A portion of West Meeker Street near Kent Elementary School will receive the same higher standard sidewalk/bicycle improvements as the rest of the Meet Me on Meeker project.
City staff had planned a less expensive option in order to preserve mature trees just south of the school, 24700 64th Ave. S., Public Works Director Chad Bieren told the Kent City Council during a Nov. 15 workshop.
But when city staff found out the Kent School District plans to remove the trees because of damage the roots are causing to a walking path and fields, Bieren asked the council for approval of the more expensive, higher standard improvements installed in earlier phases of the sidewalk/bicycle lane work west of the school.
The city’s Meet Me on Meeker project is to serve as a gateway to Kent and is an effort to improve the safety, identity and connectivity of the historic core of Downtown Kent to the Green River. Sidewalk improvements were made as part of the Ethos Apartments project across from the 18-hole Riverbend Golf Course; the driving range; and the Midtown 64 Apartments. The developers of the Ethos and Midtown 64 apartment complexes paid for the improvements along their property as part of a city requirement for the Meet Me on Meeker standards.
“We have made a huge investment in the gateway,” Council President Bill Boyce said about the project first discussed publicly in 2016. “We are at the 5-yard line, let’s finish it. We don’t want to do a Russell Wilson and throw it, we want to run it on in. Let’s move forward and close the deal.”
Bieren said the cost will go to $3.5 million from $2 million for the sidewalk section by the school.
The council agreed to go with the higher standards, but Councilmembers Marli Larimer and Zandria Michaud asked Bieren why it was more expensive. Bieren said the trees also caused design problems, so the city would have gone with a regular sidewalk replacement and a bike lane that wasn’t concrete.
Without the trees in the way, crews can do a wider sidewalk with sitting areas and a concrete bicycle lane to match with the rest of the system. The city has applied for federal grant money to help pay for the project.
The school district plans to remove the trees next spring or summer and the trees will be replaced, Bieren said.
Larimer and Councilmember Brenda Fincher said they didn’t like to see mature trees removed, but understood the reasons.
“We want continuity all the way down,” Fincher said. “The bikes should not go from concrete to pavement.”
Kent is to receive $10 million from the state for the Meet Me on Meeker project as part of the $17 billion Move Ahead Washington transportation package approved by the Legislature in March 2022.
Bieren said that funding will be spread out over 16 years to many projects, but he hopes the city can receive the Meeker Street money in the next few years.
Just east of Kent Elementary School, the city plans major improvements north of the former Kmart site. Bieren said Kaiser Permanente still plans to build a medical facility at the former site, although the company hasn’t announced any timeline.
“They’re not stopping,” Bieren said about Kaiser Permanente. “We expect them in two years, plus or minus.”
Farther east on Meeker Street, improvements will be made between Thompson Avenue (across from Safeway) and the Interurban Trail, Bieren said. That design includes a roundabout at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and West Meeker Street to help with increasing downtown traffic due to new apartment complexes and an eventual development of the Naden property. Kent found out earlier this year it would receive a $4.7 million federal grant in 2025 to help pay for that work.