Recently, I came away from a community meeting about as juiced as I have been in a while. The subject was the future of Tukwila International Boulevard (TIB). I did not realize the practical, creative possibilities that exist for us. Long blocks can be broken down into shorter blocks creating better access. We can narrow TIB and slow down traffic speeds by re-striping to allow for on-street parking and bike lanes. Existing buildings can be repurposed and, along with new buildings, alleys and lanes can be created to provide off-street shopping and dining possibilities.
Placemakers, the consultant, told us that the city is in a promising position due to many factors. Residents have shown a keen interest in revitalizing and activating TIB. The efforts of Tukwila International Boulevard Action Committee (TIBAC) and Action Tukwila, as well as others, reflect this interest. Their efforts are recognized and appreciated.
The mayor, the City Council and city departments are involved and excited about the potential for TIB. Construction is going on right now (Tukwila Village and new library) with more in the works. Our planning staff is ahead of the curve in their understanding of how things need to happen and the market dynamics involved. Tukwila residents have approved monies to build public facilities. If it makes sense to build a justice center on TIB, the money is available. These factors show momentum and attract the interest of organizations like the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) and Placemakers. They know that plans are likely to be implemented; not collect dust on an archival shelf.
Tukwila is a city with a heart. Always prominent in discussions is this question. Can we experience the benefits of gentrification (walkable neighborhoods, increased property values, increased safety, etc.) while not making it too expensive to live here or to operate a small business? Can we create incentives for developers to build market rate and affordable housing? To achieve this, we would have to allow higher buildings; five residential floors over retail on the first floor is common in other communities.
Improving Tukwila International Boulevard is not a fast track project. However, smart policy and zoning that makes use of what we have and that encourages development sooner rather than later will accelerate the process.
Tukwila Reporter columnist Chuck Parrish can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.