Edgewood doesn’t seem to be used to it anymore. It’s changed, and it’s hard for me.
For the most part, I grew up in Edgewood, which banked on its independence and became a town in 1996, around the time I started driving. It was the kind of place where you knew your neighbors, and – if you were largely raised by a single mother like me – many of them prayed for you in church on Sundays. Sidewalks were mostly non-existent and useless: we walked on the street.
It was 30 years ago.
Sometimes it seems much longer.
Today, while many of the hallmarks of my youth remain – like mossy farms, duck crossing signs and vast pastures – Edgewood is different, like most places. The primary school I attended no longer exists: a budget deficit forced it to close more than a decade ago, and it was razed shortly after. My high school, Edgemont, still exists, but the new building it occupies still feels weird to me: I’ll always prefer the cramped, dank, nostalgic version that lives in my memory.
That’s the problem with change: it’s hard, in part because you often feel like your story is slowly fading away. And without our history, without concrete reminders of our origin story, what is there to ground us?
So what is the impetus for this march into the past? Edgewood – besides being where I first kissed a girl and first totaled a car – has been one of the fastest growing towns in the area in recent years . As of 2021, it was the second fastest growing city in the Puget Sound area, adding nearly 800 residents, or more than 6% of its population. It also had the eighth largest growth in the state, welcoming more new residents than Bellevue or Kirkland.
All of this makes life in Edgewood revealing of the tensions, challenges, and small personal heartaches we all feel as Pierce County changes around us, for better or for worse.
But there’s a catch: Edgewood also happens to be a pretty decent example of what can happen when a city accepts the unchanging realities of growth and seeks to preserve a way of life while taking on the responsibilities that come with living in a booming region.
On Thursday, I spoke to Edgewood Mayor Daryl Eidinger, a former pastor who was first elected to city council in 2010 and also the father of the child who had the locker above me when I was in seventh grade. Eidinger recalled the city’s incorporation more than 25 years ago and some of the reasons behind it.
Chief among them? That the people of Edgewood didn’t want their home on Puyallup’s North Hill to end up like the hellscape of strip malls, stoplights and sprawl that had already begun to strangle Puyallup’s South Hill.
In the decades that followed, Eidinger said, the city worked hard to make the move work. The city has added sewers and police departments while trying to funnel growth to the places in Edgewood that work best for it — largely the area around Meridian Avenue, which now has four lanes of traffic instead of two. that I grew up with.
It’s work you can see paying off, Eidinger said, although the new apartment developments and construction crews may be shocking to those who remember the days of the Edgewood Flower Farm or the old Windmill Lounge.
“I think a lot of the growth has been the plan we’ve had from the start. When we became a city, there was a plan – and the plan was to put in a sewer for new development, namely along the Meridian, so we could keep the rural feel away from Meridian,” said said Eidinger. “I think we stuck to that plan pretty well.”
That’s not to say it’s always been easy or that everyone’s been happy every step of the way. While zoning in most of Edgewood outside of the Meridian Corridor is limited to two or three parcels per acre — which has helped keep much of the town unchanged — Eidinger said he often receives calls and emails when residents were upset, and there was no way to please everyone.
Edgewood’s latest targeted growth effort – the creation of a sub-area plan for what is called Downtown, approximately 85 acres in various stages of development centered around Meridian and 24th Street – promises to put this to the test.
According to Edgewood Associate Planner Evan Hietpas, who will lead the town’s public engagement efforts as the plan is written, the goal is to create a blueprint for developers who will help transform the area into a mix of dense residential housing, retail and public facilities in the coming years.
“We have a vision of what downtown should be, but it’s really important to have implementation strategies in place for how it’s going to be built,” Hietpas said.
“A big part of that,” Hietpas added, is ensuring that future developments take into account the overall vision of a “walkable and accessible” city core.
The downtown sub-area plan is still in the works, but that’s not to say that the elements of what Edgewood city officials hope it will one day become aren’t already in place. movement. For example, although some residents have expressed a general aversion to new apartment developments, the design of a proposed mixed-use project known as Dhaliwal Heights – which is currently making its way through the review process for town – has allayed many community fears, according to Darren Groth, director of Edgewood’s community and economic development department.
Although Hietpas acknowledged “there are a few final details that need to be addressed by the applicant”, he said Edgewood’s review of the proposed 583-unit development concluded that the project meets the objectives and regulations of the city in terms of density, mixed-use requirements and layout.
According to Eidinger, saying yes to projects like Dhaliwal Heights, which would help Edgewood fulfill its mandates under the state’s Growth Management Act, is a big part of what allows other parts of the city to remain rural and relatively unaffected by sprawl.
Ultimately, that’s the goal, Eidinger said.
Although change is difficult for everyone, it is simply impossible to avoid it, so it is essential to be strategic and deliberate.
“It’s pretty much the same town I moved to 30 years ago,” Eidinger said.