Stanwood Mulls Strong Towns-Style Main Street Makeover

1280px Stanwood WA Main St

Stanwood isn’t a big tourist draw, like La Conner on the other side of the Skagit delta or Camano Island, but there is some interest in seeking to promote tourism. Shepro said it would take investment and time, but the revitalization project would further the process.

Stanwood is also being affected by the work-from-home trend and spillover from Seattle and Bellevue employment centers. Shepro noted folks used to shopping for homes to the south of Stanwood look at $650,000 homes as a “screaming bargain,” but that price is beyond the means of many Stanwood locals, who see lower wages than folks commuting (or telecommuting) to Seattle, Bellevue, or Redmond. Stanwood home prices have jumped more than 25% in a year, similar to many suburbs in the Seattle metropolitan area. Zillow has the average Stanwood home value pegged at almost $717,000.

“Housing affordability is a huge problem here right now,” Shepro said. “But we are seeing tremendous interest from developers and homebuilders. I don’t know if that’s going to mean relief or not. A lot of homebuilders are just building bigger houses that cost more, and I’m not sure where the new income for these houses is coming from, other than people commuting to Seattle where the wages are much higher.”

The recent waves of development haven’t been focused downtown due to its location on a floodplain. But a townhome complex in the works in downtown might overcome the challenge of added insurance costs of building in a floodplain, Shepro said. He also noted the city is seeking to upgrade its flood rating: the City has moved some civic buildings out of vulnerable areas and embarked on a 10-year project to redesign its stormwater system. In the meantime, the hill just east of downtown is outside the flood zone and has been a hive of development activity.

Despite the recent spike in home values, Stanwood is not a wealthy town, Shepro said, and its tax base is limited. The hope with the Twin City Mile is to fund the project largely through grants, and defining the project will help determine which grants would be a good fit. 

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