community.
I teach Pilates down the street at the Wellness Clinic and the rumble of the motors during construction would vibrate so much that our customers got free massages, laughed his wife Erna.
Variety House co-owner Linda Follett shared a similar perspective, as the establishments runners-up for the Evergreen Country Idol contest performed inside her doors.
We opened in April and street construction started in May, so we never knew the difference before, Follett said. Its been an impressive increase in turnout, enough that weve doubled the size of our original space.
Follett praised her fellow downtown businesses for their support, touting it as another example of what you miss when you just go to a mall.
Arlington School District Superintendent Linda Byrnes and her husband Dennis took in some calzones at Little Italy and lamented that there were almost too many choices in the Bite of Arlington.
You cant sample all the great food at once, Linda Byrnes said. I look at these car-lined streets and I think to myself, where did all these people come from?
It used to be that you hear people say, Well, its good enough for Arlington, Dennis Byrnes said. But now, the state of the street truly is good enough for Arlington. Its the same words, but the tone is different.
Little Italy owner Carla Lowe could scarcely contain her excitement, even as she rushed to fill orders for her line of patrons.
Theres such electricity in the air, Lowe said. Its so exciting. I hope we can continue to bring new activities downtown, for the people who live and visit here, to celebrate the diversity of our main street U.S.A.