Running up to Thursday’s Central Waterfront kickoff event I wanted to share a video (H/T Ed Cox) that is a good primer on what waterfronts need to be successful. The videos was a presentation given by Fred Kent, founder for Project for Public Spaces, to a business group in San Diego. If you already know what place making is you can probably skip to minute 12:00. He touches on a lot of the issues that we have discussed already, most predominantly, ensuring an active waterfront, not just pretty open space.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“What you are beginning to do is thinking less about what the design is, but more about what you do in that place, and then bringing it back to how to design that place”

“Parks have become more open spaces, places to look at, but not be engaged in”

“Everywhere we look roads kill activity”

“Major destinations and active areas should have limited or no residential uses to allow evening uses”

“The best waterfront are 18 or 20 hours destinations”

“Parks should not be major destination, except in rare circumstances, because our idea of parks are very passive, not really the active kind of squares and plazas”

“Seasonal activities should be integrated into each destination”

17 Replies to “10 Destinations, 10 Places, 10 Things To Do”

  1. This was fantastic, thanks for posting it. You have some typos above in quotes (“opens spaces” and “not residential.”)

    A few thoughts.

    I have in other threads mercilessly thrashed the idea of any streetcar alignment along the waterfront as a public transit capital project, when measured against and (crucially) competing for the same funds as potential streetcar projects on busy corridors elsewhere in the city, and I stand by that. But if (and ONLY if!) landowners, businesses, the Port and the city came together to build and manage the new waterfront space in the way that this video advocates, and the lion’s share of the running cost were borne by local and neighboring businesses, it could be fantastic and I would be wildly supportive.

    That said, the streetcar is not the most important potential ingredient in this setup. Seattle’s waterfront is constrained by the SAM park to the north and the industrial area to the south, so it’s not actually that long — it’s certainly walkable for adults without kids, although probably not with kids. What’s much more important is something they repeatedly refer to in the video: the Octopus-like park (I forget where) that draws people out of the city and to the waterfront.

    I have, while advocating a 1st Ave line, suggested (to silence) a pedestrian bridge from Victor Steinbrueck park down to the waterfront; something like the Bell St bridge, but writ large and made the centerpiece of the waterfront, drawing people through our current biggest asset (Pike Place Market) to what we hope will be a big asset (the waterfront) and overcoming the biggest barrier between them (the big f***ing hill with crappy stairs and run-down old buildings) Hell, I live by the Market, and I’d walk through the Market just to walk out on such a bridge and see the sunset. It would be architecturally and visually iconic without being unapproachable — quite the opposite.

    Such a bridge puts you almost exactly in the center of the waterfront, I guarantee it would draw hordes of people to the waterfront, and it seems technically feasible (no idea about potential cost — anyone hazard a guess?) A streetcar could come later and spread those pedestrians further around the waterfront, and provide another conduit to the city.

    Two other themes that I would like to highlight are activities for kids and access to water. South of Myrtle Edwards, our waterfront is a total bust in the latter respect. And I don’t have any kids (that I know about) but I have no idea what I would do with them at the Seattle waterfront other than feed them crappy fish & chips and take them to the Aquarium. Downtown Seattle could probably afford to be a little more kid-friendly in general, so it’s essential that daytime activities be built around them at the waterfront if we want local families and tourists to dally there.

    Those three ideas (bridge, kids, water access), plus the quotes Adam pulled out from the video (no residential, no high-rises [“human scale”], minimal car traffic), are all more central to making this a success than the presence or absence of a streetcar.

    The most important idea of all though is that the local government must pragmatically activist in the way it deals with this project. Politics in this area seem to vary between hands-off corporatism a la the Seattle Times editorial page (which would just auction the land off, and demand a wide surface street with lots of parking) and a Mike McGinn-style overbearing leaftism that never saw a private function it didn’t want to take over (see his recent comments about Microsoft’s shuttle service.)

    The city has to be willing to negotiate hard with landowners about raising revenue for infrastructure improvements and directing the nature of activities, while giving those same people or their tenants the flexibility to make money doing what is in everyone’s best interests or becoming overly entangled in the details. It’s a type of pragmatic state interventionism that’s much more common in other countries than in the U.S. Could Seattle do it if the City tried? Sure. Will it? I don’t know.

    Anyway, thanks once again for posting this excellent video.

      1. I actually thought leaftism was intentionally used to indicate hardcore democratic environmental ideology.

      2. I thought so too – run with it Bruce – Leaftism!! Of course the Seattle Times might latch onto that one before you can claim credit…

    1. Thanks for the corrections and comments. I like the idea of kids and water. After the video I was thinking about amusement parks. It would be interesting if one of the docks because a Coney Island type park?

    2. Re: kids. There is Miner’s Landing with a carousel, games, and soon a Ferris Wheel. And my nieces always loved feeding french fries to the seagulls. That said, I’d welcome more attractions for children.

  2. My best apartment ever: Cannery Row, Monterey Bay in the 70’s.
    The smells from active fishing boats, coffee and fresh bread in the morning, to balcony TV of the local nighttime comedy hour in the streets was priceless. Cheap rent back then too!

  3. I work 3 blocks from the waterfront. What gets me out there is sourdough bread, and occasionally a visit to restaurants (tourist style if I’m bringing out-of-town guests, Ivars if I’m going to happy hour). So I vote for more restaurants and bars.

  4. I’d vote for a cut in the seawall with steps leading down to the water so that you could live in one of those condos and bring a kayak, or stand on surf board, to the shore and launch it. Yes it’s a working waterfront but really it’s not that hard to avoid the ferries and the cruise ships.

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