With all that is going on in downtown Kent these days, it’s easy to get a little vertigo.
Thankfully we didn’t leave the dock without a plan — or what we call our downtown blueprint — that is our map for navigating the nuances of where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re heading.
Like any good architect we never leave home without it and when things start sliding sideways unexpectedly, and get a littly hairy, we’re quick to pull it out to re-calibrate, settle down, and forge ahead with confidence.
Perspective is key when you’re involved in a project of the magnitude of revitalizing a downtown — and that perspective has many levels, from the proverbial big picture to the nano-details that typically the engineers deal with but occassionally bubble up to my desk in response to some last minute detour.
Everyone has their own preferred style of managing multi-tasking, and where our City Engineer has project spreadsheets one-quarter mile wide by a half-mile long, I happen to be more visually inclined, which means I keep lots of pictures around to keep me on track.
To that end, I decided it was time to update the big picture blueprint for downtown that we’ve been using in order to keep up with all the changes that are going on.
As you’d expect from a blueprint with such an audacious ambition as transforming a downtown, it’s big, but if you click on the image below it will up load in full for better viewing.
It’s been my experience that the best opportunities are found in the space between the many project elements and if I can’t see how all the parts and pieces fit together, I’ll miss those hidden jems that separate the best projects from the merely good.
We’re aiming high for downtown Kent so I spend a lot of time looking, talking, thinking, strategizing, and agonizing over what we might be missing or what combination we overlooked that would yield an even better result than what we’ve already got started.
Projects like this are a once in a lifetime moment, so we want to make sure we get everything we can out of it while it’s here. The downtown projects were never meant to be an end point — on the contrary, we always planned on them being the starting points for the many things that the Kent community aspires for.
I’m thrilled that the downtown project will bring some 400 new jobs in downtown Kent but I’m already looking out further along the horizon to see what new jobs would be created by having all those new jobs in the downtown. What businesses would benefit from being in close proximity to a vibrant downtown? Do we have places to put those new businesses? Is the infrastructure ready to handle the second wave of jobs that eminates out from the new downtown?
Hard questions, hence my vertigo.
In order to build something new sometimes you have to take things apart to see them from a different perspective. When you look at the downtown blueprint, there’s so much going on that it’s easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees, so I’ve at least tried to break down the categories so folks like me can see that there actually is a method to the apparent madness.
We have strategic themes that run through the plan elements that bind them together in a way that we think makes the downtown project special because of the way its pieces uphold the many different values that the residents of the Kent community say are important to them — rather than sacrificing one for the other.
Achieving that is really hard (which is why so few communities are able to pull it off) but when we started down this path we were very careful to say that our goal is to not air-lift in and plop a bunch of new buildings next to our downtown and call our job complete.
Our prime directive was to re-energize, revitalize and integrate old, new and everything in between, in order to make sure that downtown Kent was a place that reflected the best of the unique Kent community and it’s cast of characters for decades to come.
We knew that its a fine line to walk between promoting progress and honoring heritage but we were crazy enough to try because we felt that the future of the community was at stake. We may make some mis-steps along the way but it won’t be for lack of effort at getting this balance right. We work on it and wrestle with it every day.
Here’s my short list of the values and their respective elements that we believe are key to the downtown’s success and are evident in what’s going on in downtown Kent right now.
We’ll see if we can get all these done this afternoon and start something new in the morning. LOL (must be the vertigo hitting me again.