LETTER: Kirkland's "Central Waterfront District"

As "Kirkland 2035" planning progresses, I'd like to remind Kirkland citizens to remember the immense asset that our fine city has in its proximity to Lake Washington.


As we plan for our future, we cannot afford to be locked into the past. One of those "locks" is the continued reference in Kirkland planning and zoning documents to our "Central Business District," commonly called the CBD. This is, in fact, contrary to the CURRENT "Comprehensive Plan," which describes Downtown on page XV.D-4 as providing 

"a strong sense of community identity for all of Kirkland... [derived] from Downtown’s physical setting along the lakefront, its distinctive topography, and the human scale of existing development. This identity is reinforced in the minds of Kirklanders by Downtown’s historic role as the cultural and civic heart of the community. Future growth and development of the Downtown must recognize its unique identity, complement ongoing civic activities, clarify Downtown’s natural physical setting, enhance the open space network, and add pedestrian amenities. These qualities will be encouraged by attracting economic development that emphasizes diversity and quality within a hometown setting of human scale."


Historically, when Peter Kirk was making steel - even when Bill Petter was selling Volvos - in these parts, our "Downtown" WAS the CBD. But that was before I-405, Costco, Home Depot, Evergreen Hospital, and the emergence of Totem Lake. Now, the old CBD is best known as our signature waterfront social and cultural hub, with amenities like Peter Kirk Park, restaurants, galleries, nice residences, etc. It is no longer our commercial center. It should no longer be called the Central BUSINESS District."


We can keep calling it "Downtown" if we like, but TOTEM LAKE must become the city's CBD, and be treated as such in our planning. In fact, Totem Lake is Kirkland's only designated "Urban Center." It accounts for 33% of out tax revenues. Our current planning documents refer to Downtown as an "Activity Center." It accounts for 7% of our tax revenues.


So why do we still use the term CBD? And what should we call it? How about the "Central WATERFRONT District"? This would force our city to recognize the major asset we have in Lake Washington, and re-direct our thinking to the economic engine that Totem Lake can/should become. It would also emphaize that our pedestrian friendly waterfront attracts people from all over the Puget Sound area. When visitors and local residents think of Kirkland, they think of our restaurants, shops, galleries, walkways, library, performing arts center, parks and beaches - all along our waterfront. 


There's power in words. There's power in names. Let's capitalize on that power and dump the idea that Downtown Kirkland is still our Central Business District. It is not.


Chuck Pilcher

(This concept is more fully explained in a 6 page paper I have prepared and shared with the City as part of the "Kirkland 2035" project.)

Click here to download Central Waterfront District PDF.