This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
One fator that often brings down the livelyness of a city is dead, empty buildings or vacant lots. Sometimes this happens because an owner is waiting for the right market to sell, or because of some legal issue that’s being worked out. There are many blocks near my office with no street life despite being in a dense part of the city. Let’s take a look at one of them:
This is the “Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco – Seattle Branch.” Or was. Until our government decided they could save money by moving out to the suburbs and selling this high-value property downtown. And in 2008 they did just that. Except they didn’t follow their own process and perform an Environmental Impact Statement before they sold it, so they were sued (perhaps by the neighbors across the street) and in 2010 a federal judge told them they didn’t actually sell it and they still own it. So what was potentially going to be a large new skyscraper is now an empty mass of concrete.
For the past three years this building has sat, in a high value area in the middle of the city, empty. It’s very short for the area, has no retail or useful street activation, and has been rejected by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board as a landmark.
It’s true that this building added little life to the street even when it was functioning. And this is just one building. But add together enough of these dead blocks, and it can harm the city.