Public invited to watch construction project

Snohomish County’s latest construction project is anything but usual. The Washington county has turned the site into a learning opportunity, creating a “watchers club” where the public is invited to take formal tours every Thursday afternoon.

The $167 million Campus Redevelopment Initiative, which includes excavation of a seven-story-deep parking garage and construction of retaining walls with 10- to 62-foot soil nails, has grabbed the attention of Everett, Washington. County officials realized what they have is unique, and want to share it with the community.

Connie Lewis, communications coordinator for the redevelopment initiative, started the watchers club as a program for employees and the public. She is confident the redevelopment initiative is something different from anything the county has undertaken before.

“This is the largest project undertaken by the county, ever,” Lewis said. “I have to say it’s also a fairly massive communications effort between employees, the public and the county.”

Since the tours started in early January, groups of construction personnel, county officials, students and professionals have attended. While tour groups don’t actually get to walk onto the site, they can peer through fencing and observation windows to see what the project is all about.

“We stand at a large wire-fenced gap in the construction site fence that gives us a full view of the pit, with an information board to explain the progress,” Lewis said. “The tours have gone on for about four weeks now — a fair amount of interest has been generated.”

The total construction project involves the parking garage, a jail and an administration building. Currently, M.A. Mortenson construction is working on deepening the 30-foot hole to 90 feet for the garage, which will hold 1,200 cars and cost $29 million. The project is expected to be finished in 2005.

Feeling cramped in its previous campus facilities, Snohomish County, Washington, decided renovation was necessary to meet the demands of population growth. Officials hope the renovation and new construction will improve customer service and help the county cope with overcrowded jails.