By Ken Armstrong, Mill Creek City Manager.
In the spring edition of the City of Mill Creek’s newsletter (The City of Mill Creek Current • Spring 2013), I mentioned that I saw exciting opportunities for the community of Mill Creek – opportunities to reinvest in itself and in its future.
In early April, the Mill Creek City Council met with senior City staff in an all-day retreat to talk about some of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the next 20 years. Much of the day’s conversation focused on the pros and cons of annexation as well as long-term economic and community development.
While no action was taken during the retreat, the City Council indicated its desire to initiate ongoing discussions relating to economic development. The Council asked City staff to continue to explore economic development opportunities and to engage Mill Creek businesses and property owners in that process.
What is Economic Development?
Economic development generally refers to concerted efforts by public sector and business leaders to promote a community’s quality of life and economic vitality. Some commonly accepted themes associated with economic development include:
- Think, plan and act for the long term.
- Sustained effort, by government, investors and others can create a vibrant community with amenities and services that conform to a community’s values.
- There is a role for the public sector (e.g. cities, counties, etc.) in creating the environment that can initiate and sustain economic development.
So, what are some of the things that the City can do to be a catalyst for economic development?
As indicated above, successful economic development is best accomplished through a team effort. The City Council and City staff cannot make it happen alone. Businesses and residents need to be an integral part of the process too. That said there are strategies, which the City can undertake, that could stimulate and perpetuate economic development. They include:
- Providing strong public sector leadership.
- Creating an enhanced City Center – a sense of place.
- Engaging in public-private partnerships.
- Making City improvements that have a significant positive impact.
- Providing continued support for the arts and community events.
- Creating and marketing a sustainable community identity.
- Preserving and enhancing Mill Creek’s unique atmosphere and appearance.
- Ensuring that economic and community growth is sustainable.
- Preserving substantial amounts of open space.
- Generating public enthusiasm for new community investments – public and private.
- Maintaining high development standards, which result in development that conforms to and enhances Mill Creek’s community values.
Staff presented to Council one idea for how the City might reinvest in the community, create a sense of place and be a catalyst for economic development – all at the same time. The following concept was presented as a starting point for future dialog regarding community and economic development in Mill Creek:
- City acquisition of property in proximity to the existing City Hall to facilitate construction of a new City Hall as well as new retail/office space.
- Redevelopment of existing City properties.
- Renovating the existing City Hall into a Community Center.
Renovating the existing City Hall into a Community Center would consist of the following:
- Razing the City Hall Annex and creating an open area that would serve as a public gathering area for daily use as well as for community events (e.g. concerts, farmers markets, festivals, etc.).
- A new stand-alone Police Station at the site of the existing Sno-Isle public library.
The City Council was excited about the possibilities that this “City/ Civic Center” concept presented and directed City staff to continue to explore economic development opportunities and to engage local business and property owners in that process.
City staff plan to develop and present to Council a plan to work with Mill Creek property owners, business leaders and residents to obtain their ideas regarding economic development and the “City/Civic Center” concept.