Debra Sinick

How Do We Keep Kirkland More Livable?

In Kirkland WA, rails to trails, Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 at 10:36 am

Kudos to Kirkland for being one of the top ten cities in the country for livability because of its walkability.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on the changing landscape of the suburbs. The suburbs that mirror the amenities of a big city are the ones on the rise.  Kirkland is one of the top ten.

The suburbs that have continued to prosper during the downturn share many attributes with the best urban neighborhoods: walkability, vibrant street life, density and diversity. The clustering of people and firms is a basic engine of modern economic life. When interesting people encounter each other, they spark new ideas and accelerate the formation of new enterprises. Renewing the suburbs will require retrofitting them for these new ways of living and working.

Why is this so important for now and our future as a vibrant city?

These are the places where Americans are clamoring to live and where housing prices have held up even in the face of one of the greatest real-estate collapses in modern memory. More than that, as my colleague Charlotta Mellander and I found when we looked into the statistics, the U.S. metro areas with walkable suburbs have greater economic output and higher incomes, more highly educated people, and more high-tech industries, to say nothing of higher levels of happiness.

There are opportunities to keep our city attractive and exciting.  It’s important to do so for our very livelihood and livability. 

I love Kirkland, particularly for what makes it so unique as a community on Seattle’s eastside. I suspect Lake Washington Boulevard is one of the main reasons Kirkland landed in the top ten of livable cities. We’ve got a vibrant waterfront area and this great boulevard to walk with some amazing views of the Seattle, Lake Washington, and the mountains.

Walking in Kirkland WA

Walking Along Kirkland's Lake Washington Boulevard on a sunny day

Kirkland is unique on the eastside with its great public access to the lake that’s enjoyed by so many.

Enjoying Lake Washington in Kirkland

Walking on a path next to Lake Washington

It would behoove the region, not just Kirkland, to continue developing what people want in their communities.  The struggle to remain viable as a community is critical to our overall economic and individual health and vitality.  The BNSF corridor is the perfect opportunity to expand on Kirkland’s, and the eastside’s, access to walking and biking trails.

Kirkland-BNSF rail line

Walking Along The BNSF Rail Corridor

Imagine people zipping down the trail to work.  Imagine stopping at Starbucks or Metropolitan Market to grab a snack or a cup of coffee after a nice long walk.  Imagine the dollars spent in Kirkland by people who enjoy recreational opportunities right in the city.  Think how much business is brought into downtown Kirkland by all the people who come here to walk along the boulevard.  One only has to see how many people jam The Sammamish River Trail on any given day to see the positive impact that trail has had on Redmond.  We can duplicate that positive energy and environment here in Kirkland.

Here’s what Portland, Oregon has done with their streets. Berkley, CA has bicycle boulevards.

We’re so fortunate here because we don’t have to worry about just using city streets for bicycling.  While we still need city streets here in Kirkland for bicyclists, we have the BNSF corridor to build upon!  If you listen to these videos, and bicyclists in general, they are concerned about cars and safety.  The corridor would help to eliminate some of these concerns.

Times have changed.  We need to pay attention to how this affects our thinking, our planning, and our future growth and development.  Every community’s future, including Kirkland’s, depends on listening to what people like and want in their communities.  Kirkland’s amenities are what draws people to want to work, live, and play here. Let’s not lose sight of this and incorporate positive growth, development, and livability with the resources on our doorstep.


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