K2 and its consequences: Let’s talk about it

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  • Wednesday, January 16, 2008 9:00am
  • Opinion

By JACK CHURCHILL

It is important to get a widespread community discussion going on the future of not only the proposed K2 Commons but also the intended and unintended consequences of redevelopment of the K2 properties.

We are indeed fortunate to have the able and knowledgeable leadership of Emma Amiad to stimulate and help formulate a plan and action; the gifted team of developers in Sontgerath, Kirkland and O’Brien; and the critical judgment and experience of real-estate investor and community activist Tom Bangasser among the distinguished players in our drama.

There is no question that all alternatives, including no action, have significant community and private costs as well as community and private benefits. From my perspective, it would behoove the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council to put together a community plan that addresses both the intended and unintended consequences of the proposed redevelopment of the K2 properties.

As a one-time practitioner of “locational economics,” the study of how economic activities are distributed across a geographic area, I have found that unintended consequences are often the result of development outside of a community’s established economic center.

What we have, common to many communities throughout America, is a vacated industrial commercial plant abandoned on the altar of the market forces of globalization. How to influence private, non-profit and government investments to attract a mix of economic and and community activity is the job the developers have undertaken.

Rezoning the building to allow government, nonprofit and commercial activity to occur there will place on the market more than a significant amount of space, and we need to understand the way that could attract other economic activity, possibly even drawing it away from Vashon village.

Three examples:

1. Moving Granny’s Attic and the Vashon Health Center to the redeveloped facility will provide much-needed space for these economic functions. They will also likely generate what economists call “an agglomerating attraction,” drawing other medical and dental specialties along with pharmaceutical and optical services, a pattern that is considered economically efficient.

2. Granny’s, second only to Thriftway, is the largest attractor of consumers on the Island. Will other retail activity be drawn from the village or could competing retail activity be spawned? In addition to Granny’s being an attractor, the neighboring school complex could join in strengthening Granny’s agglomerating impact.

3. There are many advantages in relocating the Vashon Library, but one of the costs could be the decline in the use of the associated Ober Park playground and shift of playground and childcare activity to the renovated K2 facility.

My point is that the history of Vashon Village and the Island is dynamic, and economic activities will undergo change now and in the future as they have in the past. However, we have an opportunity and an obligation to look closely at both the intended and unintended consequences of the redevelopment the K2 facility and its impact on our economic and social fabric.

Whether the options be private, nonprofit, government or a probable mix of all three — which is the option under consideration — we can rest assured the impacts will likely be substantial over time.

The proposed community plan that I am suggesting should include transportation issues and such things as car-free bicycle and pedestrian pathways connecting Vashon Village with the proposed new K2 redevelopment complex. We should also be searching, as the developers are, for new economic activity that will enhance the Island’s gross economic product, increase employment opportunities and bring more activity to the Island.

— Jack Churchill is a retired political economist and professor who lives on Vashon.

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