Roosevelt station planning has received enormous media attention, but I haven’t heard any mention of another station opening in a center-city neighborhood only a couple of years later: Rainier.
Rainier Station lies in the middle of the wide I-90 roadway, and the environmental conditions there will probably never allow it to be another Belltown or Capitol Hill. A large amount of the area within the golden quarter-mile and half-mile radii is taken up by the freeway and its onramps and offramps.
All the same, the station will have entrances on both the Rainier Avenue and 23rd Avenue corridors, featuring extensive bus service. Note that only about four blocks of Rainier from between Dearborn St. through Downtown Columbia City will be more than a half mile from Link. There’s an opportunity for a continuous, dense, interconnected corridor with absolutely incredible transit service.
As far as I can tell, there are three basic types of land here:
- Light industrial and commercial a block or two to either side of Rainier. Some parcels are better used than others here, and entrances are generally surprisingly close to the street, but there could certainly stand to be a lot more height. Most is zoned C1-65 with some C1-40 right against the station area, but in reality it is nowhere near that intense.
- Single Family homes. We all know that thou shalt not mess with single-family neighborhoods, but there are townhomes already slipping in because it is zoned LR2 and LR3* south of the station. There’s a little of the dreaded SF5000, but the 23rd Avenue entrance will basically be surrounded by LR1.
- Parks. It’s been too long since I’ve written anything for my lonely war on parks. In almost every direction from the 23rd Avenue entrance, the immediate approaches are lonely patches of grass. Ownership is split between the city’s Parks Department and WSDOT, with lots of obstacles to development.** In any case green space is an even more dangerous third rail than single-family zoning in Seattle. Nevertheless, thousands of potential units won’t be built, making intensive use of the bordering areas all the more important to both utilize the station and activate all that (anecdotally) empty parkland.
According to Mayoral spokesman Aaron Pickus, DPD doesn’t have any firm plans to take another look at land use in this area. And it may very well be that there will never be demand here for intensive uses. However, I’m in favor of letting developers figure it out by taking the risk, not preventing us from ever finding out due to over-regulation.
* Here’s the fact sheet explaining LR zones. Basically, these are 30′ height limits with maximum floor-to-area ratios (FARs) of around 1. LR3 is a little better, but not by much.
** Noel Brady of WSDOT tells me that the lid itself is not engineered to support buildings of any kind. The WSDOT property South of Judkins St. is officially part of the I-90 ROW, and to be sold would therefore need to be (i) declared excess to future highway needs and (ii) be cleared by FHWA. Another source tells me that these federally funded parklands have onerous replacement requirements built into the law.