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Downtown Lynnwood is getting a new entertainment district

LYNNWOOD, Wash., February 24, 2023—Big things are coming for the Lynnwood Event Center and surrounding 13-acres of land, as the Public Facilities District (PFD), now called The District, aims to redevelop the downtown core as a live, work, play, entertainment destination for the region.

The Master Plan in its current form would include a parking garage, 300 units of residential housing, a hotel, an Event Plaza, a convention center, and an event center, as well as multiple spaces for retail space from 194th Street Southwest to 196th Street Southwest along 36th Avenue West.

The primary goal is to double the size of the Convention Center (now rebranded as the Event Center) to bring in larger trade shows, be an interstate venue with entertainment acts (including music concerts and comedy shows) and offer an experience where people can stay and enjoy shops, restaurants, beer gardens, and wine bars.

Proposed vision for the 13-acre Public Facilities District property.

The District also hopes to add green spaces and “pocket parks” to the mix to allow indoor/outdoor concerts and beer gardens. The space could also be used for private events like weddings, with the Event Center being able to seat around 1,200 and the outdoor space an additional 1,000 people.

The Lynnwood Event Center is owned by the Public Facilities District, now called The District, and not the City of Lynnwood. The Lynnwood PFD was founded in 1998, around the same time as the controlled demolition of the Seattle Kingdome to make room for Century Link Field (now Lumen Field).

At that time, Public Facilities Districts were allowed to form, all over the state, to use the newly introduced hotel/motel tax and sales tax funds to build public assets. The city of Lynnwood had been in discussion of building an Arts Center for some time as did the City of Edmonds. The City of Edmonds formed a PFD and built the Edmonds Center for the Arts while the Lynnwood PFD built the Lynnwood Convention Center—the first PFD in the state to take advantage of this program.

“We were very fortunate to find this piece of land that has room for the Convention Center and the thirteen acres around it, which were always going to be land banked for future things that would bring more into the Public Facilities District,” Janet Pope, Executive Director of The District, told the Lynnwood Times. “We’ve been exploring this our whole existence, trying to decide how big to go.”

Pope added that the main purpose is to create more of an economic impact for the city of Lynnwood. While the Lynnwood Event Center needs to be profitable, she said, the economic impact returns multiple times more by the groups it brings in.

Since beginning her role at Lynnwood PFD in 2020, Pope immediately engaged in community discussion on what residents would like to see done with the 13-acres surrounding the Convention Center. The public shared it would like more green spaces and entertainment—concerts, comedy shows, dog shows, trade shows, top notch food and beverage options.

“We are aiming to expand our economic impact of the Convention Center,” said Pope. “Are people really coming here [to Lynnwood] spending multiple nights in a hotel somewhere and going to restaurants and doing those type of things? No, not yet – so we need to go on a little bigger scale…A lot of people use Lynnwood as a jumping off point, but we want people to stay and enjoy Lynnwood too.”

With Paine Field expanding, this is also an excellent opportunity to have people flying internationally to enjoy these amenities, Pope said.

Janet Pope, Executive Director of The District with Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell in front of the “I Love Lynnwood” sculpture. SOURCE: The District.

“When I tell people [at conferences] we have 13-acres next to a Convention Center downtown, with light rail expanding, and an airport expanding, they say ‘you don’t even know how rare that is to find,’ so we feel very fortunate to have the space and we’re excited about what we’re going to build,” said Pope.

The District is currently in its design phase with this year focused on acquiring permits and securing funding while also looking for private hotel/housing partners. The District will also be exploring grants and fundraising opportunities to secure the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for its bold vision.

The project will be a Public/Private partnership which has both the benefits of completing projects quicker while being flexible. Additionally, since The District is a municipality, it has the ability to issue bonds that can be used to fund the expansion, similar to how the original Lynnwood Convention Center was built in 2005.

Jones Lang LaSelle International has been picked as the commercial real estate agency and has worked closely with The District on the Master Plan design. LMN Architects, which most recently finished completion on the Seattle Convention Center expansion and FREIHEIT, are the chosen architectural firms.

The project timeline will be highly dependent on securing permits and funds, according to Pope, with the best-case scenario of construction starting in late 2024 with a completion date by the 2026 World Cup to allow an overflow option for people traveling to the city of Seattle. 

The current tenants of the existing retail spaces in the area have been notified of the proposed redevelopment, Pope said. The District is currently seeking retailers matching its specific vision which would include, primarily, food and beverage with the possibly of put-put golf, bowling, and a cat cafe.

“We don’t want to replicate the mall because we already have an amazing mall and we don’t want to have your Tiffany’s and your Gucci stores,” said Pope. “A lot of it will be your restaurants, your coffee shops, your ice cream stores, [and] your bakeries.”

Pope added that The District has also been in communication with Community Transit in adding a “loop” to the City’s Zip ride share route which would allow transportation options to/from the District to the surrounding Alderwood area.

The District is working closely with the City of Lynnwood on this project, which aligns with its City Center vision. The City of Lynnwood is currently in the process of developing a plan to make way for the expected growth of its two future light rail stations at City Center and West Alderwood.

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