What the plaza may look like one day

If you happen to be wandering around town tomorrow morning in search of something to do, the City of Seattle will be reopening King Street Station’s Jackson Plaza in a ceremony from 10:30am to 11:15am.  Several keynote speakers will make remarks and there will be live music by the Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band.  Other parts of the station remain under construction for rehabilitation.

The plaza has yet to house any vendors/businesses, so I wouldn’t expect there to be a sudden renewal of vibrancy and activity.  There are some fairly unique design elements, however, like an all-gravel floor, which almost gives the appearance of a giant Zen garden.  The ceremony will be open to the public, but RSVPs are appreciated.

45 Replies to “King Street Station’s Jackson Plaza Reopens Friday”

  1. This is exciting!

    Although, and I hate to sound negative, I sure hope they get a cafe or something in on that plaza level ASAP, otherwise, we’ll just have a brand new Occidental or Courtyard Park.

    Also, I’ll be curious to see how that crushed granite surface holds up.

    The pictures of the new ticket counter/baggage area look simply elegant. Can’t wait until that gets opened up.

      1. Granite or Marble – to me, it looks like….

        1.) Something easy to pick up and throw.

        2.) Would be a pain to sit in a chair on, or deal with a table on.

        3.) Would be a pain to clean when someone goes to the bathroom on it.

        And those planters? Perfect toilet.

        Hope I’m wrong.

      2. I’m going to assume your joking about the gravel. If you have ever been to european city you’ll know that gravel works just fine.

      3. Oh, sorry. I haven’t been to Europe. I know that makes me inferior and/or defective. But I do know Seattle, and Pioneer Square. I know what that space was like before it got glamorized. Unless they have someone to watch over it – I.e. a business – it will be the same in short order.

        Occidental Park was supposed to be a “vibrant urban space”. Thirty years later, and several thousand dollars later, it’s still a mess.

        Courthouse Park was totally redone about fifteen years back. About fourteen years and eleven months ago, it became what it is now.

        The station needs services. All of the Amtrak operations are on the ground floor, so there’s no legitimate traffic up there to keep it respectable. Put a Starbucks or something in there, so travelers have a place to go, and the money we put into it isn’t wasted by a bunch of bums using it for their home.

  2. I would not expect any vibrancy or activity, ever. Except for an infusion of Seattle’s preferred street fauna, i.e., lounging bums, which infests all public spaces and drives out the paying customers. In the case of this plaza, the gravel will give them something to throw at each other, giving a piquant flavor to the usual street bum fight card.

    1. What is it with bums in Seattle anyway…? In many ways it’s a fairly pleasant city, but the sheer quantity of fairly aggressive homeless people makes many otherwise nice parts of the city far less attractive. No other city I’ve been in seems to have so many (or at least, so obviously).

      1. Yes, somehow West Coast cities, from LA up to Vancouver, attract more homeless people and street youth to their “urban” areas than anywhere else I’ve experienced (except Delhi; that place was crazy). Its just something that I haven’t seen in NY, DC, Boston, European cities, Asian cities, etc.

        Tolerance of rampant homelessnes/poor public behavior is either something unique about west coast culture (perhaps too compassionate, too passive/aggressive), or it has to due with our lack of walkable urban areas and transit. Those without cars are forced to hang out in very limited areas in West coast cities due to automobile-dependance everywhere else.

      2. West Coast weather is also much more tolerable year-round compared to the East Coast if you’re stuck outside.

      3. I bet the cost of housing has something to do with homeless rates, especially in SF. And I’d also guess (this is a pretty wild guess) that there are more people on the west coast than in the east that don’t have any family living in the city to help take them in.

      4. Chad and David are correct. It’s the mild weather, plus the liberalism (in its most complacent, hands-off, and thus ironically least helpful form). More survivable than Minneapolis and more hospitible than Florida). It’s not about housing costs; most of the truly lost causes didn’t start their journeys to their present state in such expensive places.

        While persistent homelessness is a pan-West Coast phenomenon, it’s a little misleading to suggest that it manifests as described — as dominance of any available public space — equally up and down the coasts. In LA, SF, and Vancouver, it is concentrated in surprisingly contained, Mad Max vortexes (the peripheries of Downtown, the ‘Loin, and the Downtown East Side, respectIvely). Disturbing places all, but it does permit the existence of public gathering spaces elsewhere in the central cities that actually get used by the rest of the citizens.

        Portland and Seattle are the only two where the homeless-dominant vibe pervades the entire central cities. And Seattle is the ONLY city where is spreads to every “urban village” far and wide. (Portland’s Ballard equivalents, for example, would not experience the same infiltration as Ballard does.) This is the result of services for the homeless and needy having been speed around the city — though never in the “single family character” neighborhoods, of course, which must always be “preserved” — but Metro also shares the blame. Thanks to their policy of minimal fare/behavioral enforcement, there’s a disinterest in distinguishing between those using those geographically disparate services (carrying tote bags to the food bank or personal belongings to the shelter) and those who would not be allowed entry to them anyway (screaming, pissing winos). The latter should get neither a free pass to travel anywhere or to be anywhere; Seattle is unique on granting them both.

        Economists have been known to suggest that providing a government-owned and -monitored flophouse in which the truly beyond-gone types can slowly waste themselves away would be cheaper and wiser than wasting untold resources on first-responder calls, not to mention the millions spent on public spaces that the public avoids or fears. That’s my position. But in the absence of such bold steps (or of adequately funded services for those who services might actually help), I have to admit that I prefer the SF/Vancouver-style quarantine approach. East Hastings is harrowing, but at least the rest of Vancouver gets to get USED! Seattle, not so much.

      5. Santa Monica is known around the world as the “Home of the Homeless”

        Some say it is in part due to the West Coast being “The end of the road”, i.e. the end of US66, the end of I-90, etc.

      6. You’re right, Santa Monica is too a bit of an epicenter, though nowhere near on the scale of S. Main on Downtown L.A.’s east flank or MacArthur Park on Downtown’s West.

        On a scale of “mood dominance” of public spaces, Santa Monica’s transients are about on par with Ballard’s, and don’t hold a candle to the U District or Pioneer Square.

      7. (Also, it is truly a separate population; you don’t see the homeless busing it back and forth between the two locii, or throughout the L.A. area, the way you do in Seattle.)

      8. This is one of the most disgusting comment threads I have ever read on STB.

        Seriously people, we are not talking about so scary and crazy “other”. These are other human beings we’re talking about. The have just as much of a right to exist and use public space as you do.

        The real cause in my opinion of the large homeless population on the west coast is the long term economic misery caused by the 30 years of neo-liberal economics. We have seen an entire generation miss out on the so called American dream. The lowest rungs of society didn’t have the socio-economic tools to cope and are now part of a permanent underclass of vagrants. Don’t forget that 1/3 of homeless men are also vets, many suffering from PTSD.

        It has been the case that many homeless people become chronic alcoholics AFTER they become homeless, as a coping mechanism. What would you do with no way out?

        Instead of harassing and criminalizing the homeless, we need public works and housing, something I don’t think we’ll see in this current political climate. In the mean time cut the homeless a break. Jeez!

      9. There is a direct link to the number of chronic homeless persons and the cutting of public mental health services by Ronald Reagan in the early 1980’s.

        “Neo-Liberal”? Pshaw!

      10. Chris, I would suspect that most people here share your political sympathies and basically agree with you. Note the last paragraph of my lengthy post, in which I said that treatment for those who might be able to accept it and a government-subsidized roof over the heads of the too far gone are both preferable to AND CHEAPER THAN the ignore/relinquish all public space/endless OD ambulance calls paradigm we have now.

        The problem is that public space that is completely dominated by the homeless and the antisocial is space that is UNHEALTHY for everyone else. It’s too mentally taxing, it keeps you on-guard in ways that are antithetical to the purpose of the space, and the odors and refuse are unappealing. To ignore the problems that the homeless bring when at critical mass is anything but progressive. It’s unproductive and ostrich-like.

      11. Erik G, you might be misunderstanding the term “Neo-Liberal.” Neo-liberalism is essentially free market economics in practice, and is favored by libertarians and Reaganites (I know, confusing, right?)

      12. Believe it or not Seattle is one of the leaders in the “housing first” movement. There is the 1811 Eastlake project along with a couple of nonprofit run buildings that don’t require people to quit drinking to get in. These programs are targeted at those who are using the most in public services (police, jails, medic one, emergency rooms).

        Seattle’s programs have reduced the cost to taxpayers. It also has removed some of the most obnoxious and visible drunks from the streets. Even better many people decide to clean themselves up once they have a roof over their heads.

        A lot of people don’t like the ‘housing first’ approach as it feels like it is rewarding bad behavior but I’m a pragmatist and say lets do whatever works.

        In my personal experience most of downtown actually seems a bit better than it was a few years ago. True areas of downtown still are very uncomfortable for someone just looking for a place to sit and eat lunch on a nice day, but it still isn’t to the level it once was.

        I’m not sure what the entire solution is but one thing that seems to help a lot is either security guards or police enforcing standards of public behavior. I’m not saying hassling people simply because they look homeless, but to enforce laws against drug dealing, prostitution, public drinking, disorderly conduct, harassment, aggressive panhandling, etc.

        In the specific case of the plaza in front of King Street station having someone in a uniform walking through periodically should keep any misbehavior down to a dull roar.

        Of course the best thing to do is to activate the space with things like a coffee stand, activities, etc.

      13. Chris M., go give a homeless bum a BJ. Its people like you idolizing homeless/street kids/bums/drug riddled lunatics/panhandlers why they run amok in western cities and why we cant have nice public spaces… streets, downtowns, parks and squares, transit, libraries, etc. So much effort and money is spent trying to create nice pleasant urban environments and reclaming streets from automobiles, only to be taken over by homeless bums with their pit bulls and piles of trash and aggressive panhandling. Then all the homeless worshippers (including the city councils) wont allow police to the enforce basic written rules essential to public spaces, shower the homeless with unlimited services and so the behavior and atmosphere gets worse and more arrive from across the country. And because our public spaces are ruined by infestations of homeless running amok, half the customers just say ‘screw it’ avoid downtown and go to highly privatized suburban malls with nazi security guards allowing for absolutely no activity but shopping. Now these have become the only place to shop. The other half devoted to being downtown has to pinch their nose and hold their breathe (figuratively and literally when there is a pile of human waste on the sidewalk) and deal with the unpleasant atmosphere which they reduce to spending the most minimal amount of time possible. No wonder we have so few public spaces in America. Cracking down on the laws and tough love is the only thing that works. NYC figured this out, its absolutely essential to a city built entirely around public spaces.

    2. (Also, it is truly a separate population; you don’t see the homeless busing it back and forth between the two locii, or throughout the L.A. area, the way you do in Seattle.)

  3. Love to see a bad spot turn into a good one!

    As for drunks, if this park attracts them I guess that’s fewer for Occidental et al.

  4. Sigh…….I hope that the above statements pan out to NOT happen. But I fear that there may be some seriously valid reasons to those three posters before me to point this out.

    Another thing that they should have thought of when working on King St. is better access to the Sounder trains from King Street’s level.

    I’m specifically referring to getting into the north end of the platform by going through the station where the steps from Jackson drop down. This used to be the case years ago in the late 90s to early 2000s. Its ridiculous to make people climb back up the stairs to only descend a few hundred feet later onto the Sounder platform.

    Last, I support people wanting to have the right to beg for money, but can’t something be done about that woman who may or may not be poor who’s ALWAYS at the top of the stairs, giving the crappiest lamest speech about how we need to feed her babies.

    Come on, can’t that place rotate beggars? Or better yet, have them move occasionally since at times the front entrance becomes congested when just one or two people stop top hear her silly sales pitch.

      1. Portland’s Union Station manages to use more than one track and lets people walk across. It is insane that it takes me 10 minutes (I’ve timed it making Cascades -> Sounder connections) to walk from one track to the other.

    1. 10 minutes is about what it takes to get between Cascades and MAX in Portland.

      It would have been nice if they could have put an entrance to the Sounder platform on the plaza, but alas it was not to be.

      Really the problem has much to do with when the Sounder platform and entrances were built. For some reason BNSF (the then owner of King Street Station), Amtrak, and Sound Transit didn’t really want to play nice with each other. The Sounder station ended up being essentially a separate station next to the existing King Street Station.

      Maybe some day we can end up with better connections from the King Street Station waiting area to the Sounder Platforms but I’m not holding my breath.

      1. I really don’t see the need to connect the King Street Station waiting area to the Sounder platforms.

  5. Moreover, it is an abomination that we are spending all this money to refurbish the station and then they plant trees in front of it to block the view of it from the street. I know, softening blah blah organic blah blah design of space blah blah … did they ever hear of shrubbery? Bushes? Something a passerby can see over? But wait, you reply, these are deciduous trees, and deciduous trees in Seattle are only leafed out for a handful of months a year — the rest of the time we will be able to see through their barren, lifeless branches. Splendid. Nothing says “softening” like a naked tree branch.

    1. First you must find… another shrubbery! (dramatic chord) Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must place it here, beside this shrubbery, only slightly higher so you get a two layer effect with a little path running down the middle. (“A path! A path!”) Then, you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forrest… with… a herring!”

  6. Wow. A lot of Negative Nancys in here tonight! lol

    Anne and I went to KSS when we were in town last month. Very impressed with the progress that has been made. This is one more step. As others have said, hopefully we’ll get some activation. Best doeners in Mannheim were right outside the Hauptbahnhof.

    1. Seriously. If you don’t like Pioneer Square, don’t go there, leave it those of us who don’t mind its problems and who’d love to live there.

  7. I think it’s really ugly. I walk by it a lot and each time I grimace. The exact thought that went through my head the last time was “They need to fire whoever came up with this”. Honest it was.

  8. With the use of gravel on the ground, am I wrong to picture something sort of like Counterbalance Park (which is a pretty unimpressive public space, to me, but not necessarily because of the gravel)?. Is this plaza going to be right up to the south side of Jackson? I just walked through there last weekend and didn’t see anything threatening to look like that happy, open, mocked-up “picture”!

    1. Certainly glad to see that according to the architect or SDOT, only White people will visit this park.

  9. Don’t forget that this is “Transportation Infrastructure” so it falls first under Amtrak Police and then the TSA.

    Maybe the TSA can give the Bums and Transients some skin cancer with their leaky Nude-O-Scope followed by a “Freedom Grope”? That might keep them (both parties) from never coming back!

  10. Man .. west coasters are obsessed about the homeless. The North east cities have tons of homeless people. The difference is that we just stopped caring and ignore them. I been to Seattle and Portland, SF and LA, there is no real problem. you western people care way too much for your own good. be like us east coast people and just ignore the problem.

  11. It would be really interesting to have a time lapse camera set up on the site and see what happens there over time.

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