Shoreline's Aurora Square is home to many outstanding businesses, the city of Shoreline says, but lacks the cohesiveness that could make the development a "third place" for local residents and encourage economic growth.
To that end, after passing the Aurora Square renewal plan last September, the City is now stepping in to act as the master planning agent, seeking public-private partnerships with some of the 10 property owners that have a stake in the square to provide improvements that could attract more businesses and customers to Shoreline.
Shoreline Economic Development Program Manger Dan Eernissee says that though it’s difficult to know really what the city’s role is in economic development, he sees it as "our job in the city to encourage growth and economic development in a way that’s consistent with the comprehensive plan, city policies and vision." If he had to sum up the job outlined in Shoreline's economic development strategic plan in one word, he said, it would be "placemaking," and he said the Aurora Square renewal is a good place to start.
"Aurora square has the potential of being an incredible collection of development that allows the rest of Shoreline’s Aurora Avenue to be more attractive," Eernissee said. "It not only effectively helps this 50- to 70-acre-area become more efficient, it’s a placemaking exercise for the whole city," attracting retailers, shoppers, and renewal along Aurora Avenue.
The city’s master planning is intended to provide a dynamic and flexible framework for guiding public-private partnership projects by allowing each individual property owner to understand and invest in the “big picture” while not needing to control other properties. The city's role in this, Eernissee said, is to participate with private owners to develop infrastructure that will encourage growth and connectedness among the businesses, such as a parking garage, for example.
The first step, master planning, will enable the City and property owners to take a fresh look at the current structures and road network in and around Aurora Square. Planning will emphasize repurposing buildings, increasing land use efficiency and improving traffic flow and pedestrian connectivity, all in an effort to enhance the visitor’s experience, the city said.
To learn more about master planning Aurora Square and to provide comments on the planning efforts, residents are invited to an Aurora Square Master Planning Open House on Wednesday, April 24, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Shoreline City Hall.
In return for its part in planning and helping fund some of the renewal projects, Eernissee said that while the city is going to be conservative in the projects it participates in, he anticipates that the return on investment for Shoreline residents will be multifaceted and not always measured in dollars and cents.
"Cities build infrastructure to encourage private enterprise," he said. "Will we ever get $120 million back? If so, it will be hard to prove," but, "we should never measure our investment in infrastructure in the same way private enterprise measures it success. We’re about quality of life, making a good community--not just ROI in terms of dollars.”