Mount Vernon Library Commons breaks ground on 'catalyst' for downtown economic development

Mount Vernon Library Commons breaks ground on 'catalyst' for downtown economic development Main Photo

28 Sep 2022

Economic Development

The Mount Vernon Library Commons project took a big step forward in September when more than 200 community members gathered with city, county and state officials for a groundbreaking ceremony.

The groundbreaking marked a major milestone for the project that began as an idea in 2017 and has grown to become a $53 million community center featuring not only a library but also a commercial kitchen, public meeting spaces to accommodate up to 250 individuals, and a 270-space parking structure with 76 EV charging stations and nine EV bike charging lockers.

“Having this project come to fruition, to break ground – it’s monumental,” Mayor Jill Boudreau said in an interview with EDASC. 

Boudreau and city leaders believe this “catalyst project” has the potential to elevate downtown Mount Vernon’s visibility and stoke its economic growth. 

Boudreau explains that enticing private development downtown has had its challenges. Two major drawbacks have been the threat of flooding and the lack of parking. With the completion of the floodwall project in 2018, that concern was put to rest. Now, parking will be addressed with the Library Commons. 
Developers typically balk at the idea of providing parking as part of their infrastructure improvements due to the cost, Boudreau said, so the additional parking will ease hesitancy to build.

“If we as a city invest and take care of that parking, in effect, it removes that expense from developing in downtown Mount Vernon,” she said.

The city is hopeful the investment in parking infrastructure will entice developers to bring both housing and lodging downtown. 

The EV charging station, which is slated to be the biggest public charging station in the United States, is also expected to be a draw for travelers along Interstate 5, who can stop downtown to charge their vehicle, shop, dine and, ultimately, stay – all fostering economic development.

The Library Commons project is notable not only for its mega EV charging station but also for its many green and climate-resilient features. Mount Vernon-based HKP Architects designed the building using passive house concepts and the Commons is the first civic space in the state to use passive house design.

Passive house design focuses on energy efficiency and reducing the structure’s ecological footprint. The Commons also incorporates resilient design features to help it weather climate change and natural disasters.

As a green-built civic space positioned to serve a growing community that will provide an economic catalyst to downtown, the Library Commons project is positioned to serve the community for decades to come.

“I think we’ve been able to provide generational services for the community – investing in that next generation is so exciting,” Boudreau said. “It’s also going to grow the economy and businesses and tax revenue around it.”

Lydig Construction is the general contractor on the Library Commons project. Construction is slated to be finished in late 2023.

Library Commons funding did not include property taxes

Funding the Mount Vernon Library Commons, thus far, has come from 17 funding sources, Boudreau said.

“And to do it, at this point, without any property tax increase is unheard of,” Boudreau said.

In fact, neither the floodwall nor the Library Commons projects required a property tax increase. 

Among the major funding sources for the Library Commons is $2 million from a congressionally designated appropriation Congresswoman Suzan Del Bene, $1.7 million from a HUD section 108 loan, a $4 million state capital grant, $3 million in grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce, $1 million from Skagit County and $1 million from the Mount Vernon Library Foundation.

The City is continuing to seek funding support through grants to close the gap on the last $6.5 million needed to fully fund the project. Mayor Boudreau encourages those interested in supporting the project to donate through the Mount Vernon Library Foundation