A new and improved Meeker Street is in the works from the City of Kent’s Economic and Community Development.
Hayley Bonsteel – Senior Long Range Planner on this project – told me that the goals are to support long-range development, improve safety, and to create a place with identity that attracts visitors, especially pedestrians, to historic downtown.
I went to Meeker Street to take a look.
The ‘Meet Me On Meeker’ plan starts at Central Avenue and runs east to SR 516:
Some commuters use Meeker as a way to get home to Covington, Auburn, or Kent East Hill. The plan is to pull the traffic from Meeker over to SR 516 and to slow the pace on Meeker to make it more usable by walkers and bikers. As Bonsteel told me, someone on foot is 60% more likely to purchase or use services than a person driving through.
Improving the Meeker corridor will attract new business development and funnel visitors to Kent through a welcoming corridor directly into the historic district.
Above is a rendering of what it might look like from street level. The angled parking would be replaced by wider sidewalks, landscaping and better street lighting. The improvements other cities have made to their downtown core show documented success. Bellevue, Burien, and Renton all have attracted new business development and retail shoppers with their improvements. It is hoped that these plans will be wrapped into the cost of future development and city-matched grants.
Here’s a bird’s eye view rendering:
Angled parking would be replaced with a wider sidewalk and landscaping.
I talked to some of the business owners on Meeker Street. They consistently say that they would be in favor of attracting more people to Meeker Street. Above is Melissa DeSalle, who brings her own artistic flair to her shop, “Antiques and Fancy Goods.” The shops on Meeker offer an alternative to chain stores and give small businesses a place in the future of Kent. Across from her shop, a large commercial building has been sitting empty for over 5 years. At one time it was a JC Pennys. The new plan hopes to attract businesses to Meeker.
As in any big plan such as this one, the City of Kent asked for input. They asked the public to attend planning meetings and to help decide on an overall theme. They are working with organizations such as Downtown Kent Partnership and Kent Arts Commission. They are asking input from Kent Elementary and they are working with developers of the Riverbend project. The Riverbend Project marks the beginning of the corridor from freeway access to Kent. Here is the website to track the progress of the project:
Martha Cunningham is a local freelance Writer; read more of her work here: https://www.martha-cunningham.com