2021 Awardee – City of Kent Rally the Valley

When the Kent Valley transitioned from a farming community to industrial center, the landscape was altered. Giant warehouses with blank walls, limited windows and no curb appeal replaced verdant farmland. The community’s infrastructure changed to support the transportation of goods in and out, and not necessarily helping people stay close to home.

While the manufacturing industry has been economically resilient and serves the community well, it has not always been supportive of the people working inside the imposing structures.

Beginning in 2019, with targeted outreach, community support and input from business owners, Kent’s Economic and Community Development team established Rally the Valley. The subarea plan was implemented with a vision of transforming the industrial center to be more people-centric while improving development and making a statement about the future.

According to Mayor Dana Ralph, the importance of outreach, open dialogue and listening to differing perspectives is the driving force behind Rally the Valley. Engaging the voices of the community, employees, business owners and developers allows the project to not only be collaborative, but also sustainable.

“We can’t move forward with just one perspective,” Ralph said. “Our job as a city is to convene those voices and come up with a project, a plan, a roadmap to meet as many of those needs as possible. It’s a really cool seat to be in.”

Ralph, a multi-generation Kent resident, served on the Kent City Council for six years before being elected mayor in 2018. Rally the Valley is one of her favorite projects because of its diversification of the area and the collaboration between stakeholders, as the project incorporates their unique values.

With people at the heart of the plan, Rally the Valley aims to provide a welcoming environment where Kent residents have good jobs close to home, eliminating the need to commute away from the community for employment.

“Rally the Valley was really a game changer,” Ralph said. “We need amenities for people in these spaces. Things like adding windows, plantings and access to recreation. Just all the things you see in other work places but were really lacking in an industrial valley.”

The manufacturing and industrial center subarea plan will provide green spaces for leisure and additional services, including local childcare, increased public transportation and restaurants throughout the industrial area. The project’s timeline is evergreen and aims to meet the needs of the community and businesses while providing amenities to attract and retain quality employees.

“Giant, cement buildings are not our future, and it’s not who we are in our heart in the City of Kent,” she said. “We’ve always been about innovation and this is our next step in that innovation.”

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