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Need a lift? Langley looking at elevator, bridge view impact on Cascade

This rendering prepared by Langley’s Community Planning department shows one view impact of the proposed Langley Lift, a bridge and elevator connecting Wharf Street and South Whidbey Harbor to Cascade Avenue and the business district.  - Image courtesy of the City of Langley
This rendering prepared by Langley’s Community Planning department shows one view impact of the proposed Langley Lift, a bridge and elevator connecting Wharf Street and South Whidbey Harbor to Cascade Avenue and the business district.
— image credit: Image courtesy of the City of Langley

Image courtesy of the City of Langley Community Planning department | This image shows the view from Cascade Avenue looking north as it exists. The other view shows the Langley Lift bridge and elevator tower's impact to the sight of Saratoga Passage and Camano Island.

Renderings of a bridge and elevator give a glimpse at what Cascade Avenue in Langley may look like.

The city’s Community Planning department published the “Langley Lift” pictures showing the bridge and tower’s view impacts from Cascade Avenue. Public comment is being accepted in writing at the planning blog designlangley.org or at Langley City Hall.

The overall assessment, which is not an official staff recommendation, is that the structure proposed by the recently-deceased Paul Schell will not “significantly” impact the primary scenic views of the Cascade Mountains, Puget Sound, Saratoga Passage or Camano Island.

Based on the view assessment renderings created by the city’s planning intern, Katy Hima, the most drastic view change is looking north on Cascade Avenue. Along the walkway, the once sweeping sight of Saratoga Passage and Camano Island is blocked by the bridge and elevator shaft. In an attempt to mitigate the view loss, architect and designer Eric Richmond of Flat Rock Productions changed the bridge to have a mesh or lattice covering that will allow people to see through it. A viewing platform was also added to the end of the bridge, which will wrap around the elevator tower with a 5-foot walkway.

“There’s the issue of public views in relation to the regulations in our shoreline master plan,” said Langley Director of Community Planning Jeff Arango of the street view impact to one of the main arteries getting into the city.

The project has gone through a few iterations. Under a different mayor, the idea for transporting people from South Whidbey Harbor on Wharf Street up to Cascade Avenue was embodied in a funicular, an enclosed pod that would track people up the bluff. The current project being reviewed is the Langley Lift so dubbed by Schell and Richmond. Schell came up with the idea as a way to create a skyline feature for the city and provide a connection from the water to the commercial area. Schell died July 27 after complications from a heart surgery, leaving his last project unfinished. Richmond said his plan is to see it through as far as he can with the support of Schell’s widow, Pam Schell.

“It was something he wanted done, and this is how I can help out,” Richmond said.

“The intention is to move forward and see it finished,” he added. “There’s no one person who’s going to slide in and take Paul’s place.”

The elevator would land on the Schells’ property near the Drake’s Landing building by the marina. Next to the elevator, the Schells and Richmond were planning a multi-story building as an expansion for the Boatyard Inn with a restaurant at street level. Langley does not have any place to build a landing area for either the funicular or the elevator, and would need a willing partner for an easement from the landing to the street. In the Schells, the city had such a partner.

Funding for the project, in whatever form it takes, was approved several years ago by the Island County Council of Governments. The grant funding totals $500,000, and that’s the budget for which Richmond is designing, despite an earlier statement by Paul Schell at the July 21 Langley City Council meeting that he would cover costs over that amount.

Several steps remain before the city makes a move on the elevator. Arango said he would inform the council of governments about changes to the plan, including the bridge platform, and that he would make an official recommendation to the city council within two months.

Meanwhile, Richmond and Pam Schell are waiting on feedback from residents and the city before they can get more firm cost estimates to propose to the city.

Power lines that currently cross the Schells’ property would need to be moved underground — which Arango said may be covered by the city, Puget Sound Energy and the Schells.

 

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