The city of Bothell launched an ambitious revitalization plan Tuesday and will invest $150 million to move a highway, expand the park at Bothell Landing and add a new City Hall.

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Canoes, not cars, stopped in Bothell when the community formed a century ago.

But over the years, the Eastside city has moved away from its Sammamish River roots. These days, people stuck in Highway 522 traffic are more likely to notice rows of auto shops than the river.

The city of Bothell is determined to change that. On Tuesday, it launched an ambitious $150 million makeover that will give the downtown a facelift that speaks to its history while also energizing and investing in the local economy.

“We’re stopping decades of automotive retail to reconnect the city to the river and bring back its heritage and charm,” said Terrie Battuello, assistant city manager and economic-development manager. Some of the city’s 32,400 citizens were instrumental in forming the vision for the new downtown.

The redevelopment will link the river with the downtown again, opening up Bothell Landing on the river with an expanded park that includes a canoe-and-kayak launching area, paths, and bike and boat rentals, Battuello said. It also will reroute Highway 522 and create three new downtown blocks.

With new retailers and a revitalized downtown, Mayor Mark Lamb hopes, people will be more likely to stop in Bothell instead of just passing through.

“When they see it [now], they’re in a bad mood because they’re stuck at a traffic light,” he said.

The makeover includes:

• Demolishing 15 buildings.

• Moving Highway 522 one block south and disconnecting it from Main Street, helping traffic move faster through downtown, and also widening it at a corridor known as “Wayne Curve.”

• Extending Highway 527 and broadening it into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard.

• Expanding Main Street with new buildings that have ground-floor stores with office space or residences above.

• Building a 50,000-square-foot City Hall.

Bothell officials says traffic will move 50 percent faster along Highway 522 with the realignment, and the downtown development will help attract a projected 1 million square feet of new retail, office space and residences over the next 10 years. The city also plans to sell 25 acres of land between 2010 and 2013.

Lamb said he believes there’s a lot of local demand for new retail, restaurants and college classes. The project is expected to add 1,600 jobs to downtown Bothell, he said, and the University of Washington and Cascadia Community College’s combined campus in Bothell is projected to swell from 3,600 students to 10,000 students in the next six years.

“We as a city have the opportunity to show Puget Sound and the state of Washington what is possible in difficult times,” Lamb said.

The costs of raw materials and labor are very low right now, Lamb said, and the city has been fiscally conservative as it saved for the project, setting aside 20 percent of its operating reserve.

The projects are funded by the city, the county and grants from state agencies.

The new Highway 522, which will be built next to the old route, is slated for completion in October 2012.

At the groundbreaking Tuesday, Lamb climbed in a backhoe and started the demolition, crushing the backhoe’s bucket into the roof of a vacant tan and brick-red building that still had a “We’ve moved” sign posted.

Chiropractor Dusty DuBois moved her business to downtown Bothell in November. Dubois, who was born and raised in Bothell, said the redevelopment plan was the deciding factor when she picked a building for her business. She said she’s excited to see the downtown grow and bring new businesses and restaurants.

“I do believe it’s going to drive people here instead of Mill Creek or Issaquah,” she said.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com