Bonney Lake’s mayor says his city is growing up.
“That’s the way we look at it because we’re still young,” said Mayor Neil Johnson.
Young, indeed. As recent as the early 1940s, Bonney Lake was a small community with just a few dirt roads and no available electricity or running water. That began to change in 1946, when Ken Simmons moved his family into the community, according to the city’s website. Simmons spearheaded the community’s transformation and, within a year of its incorporation in 1949, Bonney Lake had its own water system, new roads, expanded electric lines, refuse disposal, and telephone service.
By 1957, there were a dozen businesses with several new shopping developments on the horizon. More and more people began moving into the area and, by 1965, the population of Bonney Lake had more than tripled, to a reported 1,280.
The city continues to change and today has nearly 21,000 residents and a growing business sector.
Franciscan Health System, for instance, opened its Franciscan Medical Pavilion in 2013. In partnership with Rush Development Company, Franciscan developed the 45,000-square-foot medical pavilion at the corner of State Route 410 and Sky Island Drive East. The facility includes family medicine, internal medicine, digital X-ray, urgent care, a retail pharmacy, an on-site lab, physical therapy, and state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging.
More recently, residents welcomed the opening of a 155,000-square-foot Costco store with a fueling station at 204th Avenue and State Route 410.
Also heading to Bonney Lake is inversion table manufacturer Teeter. The company, which has more than 200 employees, is relocating from Puyallup into a new 200,000-square-foot building being constructed in Bonney Lake’s Eastown area, Johnson said.
“At one point I think our retail sales commercial market was about a $200 million economy and now, over the last probably five years, we’re probably a $450 million to $500 million retail-based market. … A lot of people come to Bonney Lake to eat, to shop, and everything else. For me, that’s been really nice to see that happen because, of course, the more retail sales tax we get, the more we can put into the parks,” Johnson said.
Serving as a key catalyst for such economic activity is the city’s decision to divide the commercial sector into three major areas: Downtown, Midtown, and Eastown.
“What we didn’t want to do is to have everything from everybody across the city. We wanted to be able to have different focuses of business types,” Johnson said.
Downtown is the initial commercial center and serves as the western gateway to the present-day city limits and is the civic center of the city, with the existing park-and-ride lot, post office, Justice and Municipal Center, Public Safety Building, and library as anchors.
The city’s downtown area has long been a hub for commercial and public functions, but its full potential has yet to be realized. The city is hoping to eventually change that through a downtown plan adopted in 2004 and refined in 2007. The plan would create a downtown brimming with restaurants, shops, offices, and streets that are pleasant for walking.
“The city owns about 88 percent of the properties in an area of downtown we are calling the community campus or civic campus,” Johnson said. “So, the ultimate goal is to build a civic campus right there in the downtown area that would drive the other businesses to come in. …. This footprint for the civic campus is the key. If we can eventually get all of the properties and have 100 percent of it, then the city can now take control and say, ‘OK; here’s what we want,’ and put out an RFP and have someone come do it. I think that will get us started,” Johnson said.
He noted that the city has been collecting properties over the last 10 or 11 years, and he’s hoping the vision will come to fruition within the next 10 years.
Then there’s Midtown, an area developed on both the north and south sides of State Route 410. It is home to several large retailers, including Walmart, Office Depot, Target, Safeway, Fred Meyer, and Regal Cinemas. The area also includes 149 acres known as the former WSU Forest.
Eastown, which has some wetland areas, is generally described as the area along Highway 410 from 214th Avenue East to 234th Avenue East.
“In 15 years, I’d like it to be a place where you can live, work, and play. You don’t have to leave the plateau,” said Johnson. “To me, the ultimate goal for any community is the more you can have your people stay in your community; work in their community; be part of it; and not be gone to Seattle, Kent, or Tacoma for eight to 10 hours a day when you can be in your community.”