For the record, although I wouldn’t endorse every statement in it, I broadly agree with Fnarf’s prescription for the waterfront. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the winning presentation, which seemed to acknowledge that Seattle is a city and that we’re unlikely to transition to wilderness over two blocks.

Perhaps I merely heard what I wanted to hear. All of the presentations were vague enough that it could happen. However, Bertolet is right that there should be some private purposes on the waterfront, and that it’s not the architects but the City’s guidance that might cause problems.

What’s frustrating is that the anti-density rhetoric is frustratingly vague about what the real problems would be, instead relying on ambiguous analogy. First, City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw:

“I’ve heard many people ask, ‘Are you going to allow giant condominiums and hotels along the waterfront?’ The answer is, no, and that is something I’ve been working to prevent, frankly, for years,” Bagshaw said. “We believe the [existing buildings that now face the viaduct] will turn toward the waterfront. … We do not want this to become Miami Beach. This is Seattle: We want to see the water and touch the water.”

Also, People’s Waterfront Coalition leader Cary Moon, who did a lot of good work on behalf of the surface/transit/I-5 option:

If we don’t give this opportunity the attention it deserves, staying focused on the public interest, our worst tendencies for laissez-faire development will likely prevail. The result could come out feeling like downtown Bellevue or a new subdivision in Dallas.

Leaving aside the “Dallas subdivision” example, which strikes me as silly, I don’t see any problem with hotels and condos. Having people live on the waterfront is better than alternative places for them to live, and guarantees that people are there year-round. Hotels, of course, generate jobs and tax revenue. And of course, the City profits from the sale of land in the first place.

As for Downtown Bellevue, for all its faults it’s much better for the region than another Enumclaw, and here in Seattle we know how to do better. And of course the most obvious urbanist critique of Bellevue — that the blocks are too large — is the single thing most easily controlled by the city.

It is true that this is not a terribly large piece of land. A bad decision here will not fatally wound the city. But we are spending $700m to build this space, in effect, and it makes sense to make the most out of this investment that we can.

59 Replies to “Editorial: The Waterfront Selection”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you here, the best thing for the waterfront and for Seattle would be to add a balance of private and public uses. One thing I noticed while living in Copenhagen with its prized public spaces is that the public spaces were made valuable by their proximity to very dense city around them. They were in a way successful because of how small they were: the surrounding density supplied the local activities and patrons that a good public space needs, while at the same time feeling open mostly in contrast to the narrow streets at their periphery. Jane Jacobs (an urbanist writer from the 50s who fought the modernist project-ification of new York) makes the same point in her writing, eschewing unprogrammed parks as “attracting problem people” (we were less all inclusive with our language then)

    Basically, I think public space is essential to the waterfront but equally essential are the private uses that support it and give it value. Also, Seattle could use the sale money and expanded tax base, on a more practical note.

    1. How is this space not close to dense uses?! Already adjacent to this property are plenty of restaurants, shops, night clubs, a working marina, one of the largest ferry terminals in the country, the Seattle Aquarium, hotels, the biggest tourist destination in the state, a number of conference spaces, and contrary to what some people think, residences and offices. There are also a good number of vacant or under utilized sites that provide ample opportunity to increase these uses.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this space is within walking distances of literally THOUSDANDS of downtown workers, residents, and visitors at all times of the day!

      1. I think Jeff is just saying that private uses can play a positive role, not that the waterfront if far from dense places. And that Copenhagen’s public spaces are beneficial even though they’re small.

      2. Here’s my response back to you, Josh?

        Then are you suggesting that the only thing keeping all of those THOUSANDS of people from coming and using the Waterfront currently is the noise from the Viaduct? Which apparently doesn’t prevent them from working/living/visiting nearby? Or getting to/from their jobs/homes/tourist sites?

      3. Mickymse: In a lot of ways, yes. The noise and ugliness and sketchiness produced by the Viaduct makes the Waterfront not a very pleasant place to be. But also, the park there will attract people during their lunch hour or to walk their dogs, whereas the Waterfront currently doesn’t really support these things. And, the new Waterfront will most likely be lined with development with ground floor retail on the east side, and the park will hopefully be full of street food, attracting lots of people.
        There will be development on the Waterfront! It will be 80 feet from the water, on the east side of Alaskan Way, instead of 40! And everything will turn out great!

      4. Mickymse: Well first I would disagree that no one comes and uses the waterfront. I think if someone did a pedestrian study they would find many more people in the vicinity than nearly any place outside of downtown Seattle. And there are plenty of businesses that attest to this: a teriyaki joint, a music venue, an antique emporium, a skate shop, plenty of restaurants (heck, getting a seat in the bar at Ivars on Friday is nearly impossible), etc. all do a fine businesses in the shadow of the viaduct. And of course there are the destination spots that I already mentioned, including the Aquarium, Ferry Terminal, Marina, and what have you.

        The thing is, none of these people leisurely enjoy the public space while getting to these destinations, and really who can blame them. Its a giant parking lot under a loud, double-decker freeway. It isn’t exactly a relaxing place to take in the scenery.

        But by taking down the viaduct and creating a vibrant and compelling public space that is utterly unique (something that JCFO has proven they can do and perhaps the reason they were chosen) the space will capture many of the people who are already moving through the area.

        As well as attract people from the adjacent neighborhoods who have constantly been requesting open space. Just imagine that if even one, decent-sized grassy field is created, all of the people living in downtown, pioneer square, and belltown will be able to go out and throw the frisbee or kick a soccer ball, something they physically can’t do without trudging to Cal Anderson or Myrtle Edwards (which, unlike this space, is a park with no adjacent amenities and thus, not nearly as attractive).

      5. [This is a second response to mickymse below]: By that logic, we shouldn’t have developed the Lincoln Reservoir because absolutely no one went there unless they were buying or using drugs.

        And yet today, through successful park design, Cal Anderson is one of the most vibrant and enjoyable places in the city.

      6. I think there is value in both sides of this argument. If we just put in a park it will be used reasonably well. But then this use will only be during the day, particularly on weekends. That’s one of Pioneer Square’s problems. Because not many people live in the area (and yes, it’s a very close walk from where people do live and work), it becomes empty and uncomfortable during other times. What would help make this an enjoyable site all of the time would be to bring in mixed uses. Hotels and condos would be prime examples of these uses, keeping eyes on the street at all hours.

        I think there’s plenty of room for compromise. Allow buildings interspersed with pocket parks and small plazas (perhaps Italian style, ringed with restaurants and bars but inherently a public space). We could certainly include a grassy space, but I don’t see how it would be an improvement over nearby Mertle Edwards Park.

  2. Whether we do better than Miami or Bellevue depends on one thing: transit needs to be a key part of the project from the get-go, and not just an add-on or an afterthought.

    Show me the grooved rail. Show me the catenary.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Transit – yes. Grooved rail? I have my doubts. The reason why I say this is because it’s going to be half-assed here. Street cars make no sense when buses accomplish the same thing. If it were to be a grade separated rail system, then by all means I’d be in support of it.

      1. Ummm, Mike, please compare the ridership on the GBWF streetcar before it was removed with the ridership on Metro’s bus substitute, Route 99. I don’t have the numbers at hand (am sure Metro would be happy to provide them) but suffice it to say, they strongly indicate riders’ preference for the streetcar.

        Put it back!

      2. Ok – say a streetcar is to be re-implemented here… How do you suggest that it is implemented? IMO, the current route does nothing for connections, save its close proximity to King St Station. (and for the life of me, I do not understand Seattle’s fixation on street cars)

        My biggest gripe with streetcars is that they aren’t solving any problem that buses can’t already. Perhaps it is a bit more comfortable to ride, but there is no efficiency benefit here. They still get stuck in traffic; they have to deal with traffic lights, and you know that Seattle will do a horrible job at implementing it (Look at the SLU with it’s single track endpoints and the point that it doesn’t connect with any other major lines or terminus)

        I would much rather see money diverted to extend the SLU in both directions – get it up to the U District and connect it with the Link and extend the other end down to at least 3rd Ave. Then again, the waterfront project is years and years down the road, so diverting money is a moot point, I suppose.

        Regardless, I’d rather see Seattle spend money on efficient means of public transportation to encourage more use to get cars off the road. I just don’t see Streetcars meeting that need.

      3. Ah, and Transit Guy – initial research shows that it was about 50% higher than what the current ridership on the 99 is. My question is who is the main rider of the former streetcar? Seattle residents or tourists? By all means, I agree that railed systems are more touristy friendly than buses, but I’d like to see a system that will benefit Seattle residents, too.

        I mean, take a look at the current monorail. It is almost 100% useless for Seattle residents. It only goes 1 mile and only has two stops which are the end points at Seattle Center and Westlake, but yet it somehow stays profitable. Why? Because of tourists. If the monorail were to disappear one day, I highly doubt many would complain because it would affect their daily commute (they may complain about the historical significance, though.)

      4. Buses do not accomplish the same things that street cars do in terms of expanding walkability and communicating to developers the permanence of a corridor as a development area. Buses move people, sure, even more efficiently than a street car. But it doesn’t change the feel of an area.

        Don’t look at the Seattle Street Car. Look at the Portland Street Car. The Seattle Street Car doesn’t go anywhere. A street car along the waterfront would be very useful for connecting the south and north parts of this spread out area.

      5. @Allison – just to play devil’s advocate.

        “…permanence of a corridor as a development area.” If that were the case, why were streetcar rails paved over decades ago and why did the Waterfront Streetcar stop operations in 2005?

        I have been to Portland and rode their MAX (Red/Blue lines up to the Zoo from downtown.) and it’s painfully slow and it seems to stop at every other block. Maybe I feel this way because I grew up in Philly, DC and NYC and understand a relatively more efficient rail transit system.

      6. Mike, it helps that the streetcar isn’t intended to serve the same market as the DC Metro or NYC subway. This goes double for the waterfront streetcar, which was a heritage tourist novelty. That’s what Link is for.

        I’m sold on the streetcar as a great collector to feed Link stations, stimulate development, and increase mobility within areas of Seattle. I’m not sold on it as a point-to-point commute mode, particularly for the downtown-to-North Seattle commute. What I’ve seen from the Mayor’s office makes me nervous that the city is going to try to stretch the streetcar into a Link-light.

      7. Turning the streetcar into “link-light” is exactly what should be done. European streetcars generally run in their own lanes (often shared with buses) so they are not stuck in traffic, and they stop less often. We probably can’t afford grade-separated light rail from West Seattle to Ballard anytime soon, but we probably could manage a “rapid streetcar” up to Ballard at least. The downfall of most American streetcar systems is that they don’t have enough dedicated right-of-way to enable them to skip past traffic and become really useful transit. The other problem is the lines being too short–the SLUT just doesn’t serve enough of a market and runs infrequently enough that one can often walk faster. As far as the waterfront goes, I think the streetcar plan is correct that 1st Avenue is the better place for a streetcar, hopefully running all the way to Uptown. For Alaskan Way the key is to make the east-west connections using existing or new bus routes.

      8. “Rapid streetcar to Ballard.”

        So that’s what “rapid streetcar” means. I saw the term a couple days ago and thought, baloney. So many routes are called “rapid” but they turn out not to be.

        Re the Ballard route, the SLUT takes at least 15 minutes to reach Lake Union. That’ll be built into the downtown-Ballard time unless the route is speeded up. I’ve suggested eliminating two stops (7th, and Mercer), which would no doubt have opposition, and it would still add only a minor increase. So, I don’t know what you do with that other than go another route and bypass the SLUT.

      1. I think it would be great if transit emphasized the east-west connection instead of running along Alaskan Way. The 10/12 and other trolley buses could go down to Alaskan Way instead of turning onto 1st. It would require extending the wires, but it would really help overcome the perceived barrier of the grade change.

      2. You still need something on the waterfront. People go to “the waterfront” and then want to go to “another part of the waterfront”.

        A trolleybus would have most of the benefits of a streetcar, yet presumably cost less to install, and would be less controversial to implement. I think the Melbourne streetcars need a rebuild, and Australia won’t export any more, so we’d either have to refurbish them ourselves or build new replicas (or just go with modern streetcars).

        I’d also like to see the route turn at Broad Street and go to Seattle Center. That would make the Sculpture Park more accessible (it’s on a hill two blocks from bus stops, which is difficult for the disabled), and connect three major tourist attractions (the waterfront, Seattle Center, and the Sculpture Park).

  3. 1. Why do people talk about Bellevue like it’s some terrible place? Frankly I think that Bellevue is the one bright spot in the region outside of downtown Seattle. It’s dense, walkable (I don’t get these complaints about the “blocks being to big”, I think it’s just right), has a tight transit net with service to most everywhere from BTC. In fact, the only concern I have with Bellevue is that it isn’t big enough, I would prefer even more, taller buildings in the downtown core.

    2. That being said, I don’t think we need to be concerned about how this space is going to be used. Really, there’s about 2.5 acres of usable space at the point where the viaduct leaves the waterfront at the north end. The rest is a long linear swatch 50 ft wide, that you can’t do much with.

    1. I feel drowned by cars there. And you can’t get there without a car. And then everything is enclosed and not open to the street. It doesn’t feel right.

    2. “Why do people talk about Bellevue like it’s some terrible place?”

      The car is king in Bellevue and in virtually every area of the downtown, priority is given to moving people via automobile, not on foot or in transit. You only need to walk around and try to get a “walk” signal to know what I mean. Press the “walk” button just after the cars heading your direction got a green light? Sorry, you’ll still have a “Don’t walk” until the next light cycle. Want to bike in Bellevue? You can do it if you’re comfortable riding on the street – it’s not that bad although some A**holes do honk at you. Not comfortable riding on the street or without a dedicated bike lane? You’re stuck on the sidewalk which is actually more dangerous, although legal in Bellevue.

      Don’t get me wrong, Bellevue does have a pretty good balance going today and it’s relatively pleasant to walk and bike in – if you don’t mind waiting a lot. That said, if the city doesn’t start prioritizing pedestrians and transit over automobiles, it will choke soon. There is a ton of residential and office development, with associated parking stalls, that currently sits empty, and more on the drawing board. Once that fills up, it will be much less pleasant to get around no matter how you move about.

      1. Exactly — the main problems with DT Bellevue are not the developments, but the things that are directly under the City’s control. That’s why I’m optimistic we can do better in Seattle.

      2. I live in the downtown core of Bellevue, and agree generally with the overly car oriented development.

        On the other hand, there have been some recent steps in the other direction. The street that my apartment is on 108th Ave NE underwent a road diet within the last two months between NE 8th and NE 12th. This stretch was reduced from 2 lanes each direction to 1, plus a center median and bike lanes were added. The changes have overall made the street feel a whole lot more comfortable to be walking at street level.

        I think the major problem with the layout in Bellevue is the mega block concept, which treats a group of 4 smaller blocks as a single block. The roads between mega blocks (e.g., NE 2d, NE 4th, NE 6th, NE 8th, NE 10th, etc.) was planned as a two lane each direction avenue that functions as a major car artery. Between the avenues, there should be narrower streets at NE 3d, 5th, 7th, 9th. But these streets don’t actually continue through, and on most megablocks don’t even exist. With development grouped into megablocks, each megablock becomes an island unto itself – separated by car dominated chasms that are the avenues.

        I’m much more accustomed to the city I grew up in (Portland), which is very pedestrian friendly due to smaller blocks and all streets being one-way 2 lanes. This allows the traffic signals to be well coordinated. The 2 lane width streets are a lot less intimidating to pedestrians.

      3. “I live in the downtown core of Bellevue, and agree generally with the overly car oriented development. ”

        Sorry, I worded that awkwardly. What I meant was I agree that Bellevue is overly car dominated in its development.

      4. Also, there’s very little ground floor retail. It’s creepy to be walking along blocks amid skyscrapers with 6 or 8 lanes of cars whizzing past you, without seeing a single other pedestrian, and a lot of that is because all the retail is inside malls and not out on the street where it could stimulate the pedestrian environment.

  4. I agree, and don’t understand the wholesale opposition to commercial use. We don’t need to recreate Miami – we have some great examples of small-scale commercial and infill right here in Seattle. The triangular building along Pike Place between Pike and Pine is narrow, three stories at the most, and lined with small, busy locally-owned shops. It has narrow storefronts that maximize the number of businesses that can cram into the building. The low height still allows for views. There are also some infill projects (i.e. Liz Dunn’s work on CapHill) that have small footprints, provide retail space, and have living space above. I feel they have been a great addition to the Hill. The new Melrose Market is another example of how much commercial use can be fit even into a narrow one-story building. We can ‘see and touch’ the water in Seattle in so many different locations – it seems that we can accomplish both in this project, and that it doesn’t need to be an either/or proposition. I would hope that this process will consider both.

    1. I understand it – it’s frightening. Developers are by nature not interested in the long term, but the turn over to private owners. They want to make as much money as possible up front and then it’s not really their problem anymore. It doesn’t often lead itself to the public interest.

      But that doesn’t mean it can’t be well circumscribed by the city.

      I kind of want the waterfront to feel like Cannery Row in Monterey, CA or even Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, if not so completely given over to tourist kitch. That, plus a good wide bike path that connects Elliot Bay Park to the West Seattle Bridge and just your typical greenery that goes along with building in Seattle and the whole area being commercial would be a valuable use.

    2. I’m not in favor of unbridled development of the waterfront, but if it weren’t for the evil developers Seattle would still be a forest and tide flats and we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.

    3. I think the fear of expensive condos and hotels is somewhat justified. Those things would bring in revenue and activity, but does not fit at all with the theme of a gritty waterfront. I think some kind of low-rise commercial, though, would be great, especially along the eastern side and maybe with some free-standing structures in the park portion itself. I recently read a case study of Bryant Park in NYC and found to my surprise that it is a private company that contracts with the city to run it. By building a couple small restaurants and a coffee kiosk along the edge of the park, along with charging for big events, they are able to raise $2 million a year for operations, compared to $250,000 the city had been spending for operations. That means the park is clean and safe. The bathrooms even get cleaned every day! I think some kinds of private uses on the waterfront would help generate revenue for maintenance and might add to the street life, but Bagshaw is right to caution against big hotel and condo buildings. Let’s find the happy medium.

  5. I think Cary Moon’s comment should be changed to “We will either build like Bellevue along the waterfront, or we will have even more spawling subdivisions like Dallas.” And I dont understand the distain for suburban densification. Bellevue may not be up to certain asethetics, but its better than the alternative that was there before.

    In any event, if the proposal for Point Wells is any indication, there is a signficant potential for smart growth along the waterfront. Better to have it in downtown seattle than stuck in edmonds:

  6. Based only on the public presentations, I see the selection of JCFO over GGN as an indication the selection team desires something “monumental” as much as integrated. Which doesn’t have to mean sterile, huge, or disconnected, but I expect some attention to the “brand of Seattle”. Will the waterfront contribute in large scale (skyline view) or small scale (beauty shots) to the international image of our city?

    Forgive me for being a n00b, I moved here weeks after the monorail initiative gasped its last breath, but since the Needle and the Monorail are our two biggest external images today, wouldn’t a waterfront monorail fit nicely?

    1. A waterfront monorail would be awesome. Although I think they would rather install a streetcar, or light rail line to be backwards compatible with what is already being installed within the city. An elevated monorail would display sweeping views of the city and the bay. To be honest, I think most visitors would think that monorail has been there just as long as the Seattle Center monorail. Before I moved here, I assumed Seattle had an established monorail line (not a one mile tourist fun ride). :) With that said, I moved from Orlando, FL where I road the Disney monorail all the time. ;) I would love to see Seattle expand a little on theirs.

      1. The amusing anecdote is that a waterfront monorail was considered… and the SMP abandoned it for two main reasons:

        1) It was deemed too far away (especially with elevation change) from CBD.

        2) To avoid delay due to uncertainty around the Viaduct replacement process.

        I guess #2 didn’t need to be much of a concern after all! ;-)

      2. You aren’t the only one Johnny, I was very disappointed when I got here to find out that not only did the Monorail not go anywhere, but that the entire transit system was bus only. :(

      3. It is an almost 200-foot climb from the waterfront to the Needle (or Westlake), so connecting to the original monorail might be awkward. And not connecting would be very tourist-confusing. Of course, we could always have an *extremely* elevated monorail. ;-)

        (How high is the viaduct, anyway?)

      4. Since the Monorail is rubber tired and electrically driven I don’t see why it couldn’t climb nearly the same gradient as an ETB. And, just because Monorails are usually elevated doesn’t mean that they must be.

  7. Just make sure another avant garde park doesnt continue to destroy the waterfront streetcar.

    james corner field operations is the leader of the Landscape Urbanism movement, therefore this selection determined that seattle is getting a Landscape Urbanism park, just as if Frank Gehry is brought on as an architect you know what you are getting and what you are not getting.

    Don’t be fooled that because ‘Landscape Urbanism’ has the word ‘urbanism’ in the title that it is urbanism. Landscape Urbanism is not urbanism as most of us here know it, it has little in common with William Whyte/Jane Jacobs urbanism, New Urbanism, true urbanism, real urbanism, etc. Here is a recent entertaining video of Andres Duany describing Landscape Urbanism…
    New Urbanism Is Not the Next Urbanism

    1. The link seems to require Silverlight, which I don’t know if it’s available for Linux but I’m not inclined to install another plugin. Can you summarize the differences between Landscape Urbanism and urbanism? Are you saying we’d get a giant sculpture that nobody would visit?

      1. duany specifically suggests checking out wikipedia for landscape urbanism.

        its hard to summarize or substitute for duany especially this talk, half of it is just his entertaining way of talking. its definitely worth watching, first you think he hates them, then he praises them and puts down his fellow new urbanists, then attacks again. landscape urbanism is quite obscure to begin but duany tries to piece it together, its the best understanding i’ve been able to find about LU.

      2. sorry i accidentially clicked the post too early, that last link is a blog post about landscape urbanism by a new urbanist blogger who also linked to the video.

        people make a big deal about the high line, it is definitely cool. but there are two audiences experiencing it and they are both not appreciating the same thing despite overwhelmingly positive reviews of the highline. one is the public which loves it because there is a cool wow factor to walking on an old elevated rail line that snakes through buildings in an urban environment – they are almost oblivious to the actual park design, the other are the designers who arent so interested in the wow factor of an old elevated railroad but love the aesthetics of the actual park design… the off-limits overgrown planting, the fetishizing of industrial ruins, the pealing up of the “ground plane”. It is this last part that is “landscape urbanism” and which is sweeping the entire design profession like wildfire. This is what this park will be, this is what olympic sculpture park is, and i suppose even to some degree gas works park despite being 35 years old.

        I do encourage you to try to watch the video if you can, it will be worth your time, enjoyable and will answer your question much better than i can.

      3. Thank you. My point is that this is a text forum, so any links to multimedia would please have a text summary, especially if it’s a non-universal format. Also, blind people can’t watch movies, the external site may be down, or the video may be deleted at some point (somebody may link to this thread in a later article).

      4. So you’re objecting to industrial infrastructure and materials made into art? I can’t remember the name for it, but where they leave the air conditioning ducts exposed and sometimes painted brightly. The old Bellevue Transit Center at 106th & 4th has one of those (pure decoration, non-functional). I happen to like that kind of art. Certainly it shouldn’t be overdone, but I can’t think of any places where it has been. (I haven’t seen the High Line.) But the exterior of the library gets uglier over time.

        It sounds like you’re making a personal distaste for industrial art and large metal sculptures into a generalization?

      5. This is what this park will be, this is what olympic sculpture park is, and i suppose even to some degree gas works park despite being 35 years old.

        I love Gas Works and it gets a lot of use. I hate the Olympic Sculpture Park although I hear it’s getting used in spite of the don’t touch “sculptures”. I see no resemblance between the two. OK, maybe they’re related like Michael Angelo’s David resembles a concrete peeing lawn statue :=

    2. Spot on. The video is hilarious when not absolutely frightening. I hope jc is ready for some close, heavy oversight.

      1. I like Gasworks Park too and I like the High Line including its design. I wont hide my dislike for Olympic Sculpture Park though (and is more than just the loss of the streetcar). And I’m not saying I dislike Landscape Urbanism rather my issue with Landscape Urbanism is its lack of concern with urbanism as in using buildings to define space, its disinterest in the pedestrian and the street. I do find many of landscape urbanism’s key design atttributes as working against this which I take issue to especially in an urban location like this.

      2. Sounds more like you’re concerned over the implementation than the concept. Some have proposed leaving part, be it sections, columns or even a usable lower level for pedestrian and bicycle use. I think, done right (major disclaimer that if it doesn’t work out I can just claim it wasn’t “done right”) embracing the viaduct in the “waterfront renewal could be great. I also think it’s important that we maintain the feel of the old working waterfront. Maybe that’s why this group got the nod. I don’t know enough to pick a favorite but so far I’m hoping a good choice was made and don’t see any reason to believe otherwise.

      3. The presentation didn’t seem anti-pedestrian to me. I am very concerned that places should be walkable, and I don’t like “dead paths” like grass swath above the Mt Baker Tunnel. I just don’t have a strong opinion on whether it should be mostly buildings or open space or kebab carts or something else; I need to see some specific designs. The problem with the library is that architecture was allowed to get ahead of functionality. That could be a problem here but again I’ll wait for some specific designs. What I liked about the team was they asked the right questions and had the best mix of specialists: they seem to understand urbanism, at least from my impression.

        I was in Manchester in 2000 and 2002 and it looked clean and revived and bustling and there’s a newish streetcar across town (ending in a pre-development area like Bel-Red). If that’s what the guy cites as one of his influences, that’s a good sign.

  8. The result could come out feeling like downtown Bellevue

    Heaven forbid! What will happen to all the drunks and panhandlers? Bellevue “for all its faults” has higher rents and a lower vacancy rate than DT Seattle. It also has lower property taxes and much better schools. I don’t understand the criticism about block size and simultaneously saying it’s too car oriented. Bellevue is doing a great job of providing pedestrian pathways and keeping cars on a “2 fer” grid means every odd “street” is a pedestrian only ROW. And, by reducing the number of intersections you decrease gridlock. Sure it’s car oriented but that’s the only option Bellevue had over the last 2-3 development cycles. Now high-rise residential for the first time is being strongly brought into the mix which I think is going to be a game changer. Oh, and for the record I like DT Enumscratch ;-)

    1. Why do you feel pedestrian pathways are a good thing? What do they accomplish that sidewalks do not? Besides the privacy.

      1. Well, for one thing I sort of like not walking next to traffic and having to wait for lights to cross. Of course I also think on street parking (free or metered) is an eyesore, dangerous for bikes and creates congestion from people endlessly circling looking for a spot and then turning the road into a traffic jam while they try to parallel park. What does carving up DT Bellevue into itty bitty tiny squares divided by through streets accomplish?

      2. I really have no deep thoughts on Bellevue besides it isn’t a truly good urban environment. Then again, it’s suburban so it’s not so bad that it’s not a good urban environment. The big blocks make it undesirable for me to live there because everything is further apart, but I’m just one person. Seattle can and should do things differently, with a bent toward urbanism that Bellevue only half successfully mimics.

    2. bernie, do you think off-street parking is an eyesore? i.e. endless acres of asphalt

      Not sure what you’re asking? Development in DT Bellevue has hinged around underground parking which I see as absolutely fine. Tax it yes because all those cars are using city financed streets to get there. I’m involved in the Bellevue CIP process where this all has to be worked out. “endless acres of asphalt” is not great but if that is what develops then at least those “endless acres” should be private land paying property tax rather than city owned ROW.

  9. my question was more in general and less specifically about bellevue, since bellevue isnt really an on-street parking type of place either.

    on-street parking typically makes money and in highly urbanized areas can be a cashcow for a city (personally i think city parking revenue should not be about maximizing revenue but rather finding the perfect medium for parking availability that benefits merchants the most, the parking revenue should be treated as a bonus windfall and not something the city is dependent on for everyday city finances that unfortunately is the case in many cities).

    personally, i’m a fan of on-street parking, because its cheap to implement, popular (people love parking in front of their destinatation), is less offensive and wasteful of land (IMO) than off street parking lots, orients businesses and general activity to the sidewalk and most of all i like that on-street parking provides a buffer for pedestrians, reduces street width, and makes the streets less thoroughfare-like and more traditional city street-like. sure underground garages are great but they are also ridiculously expensive that only the densest of projects can afford to build them at $40,000-80,000 space. when you have high parking ratios as is the case in bellevue given its physical nature thats a lot of money going into parking for a given project.

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