Edgewood town center?

Christy Christensen wants Edge-wood to maintain its rural character. That means leaving room for agriculture and saying "no" to sprawling strip malls.

But the longtime resident wouldn’t mind some restaurants and small to midsize retail stores.

“I like that idea of having a (walkable) shopping place,” she said.

She’s not alone. The city has a long-term vision for a town center with shops, office buildings, high-density housing and eateries.

Officials are taking steps to make that possible – from modifying development rules to pushing for improvements along Meridian Avenue East, the city’s main thoroughfare.

About 250 of the 345 acres in the Meridian Avenue corridor are available for development, the city said.

“As a city, we need not only residential but also a strong commercial retail core to provide goods, services and jobs,” said City Manager Mark Bauer.

Construction of 1.5 miles of sewer line along Meridian is nearly done. The line will run roughly from 36th Street East north to Military Road South, providing infrastructure critical for businesses such as sit-down restaurants, officials said.

About 160 property owners agreed to pay for the $21 million sewer project through a local improvement district. All but a few properties in the city north of Puyallup currently use septic systems.

The sewer line is expected to be up and running early next year.

Next up, the state Department of Transportation plans to widen Meridian from three to five lanes between 8th Street East and 24th Street East. Construction is estimated to cost about $14.6 million and start next year, Bauer said.

“Between the sewer and the widening project, it’s a tremendous public and private investment in that corridor,” Bauer said.

In the last several months, the City Council also has made some modifications to city code to make Edgewood more development-friendly, including adjusting the way density is calculated and changing setback and buffering requirements to allow greater buildout of lots.

Edgewood leaders will probably adopt more code changes in coming months, officials said.

The city has been reaching out with its vision for a town center and downtown core, holding public meetings to gather input from property owners and soliciting feedback from developers.

Edgewood incorporated in 1996 and has grown to about 10,000 residents. Officials said expanding the commercial base – and therefore the sales tax base – is important to its future.

“Hopefully, (more development would) keep people from going out of Edgewood” to do their shopping, said Mayor Jeff Hogan.

Christensen, 43, who has lived in the Edgewood area for years and now raises her family in the city, said the goal moving forward should be to find a balance between growth and the semi-rural lifestyle that draws people to the city in the first place.

“Anybody that lives in Edgewood loves that part of it,” she said.