Kent Plans People-Friendly Infrastructure
Kent, nestled in the industrial-thick folds of Kent Valley, seems more conducive to semi-trucks than foot traffic. Waterfront parks filled with food trucks and pedestrian-friendly paths may not be the first image that pops to mind when the city of Kent is mentioned, but all that may soon be part of the town's cityscape.
The city of Kent is well-established as industrial-friendly. It has experienced rapid growth over the last decade and now boasts 65,000 jobs, City of Kent Economic Development Manager Bill Ellis said.
Kent Valley, which includes other municipalities like Tukwila, Auburn and Renton, is considered the fourth-largest manufacturing and distribution area in the U.S. The Kent Valley region, which runs from the Boeing access road all the way down to Sumner, has 255,000 jobs.
Recognizing the value of Kent property, Bridge Development Partners LLC acquired a 4.73-acre piece of land in Kent this May on which it will develop the 97,522 SF Bridge Point Kent 100 industrial facility, which is set to deliver in 2020. Kent has a good central location and makes a good alternative to the land-constrained Seattle market, Bridge Partner's Justin Carlucci said at that time.
Kent’s strong industrial pull is no surprise to Ellis.
“We built our infrastructure to allow industry to be there,” he told Bisnow. “But until now we never asked, ‘How do we serve the workers?’”
Now, the city is putting an emphasis on developing the amenities that employees want and need, he said. "Now we are asking, ‘Where do you go to lunch? How much time do you have for lunch? What is it like commuting in and out of here?’”
It's all part of the city's plan to lure employees.
“We figure that if the employees want to be here, the employers will want to be here too,” he said.
Located on the Green River and crisscrossed by both the Interurban and Green River trails, the city is looking to leverage its natural assets by developing infrastructure in and around these features, Ellis said.
Meanwhile, city leaders are looking for ways to connect commuters to both the the Sounder and Link Light Rail, both of which cut through the area.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph has lived in the city her entire life. She says she has seen the city transform from rural to industrial, grow in population and add jobs. The next step, she said, is to look for the new generation of businesses, which she hopes will bring more higher-paying, advanced manufacturing jobs and innovation to the area.
“We are trying to plan for smart growth and to ask ourselves how we want the valley to grow,” she told Bisnow. “We want to take a holistic approach to growth. Sidewalks, trails, dry cleaners, restaurants.”
The city works closely with its Kent Valley neighboring cities, she said.
"I want to make this a place that people want to be," she said. "I want Kent to attract the next generation of workers."