City of Ferndale staff recently asked people who use social media to provide advice regarding the following questions regarding future new commercial and residential development in the downtown Ferndale area:
- What should these residential buildings look like?
- What sorts of businesses would you like to see?
- What are good models for Ferndale’s downtown?
The request had been up for a couple days when a compilation of the responses was published on the City’s website. Staff reported receiving 437 responses from about 200 people.
The request comes out of a proposed “Downtown Catalyst” incentive program (PDF file) for new developments being discussed by City staff and City councilmembers.
According to city staff,
Ferndale’s downtown continues to struggle. While there are many factors that have contributed to these struggles, Staff believes a major factor has been a persistent expectation that Ferndale’s downtown can become what it once was – an automobile-dependent, generally 9-5 retail center that provides the majority of basic goods and services for Ferndale and the surrounding area.
Staff has proposed the adoption of an aggressive incentive program that would waive all City fees for new development downtown with the expectation that this development would, if built, change the trajectory of Downtown. Conversely, the adoption of such a program would indicate that the City does not believe that Downtown’s trajectory will change in the near-term without such a development.
City staff say they are considering enticing up to 3 yet unknown substantial developments that meet requirements including:
- exceeds minimum square-footage
- exceeds minimum floor count (currently being discussed at 3 or more)
- with development scheduled to begin by April of next year
- with a plan to be completed by June of 2022.
The incentive discussed is the waiving of all administrative, impact, and connection fees for up to three development projects, an amount that is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars that would otherwise be collected by the City to be used to fund maintenance and expansion of utilities, roads, etc.
Recent discussions propose offering incentives for 1 development located east of 3rd Avenue, 1 located west of 3rd Avenue and 1 in the Griffintown neighborhood. Existing buildings would not qualify.
Latest City Council discussion with City staff resulted in staff being asked to come back with more specifics about what developments are expected to serve as a catalyst development which resulted in the social media request for input.
Highlights of the citizen responses included:
- Deal with traffic and road maintenance issues first
- More or fewer businesses of certain types and brands
- Implement themes like Lynden and Winthrop
- Restrict development to maintain a small town culture
- More parking
- Family-friendly restaurants
- Beer-serving businesses
- Family-friendly entertainment
And several cities were cited as examples to follow, including:
- Port Townsend