'What about Ivar's?' Big changes coming to Mukilteo waterfront with new ferry terminal

MUKILTEO, Wash. -- The current Mukilteo ferry terminal is built on wooden timbers that are rotting away and would have a tough time withstanding an earthquake. So soon, drivers will take an alternate route farther down the coastline to a new and much-improved terminal.

For the last 30 years, Ivar’s Fish Bar has been the last stop for ferry riders to get a quick bite or a frozen treat, to the tune of 200,000 customers a year.

“We think of it as the best food north of Seattle,” said Bob Donegan, Ivar’s president, who is now coming up with new, creative ways to get his food to all of those ferry customers when the new terminal opens.

WSDOT admits that “What about Ivar’s?” is the No. 1 question about the new ferry terminal under construction.

But those designing the new ferry terminal have other traditions to be concerned about, traditions that date back centuries.

“A treaty was signed with the tribes in 1855, and part of the agreement in developing this site is to honor and respect the history of this land,” said Charlie Torres, the design project manager for the new ferry terminal now under construction.

The challenge for Torres in designing the new terminal is incorporating the culture of the Tulalip Tribes.

The terminal is actually designed to resemble a traditional tribal longhouse. There will be interpretive signs and native artwork throughout the terminal as well, and the project designer says he is also working to make the lightest footprint possible.

“We’re being light on the earth,” said Torres. “We’re collecting the rainwater and we’re reusing that. We’re also putting solar panels on the roof to have less draw from the electric grid."

For the first time in Mukilteo, walk-on passengers will be able to board the ferry at the same time as cars.

The new construction will also open up the waterfront to the public. For decades, much of it was the graveyard of an abandoned air force tank farm.

When the project is complete, there will be trails along the water extending all the way to Lighthouse Park.

“We’re trying to turn, not just this ferry terminal, but this whole waterfront around so Mukilteo has a waterfront they’re proud of,” said Torres.

And Ivar’s President Bob Donegan has a plan to keep his popular fish bar in the mix as well.

“We are testing a system, using mobile ordering texting, where people will text and order into the fish bar, and we’ll run it over on a bike to them. Just tell us what row you’re in and what color your car is and we’ll deliver it to you," Donegan explained.