Where’s downtown Lakewood?
That’s a question City of Lakewood
officials have pondered for a while now, which is why they’ve set course to develop a true urban core.
Approaching its 23rd year of incorporation, this relatively young city is ready to enter the next chapter with the Lakewood Downtown Plan
. The subarea plan under the Growth Management Act has been in the works for more than a year. After extensive public outreach and a lengthy planning commission review, the plan is now with the City Council. At press time, a vote was anticipated as early as Oct. 1.
Fitting the puzzle together
Lakewood’s mismatched and unlinked commercial areas were developed at different times under different standards before the city was incorporated. Along with Lakewood Towne Center
(a retail center and home to city hall) and the Colonial District
(the first strip mall of its kind west of the Mississippi when it was built more than 80 years ago, and one-time Friday night hot spot for dinner and a movie), there’s also the East Commercial District
, which includes Lakewood Industrial Park
When realized, the Lakewood Downtown Plan would be a game changer for Pierce County’s second-largest city. The current puzzle pieces would fit together to reflect current-day Lakewood, offering more opportunities for people to live and work in the same area, and opening the door for new businesses to develop or redevelop. The plan also calls for less pavement and more open space, including a two- or four-acre park. It’s not just going to change downtown. It would create a downtown core that would bring big benefits and a wave of hometown pride for residents, and also open people’s eyes beyond city limits.
“Lakewood’s subarea plan is vital to the sustained economic growth of the city as it moves forward,” said Lakewood City Council member John Simpson. “This is a major component in fostering economic development and redevelopment in the city and with Pierce County, and a smart step into the rest of the 21st century.”
In anticipation, the city has already put infrastructure improvements in place and is pursuing economic development opportunities showcasing what Lakewood will have to offer. A separate-but-connected plan is in progress to transform Colonial Center to Lakewood Colonial Plaza, complete with a pedestrian promenade that could be closed down for entertainment or a farmers’ market.
Approval of the plan will pave the way to tackle zoning changes to ease permitting for developers, improve the roadway around Towne Center, create connectivity between downtown districts, improve sidewalks and whatever else is needed as funding is available.
Then it’s just a matter of shining a spotlight on all Lakewood has to offer, from being a great place to work and live, to its ample business opportunities and affordable land, leases and housing.