Tolt Avenue Central Business District Improvements Project
When I tell friends that I am working in Carnation for the City the response I usually get is, “Oh Carnation is beautiful, I haven’t been there in years.” My response to that is,”Why not?” They then give me a blank stare. Too polite to say, “Why should I visit Carnation?” Well there is a project moving forward that we hope will help answer that question, “Why visit Carnation?”
The City Council, residents, and business owners have been involved for several years with the goal of making the downtown a more pleasant, attractive place to visit and conduct business.
One of the major challenges we face is how to repurpose a section of a state highway (Tolt Avenue-SR203) to function as the City’s “Main Street.” The state highway is essentially a regional corridor, with a priority to move vehicles, goods, and people…but in the words of the Tolt Avenue Action Plan: “…the corridor must also function as Carnation’s main street, the economic center and core of the community, providing access to local destinations and businesses.”
Tolt Avenue Action Plan
In 2003 the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) completed a conceptual “Corridor Plan” for SR203 between Fall City and Monroe. Carnation received a grant from PSRC to start the discussion on what to do with the portion of Tolt Avenue/SR203 in town. The result was the “Tolt Avenue Action Plan”.
The Action Plan builds on community goals for land use, transportation, parks and recreation and utility improvements. The plan creates gateways on the north and south ends of town and provides attractive and safe pedestrian walkways. It enhances amenities to the streets and sidewalks and creates attractive and inviting places to gather in the downtown core.
The Tolt Avenue Action Plan produced the following “Guiding Principles”, so that future improvements to Tolt Avenue will be: Safe, Welcoming, Authentic, Place-making, Cohesive, and Maintainable.
The Central Business District
Though the Tolt Avenue Action Plan focused on Tolt Ave from the bridge over the Tolt River to Rutherford Street, The Tolt Avenue Central Business District Improvements focuses on three key blocks, the Central Business District (CBD)--Carnation’s “Downtown”.
In early 2014 Carnation was awarded a grant of $735,250 from for design of the SR 203/Tolt Ave Central Business District Improvements. The City contracted with OTAK Inc. engineers, to facilitate the public process and to develop the final design and engineered plans for the street improvements. The City will contribute up to $114,750 to the project using Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenue. The total project cost is $850,000.
The purpose of this project is to construct improvements and amenities that will make our downtown area a destination rather than something that travelers just drive through on their way to somewhere else. With the addition of these improvements we hope to see an infill of new businesses in the CBD. The benefit to the community comes from additional tax revenues that can be invested in our parks and streets and for additional police services.
The project goals include the construction of full street improvements adjacent to the City’s Central Business District between Eugene and Rutherford Streets. The scope includes street regrading, paving, power undergrounding, street and pedestrian lighting, storm drainage infrastructure, street trees, plantings and site furnishings.
The project will create places to stop, places to gather, to sit downtown. The appearance of the CBD will be improved with new lighting, trees and plantings, new drainage and underground power and utilities.
An important part of this project has been the input we have received from many of the stakeholders in the downtown. The Community Advisory Committee consists of business owners and residents contributing key information including concerns and ideas about parking, visual preference, and options for traffic. OTAK staff have met with the Community Advisory Committee on three occasions and will continue to meet with the group as the project moves forward.
A traffic study of Tolt Avenue conducted in 2012 counted in excess of 10,000 trips per day coming through Carnation. If we could entice ten percent of those vehicles to stop downtown that’s an additional one thousand potential customers per day for downtown businesses. One might say, “Where will all those cars park?” Frankly, that’s a problem I’d like to have.
As for the question “Why come to Carnation?” Here’s one answer: We have a number of excellent restaurants: Pete’s Club Grill, Ixtapa, Lazy K’s, Blake’s Pizzeria, Sam’s Noodle Town, Sandy’s Espresso, Dog Mountain Farm to Table and the Carnation Café. Additionally Carnation has several businesses that have carved a distinctive niche downtown: Miller’s Mercantile, Valley Homes and Land/Carnation Corners, Giordano Vintage Motors, Tolt Yarn & Wool.
Other downtown businesses are more traditional yet no less needed: Carnation Ace Hardware (owned by the Cox family since 1969), Carnation IGA, and Carnation Storage and Laundry all provide necessary goods and services to residents. Though not quite downtown Remlinger Farms is a major draw for people coming to the Carnation area. We can’t leave out the medical services we enjoy: Tolt River Family Medicine, Sunrise Dental, and Life in Balance Chiropractic. We have a barberand we have Tracie LynnSalon. Need gas? Or snacks for a road trip? We have Jackson’s Shell Station. Looking for odds and ends or antiques? Visit the Blue Heron, Chachkies, or the Senior Center’s Re-in-Carnation Thrift Store. There are dozens of reasons to come to Carnation and dozens of interesting businesses and attractions.
If there are 10,000 vehicle trips a day through Carnation the challenge is, how can we get them to stop? We hope to accomplish that by making the downtown attractive, yet efficient, with increased parking, trees and landscaping to soften the “hardscape” and for storm water drainage, and with places to walk, and with places to just sit and watch the world go by.
We have an opportunity to make our downtown a pleasant physical space, a place where people will stop, shop and linger. Interested in this project? We will be scheduling a community open house soon, please watch the web page or the City’s Facebook page for details.
Phil Messina, Carnation City Manager