For decades, the Totem Lake Mall has seen little respect. The seemingly neglected and disrespected mall that time forgot has become the Rodney Dangerfield of Eastside shopping malls. The Sledgehammer 2.0 has a great history of the mall and has published many photos in an article ominously titled, "Retail Wasteland – A Tour Of The Totem Lake Mall". Even some local merchants disparagingly call the place, "Totem Hole."
As if that were not enough, the internet phenomenon Dancing Matt of Where The Hell Is Matt -- the guy who does a dancing "jig" in many different places around the world -- has a view of the mall. On Matt's FAQ page, in response to the question, Which is your least favorite place in the world?, Matt states, "The Totem Lake Shopping Center in Kirkland, Washington. It’s the most depressing place I’ve ever been. I almost didn’t make it out. I think it might be some kind of gateway to the netherworld." (www.wherethehellismatt.com). One can sense a hint of sarcasm and just a touch of hyperbole in that statement.
While other shopping malls have been continually remodeled, re-envisioned or repurposed, Totem Lake has lingered relatively unchanged since the 1970's as if it were preserved beneath the dark waters of Totem Lake.
The community has been awaiting the day when Totem Lake might once again shine with new purpose and a bright future.
It seems like the second coming of Totem Lake Mall may soon be at hand. The Totem Lake business district has long been called the economic engine of Kirkland. The new owner of the mall property, Centrical Properties, plans to redevelop the mall with support from the city of Kirkland.
We are thrilled to see progress on this front. Over the years Totem Lake has been described as having great potential but has seen little love. Let us hope that the era of stagnation is behind us. Kirkland is focusing great attention on redevelopment of the area, the lake and access to the Cross Kirkland Corridor. Recent improvements to roads, storm water abatement and access to I-405 help make Totem Lake Mall an enticing redevelopment site.
We look forward to watching the mall join the other success stories of Totem Lake as the business district expands and reshapes itself into an economic hub. We say bravo to the Kirkland City Council for forging an agreement with the mall owners. We also look forward to seeing Totem Lake Mall get some respect.
The following is a news release from the City of Kirkland:
Kirkland City Council approves extension and amendment to Redevelopment Agreement for Totem Lake Mall
Agreement reassigned to CenterCal Properties, LLC
Following a public hearing on March 3, 2015, the Kirkland City Council unanimously approved a resolution to extend and amend the Redevelopment Agreement for Totem Lake Mall and to reassign it to CenterCal Properties, LLC. In 2006, the City and the previous property owner entered into a redevelopment agreement for the Mall which expires in March 2016. The City Council’s adoption of Resolution 5109 extends the Agreement for an initial five years with the ability to extend it for an additional two years. CenterCal retains the vested rights to development standards established in the original agreement, including the City’s commitment to invest up to $15 million in public improvements associated with the Mall. However, the City’s contribution only occurs after CenterCal substantially completes at least 250,000 square feet of retail and 600,000 total square feet of development.
Council members expressed excitement about the project. Mayor Amy Walen called the Council’s decision “a significant step toward what I think is a game changer for Kirkland.” She acknowledged the project as a key strategy in the City’s response to the expiration of the state annexation sales tax credit.
“This project allows citizens a better quality of life as they can buy products and services they need in their own community,” stated Mayor Walen. “The retail sales tax from this new mall will allow the City to keep its property tax base lower; keeping the City affordable as it can be.”
An addendum to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance was issued on February 26, 2015 by the City’s Planning Director. The addendum concludes that the changes CenterCal is proposing will not have any significant adverse impacts. Additionally, the Planning Director approved minor modifications to the original Totem Lake Mall Conceptual Master Plan that was approved by City’s Design Review Board in 2005.
Although CenterCal’s conceptual development plan is similar to the original plan, there are some notable changes including relocating the parking garage so that it will be adjacent to the EvergreenHealth campus and the residential uses to the southern portion of the upper mall. It is also proposed that the six-story office building be removed from the plan and that smaller multiple upper story office opportunities at the lower and upper areas of the mall be constructed. CenterCal removes a three-story parking structure that was originally proposed for the northeast and southeast corner of the lower mall and redesignates the northeast corner as a future development site. The southeast corner is proposed to have a planned mixed-use building. Additionally, it is proposed that the east/west boulevard concept at the upper mall be replaced with a public plaza and that several driveway locations be changed.
The City’s investment will contribute to improvements to 120th Avenue NE, a public plaza, and a condominium interest in a parking garage.
“The redevelopment of these properties moves Kirkland forward and will attract further improvements to Totem Lake Neighborhood,” said City Council Member Dave Asher, Chair of the City’s Legislative Committee. “Kirkland has also been working with our state legislators to secure transportation funding for exit and access ramps to I-405 at NE 132nd Street. We have emphasized that improved access to Totem Lake businesses and major employers, like EvergreenHealth Medical Center, is vital to making this important area work for the whole community.”
The I-405/NE 132nd Street Interchange project is listed among the City Council’s adopted 2015 Legislative Agenda. (PDF)