Pointing to a framed map of the city’s streets in 1951, Lakewood development director David Bugher notes all roads — and a trolley line — once led to the historic Lakewood Colonial Center and Theater.
Decades before Lakewood incorporated, and before the Lakewood Towne Center was built just a short distance away, the Colonial Center bustled as the city’s social hub.
Today the center still houses commercial businesses, along with an empty historic theater, but it no longer is the center of the city.
“This was our community gathering place, but over the years it faded away,” city spokesman Brent Champaco said.
The City Council wants that gathering place back.
The answer: Convert Motor Avenue.
It’s a catalyst for development and redevelopment.
Becky Newton, city of Lakewood economic development director
The street bisects the Colonial Center, connecting Whitman Avenue Southwest to the busy intersection of Gravelly Lake Drive and Bridgeport Way.
When city planners look at Motor Avenue they see more than just a place to drive cars.
“This is our best attempt at creating a social gathering place,” Champaco said.
A consultant has crafted a plan to make Motor Avenue and the surrounding Colonial Center a destination once again.
A series of public meetings earlier this year shaped three design proposals. The options will be the focus of a public meeting Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at City Hall, 6000 Main St.
The City Council will review a final proposal in July.
Plans call for a wide pedestrian promenade that would incorporate parking but that could be closed to cars for pedestrian-friendly events. Those could include a farmers market, food truck rally or seasonal live performances on a portable stage.
A dedicated park and green space would be used for picnics and lawn games.
Bugher rattled off other ideas, such as a permanent life-size checker board and temporary golf greens, as ways the pedestrian areas could be used.
This was our community gathering place, but over the years it faded away.
Brent Champaco, spokesman, city of Lakewood
If the council approves the project, the city would seek grant money to pay for it. Preliminary estimates show it could cost between $2 and $3 million.
City officials think transforming Motor Avenue will spur growth around the center.
“It’s a catalyst for development and redevelopment,” said economic development director Becky Newton.
Newton pointed to renewed interest the building that formerly housed the QFC grocery store as an example.
Owner Westwood Financial Corp. recently received two offers for the site, which has sat empty since 2011, she said.
People recognize the center’s historical significance to Lakewood, but more could be done to make it a destination, Bugher said.
“Everyone has struggled with the Colonial Center since the beginning of cityhood,” he said. “There’s been a lot of interest, but the buildings are deteriorating.”
The Colonial Center was built in the late 1930s by Norton Clapp, at attorney who went on to lead the Weyerhaeuser Co. He bought 200 acres in the area in 1936 and developed the shopping center.
It was the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River, according to the Lakewood Historical Society. A second section of the center was built across Motor Avenue in the 1950s.
If the redevelopment of Motor Avenue succeeds, Bugher thinks Lakewood might look to replicate the concept elsewhere in the city.
“I think you’re going to see more of this in Lakewood,” he said.
What: The public is invited to hear proposals for converting Motor Avenue
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.Wednesday (May 4)
Where: Lakewood City Hall, 6000 Main St.