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Originally published March 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 14, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Mill Creek

Pedistrian-friendly center becomes gathering place

As construction nears completion on Mill Creek's Town Center, the owners of shops fronting Main Street say they're looking...

Times Snohomish County Bureau

As construction nears completion on Mill Creek's Town Center, the owners of shops fronting Main Street say they're looking forward to beginning business life in earnest.

Every month, the number of shoppers visiting the center increases, business owners say. But they still frequently meet locals who are finding the Town Center for the first time.

"I think [construction] has inhibited business a little bit," said Royal Reinsch, owner of the gift shop Belle Provence, which opened two years ago. "We're really looking forward to its completion and getting it on the map."

That goal is only months away, said Bill Trimm, Mill Creek's community-development director, who has overseen the center's design and development. Only two of the center's 26 buildings remain unfinished. Trimm expects construction to end by June.

Most of the center's buildings are already occupied, offering an array of gift shops, restaurants, medical clinics and fitness clubs, a Starbucks and a University Bookstore. A supermarket, Central Market-Mill Creek, has welcomed shoppers since 2004.

If the numerous pedestrians strolling along the sidewalks are any indication, the Town Center has already found its way onto many people's radar screens.

Patti Page, of Everett, who lives 2 ½ miles from the center, said she wasn't pleased at first to see trees cut down to make way for the center. But now, "I have to confess that I love it," she said.

She said she visits three to four times a week to go to Central Market or a coffee shop. Her husband, Jan, said they also frequent the restaurants about once a week.

"Town Center is growing by leaps and bounds every month," said Jim Huffman, store director for Central Market. "Every time you turn around, there's something new. I think that's drawing more and more community to this location."

To promote the center, its merchants have formed the Mill Creek Town Center Business Association, said Reinsch, who is one of the association's board members.

The association will help support the now yearly Mill Creek Festival on Main Street, which occurs in July and is organized by the Mill Creek Business Association. It also will organize marketing for the center.

In the next two to three months, another dozen shops and restaurants are slated to take up residence, said Mary Thomas, an agent at Redfield Real Estate Services, which manages leasing for much of the center.

A complex of 38 condominiums will open in June, after construction on its upper two floors is completed, she said. Six of those condos are still available. Only two spaces for shops remain, and one building's six office spaces have yet to be sold.

A small public plaza and bus shelter will be built next to Starbucks, said Trimm. The plaza is part of an overall vision for Mill Creek's Town Center as a traditional downtown geared toward pedestrians, offering space for people to live, work, shop and play in close proximity, he said.

The plaza will feature a sculpture by Washington artist Julie Berger. In the artwork, called "Flow," a 140-foot network of intertwined galvanized-steel strips will flow over eight concrete columns and culminate in a pattern above the bus shelter.

"The Town Center has created a gathering place in Mill Creek," said Trimm. "It's becoming a destination for town residents and office workers."

Naila Moreira: 425-745-7845 or nmoreira@seattletimes.com

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