Kirkland residents gave public testimony late into the night yesterday over a controversial mixed-use project at a key downtown intersection...

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Kirkland residents gave public testimony late into the night yesterday over a controversial mixed-use project at a key downtown intersection.

More than 160 people attended the City Council meeting, and many of them spoke in favor of selling the city-owned land to Seattle-based developer Milliken Martin, which plans to turn the 58-stall parking lot at Lake Street and Central Way into a retail-and-condominium project.

“The proposed design is a beautiful example of mixed-use housing which could set a standard for future development downtown,” said Elisa Bakker, a Kirkland resident. “We have an excellent opportunity at this time to turn a surface parking lot into a mixed-use development surrounded by generous public-gathering spaces.”

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Some residents said they were concerned about the project’s size and the impact it would have on already tight downtown parking. The council also heard from residents concerned about another issue: Tent City 4. The council limited tent-city supporters and opponents to three speakers apiece. Tent City 4 is scheduled to move Saturday to the Kirkland Congregational Church of Christ, across the street from City Hall.

“I was absolutely delighted to hear tent city is coming here,” said Janet Pruitt, who lives near the church. “I’m proud of Kirkland Congregational Church for opening its property to them.”

The council spent most of its meeting hearing comments on the Lake and Central project.

In response to an earlier public hearing, the council had formed a steering committee of local residents to gather comments and hold community meetings about the project. Milliken Martin also proposed reducing the project’s size and scale.

After four community meetings, the steering committee recommended rejecting the proposal.

“I would ask that you don’t destroy public trust by going forward with this proposal,” Curtis Thompson said last night. “Don’t dismiss the input from the steering committee you asked for.”

The new plan would increase public space around the development and include pedestrian walkways and wider sidewalks. Milliken Martin has been working since summer 2003 on plans to develop the land. The company has invested time and money in the project and has followed the city’s zoning, said Larry Martin, Milliken Martin’s chief operating officer.

But even with the design changes, the community has appeared to be overwhelmingly against the project, said Jeff Leach, who sat on the steering committee.

“We need to have a long-term vision for what we want to see happen to the business core before we move forward,” Leach said. “There are also financial issues around this deal. We want to know the financial impact this will have on the city.”

The council will resume discussion of the project March 1.

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com