Hearkening to a past of glory, photo via SDOT

For anyone not keeping an eye on SDOT’s Flickr page, there are some remarkable photos of ongoing construction progress on King Street Station, which is currently undergoing extensive seismic and restoration work.  As a bonus, there are even historic photos of what once was.  The waiting area for Amtrak passengers has been temporarily relocated to a narrow corridor under the west canopy outside of the station.  Meanwhile, select demolition and seismic retrofits continue in the main waiting room, which will undoubtedly be the centerpiece of the station interior, upon completion.

Aside from restoration work itself, I think the biggest problem still haunting the station is its integration into the King Street hub, of which only so much can be solved by wayfinding.  While we can imagine ways for grandiose improvement without so much as a penny to fund them, the need still persists and will continue to do so as we build up our local, regional, and interstate rail networks into the future.

34 Replies to “King Street Station Work Coming Along”

  1. It’s truly a crime that the largest population of daily riders in and out of King Street – Sounder riders (of course!) – won’t set foot inside the place. I grew up riding in and out of Grand Central Terminal in New York on Metro North – and there really isn’t any experience like stepping off a dark and dirty platform into the massive grand hall. It’s a shame that Sounder riders won’t be treated to a similar experience.

    1. Why is that a crime. The commuters are in such a big hurry to get to the love-fest at work, or the love-fest at home, why would they care? Nothing is stopping them from paying the inside of the station a visit, eh?

      1. That’s true – it’s just that the normal route doesn’t even take them through there. Never know what you’ve got if it’s been hidden by ceiling tiles for years, I guess.

  2. “While we can imagine ways for grandiose improvement without so much as a penny to fund them, the need still persists and will continue to do so as we build up our local, regional, and interstate rail networks into the future.”

    I’m willing to listen to any plan, grandiose or not, for integrating Sounder into King Street Station as well as one to connect it to the International District Link Station.

    Get a plan, get momentum behind it, get funding, get it built.

    1. At the very least, some overground solution. They had the right idea with the overpass at Weller St, but — derp! — it doesn’t go to all of the platforms and — derp again! — it’s too far away from the station room itself. A simple fix: a covered walkway.

      Doesn’t solve a whole set of other problems though – what about the Link station, who’s gonna pony up for that? All honesty, who would want to go out of their way to walk into the station when the Sounder platforms already have really good street access already? Won’t the existing overpass need new stairs down to the Amtrak platform too?

      I get the feeling that because the station building itself was so underused for such a long time, that it was simply ignored, and the community built around it. This in itself is not a problem – but it may not be what we truly desired in the end.

      1. I would imagine Sound Transit would be the most likely candidate to pony up to fund the majority of it. The City, State and Amtrak being minority partners.

        As to the how, the most obvious answer would be as part of the upcoming Sound Transit 3 measure. But for that to happen someone needs to make a plan and start getting momentum behind it. Enough momentum to get Sound Transit to figure out how much it will cost and then to keep the pressure on to make sure it gets included in the ballot measure.

        Of course the bottom line is money. The more money ST has to build quality transit in Seattle the more quality transit we will get. That is why Seattle Subway is so desperately needed. Sound Transit has the proven ability to build some really great projects (under budget and ahead of schedule every project the last decade) they just need direction and cash.

      2. Sound Transit is not a money tree. The Seattle Subway lines will cost billions of dollars, and are more beneficial than a few ramps. SW have to keep the price tag low enough that future ST measures pass, and we may hit a ceiling of affordability if the DBT has cost overruns and the new ArenaCo goes bankrupt.

      3. Mike, the price tag seems not to factor much into what people are willing to vote for, because if we spend more, we get more benefit, and people are voting for that benefit!

    2. Here’s your plan, Matt: An LAUS style concourse, with ramps leading down from both platforms of the ID station, the link platform, and the Amtrak platform, right alongside the east side of King Street Station. It would run under the ID Station, Union Station, 4th ave S, and the BNSF tracks.

      4th avenue is set to be rebuilt here in the next few years, what better time to do it?

  3. It’s also a big shame that the adjacent King County building to the northwest has parking and loading docks on the ground floor, directly facing the “front porch” of the station. Oops.

    1. Another delightful example of not taking the wider view when planning activities are going on – this was an inexcusable design flaw on the Count’s and City’s part. Architects, designers and planners: Take of the blinkers, get away from your monitors and look around – outside, in the sun and/or rain!

  4. I was told that the original plasterwork was white. Supposedly the shades of brown are from all the years of cigar/cigarette/pipe smoke.

    All the old photos are all black & white, so who can tell, other than the visible plasterwork looks bright and shiny.

  5. I had thought that uncovering the old ceiling was going to be part of the renovations. Really, it seems like they are doing nothing of substance. Why worry about a historic building’s seismic fortitude if none of its historic elements are going to be used?

    But they made all those really stupid and useless tree boxes with seats no one will ever sit on in the front courtyard where there is no entrance. THAT was important enough to fund and build. Barf. Does no one in King County municipal government actually think critically?

    1. As shown in the photo, the old plaster ceiling has already been uncovered and is currently being restored. By the way, this project is under the domain of the City of Seattle, not the County.

    2. True, the courtyard is not very appealing, but I think when the grand stairway is re-opened, one will be able to access the station from Jackson Street via the courtyard. Then maybe it will get some use in spite of itself.

    3. I believe that the tree plaza/courtyard on the Jackson St. side actually will have an entrance with stairs down to the main level. Hopefully, the plan is to open that once the main level renovation is complete. That would greatly facilitate going between (Amtrak) King St. station and (link) the international district transit center.

      1. SDOT posted the following comment about the plaza entrance at this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdot_photos/5247123602/in/set-72157624792882261/

        “The plaza is designed to be a strong connector between S Jackson Street and the station’s main waiting room. It is also intended to be a pleasant place for people to linger or enjoy programmed events. The selection and arrangement of trees for the plaza was facilitate these goals, while allowing views of the station to be maintained.

        The trees provide some protection from the busy traffic on adjacent S Jackson Street. They provide shade and draw people to the plaza, with planters serving as informal seats to talk or have lunch. At the same time smaller trees were selected to prevent them from dominating views of the plaza or station. The wide pedestrian path stretching across the plaza from S Jackson Street to the grand marble staircase allows clear views of the façade of the building from many angles.

        The grand, marble staircase at the end of the plaza is the historic main entry into the station. The reason to enter is to access the train station. More than 600,000 people take the train to or from the station each year, not including visitors, and these numbers are expected to grow in the future. When the plaza it open, this path and stairway will make this experience much easier and more intuitive.

    4. You can always visit the Greyhound bus station for your “fix” of architectural glory. LOL

      1. heh…that was the old Seattle-Everett interurban terminal. It probably looked a little better then….

      2. Speaking of the Greyhound building…anyone know any updates there? In particular the re-location of Greyhound to a new building and one possibly in the ID near Sounder/Amtrak/Link/FHSC, etc?

    5. K, did you look at any of the pictures? Are you familiar with the project at all? Check out the SDOT Facebook page and then come back and comment.

  6. I’ve been following this project for ten years! I’m still in shock that things are finally moving along at a noticeable pace.

    I trust that the retrofit can be done discreetly enough to not destroy any of the architectural character but for anyone familiar with the old station’s interior, the original coffered ceiling of the old restaurant, now the ticketing area, was ironically lost in place of a drop ceiling! Seeing the sheer size of the reinforcing steel being placed along the walls, I’m not sure what they plan to do about the women’s waiting room in the SW corner whose footprint hugs the outer walls very tightly.

    I sometimes think that modern building and accessibility codes are bad for historic preservation and aesthetics.

    1. Modern codes mean buildings that are safer in an earthquake, and inaccessible buildings are inexcusable.

      That said, this building when completed will be outstanding – the historical character restored, the long broken circulation pathways restored, and new activity brought back into the station.

    2. “the original coffered ceiling of the old restaurant, now the ticketing area, was ironically lost in place of a drop ceiling!”

      Given the removal of the drop ceiling and restoration of the original ceiling in the main waiting room, this *is* ironic. And surprising, actually.

      1. I assume it was either a necessary sacrifice for the HVAC, or something they hoped no one would notice. Kind of a pity but hopefully the main waiting room restoration will more than make up for this.

    3. What’s above the current ticketing area is Amtrak offices, break/lunch rooms, and meeting rooms, so it’s not really a ‘drop’ ceiling.

      1. Behind the ticket counter the area is split into 2 levels for Amtrak employees but in the ticket area that passengers see is the full height of the original restaurant’s dining area. They had to lower the ceiling to install HVAC etc.

      2. Really? The building was retrofitted with geothermal heat & I presume cooling, which is mostly located under the Jackson St. Plaza. Given that, the space required for HVAC in the individual rooms is really small (I just had a geothermal installation done: the in-room footprint is genuinely small).

        What was the real reason for lowering the ceiling? Could we get verification of what’s behind that drop ceiling?

      3. The geothermal wells still need a ventilation system to propel the air through the building before reaching the waiting room. If you dig through their flickr stream you can see photos of the work in progress and there seems to be quite a few electrical systems being put up there. although there was already room above the old ceiling for wiring with it’s barreled structural design.

      4. HVAC systems, fire detection systems, alarm systems, cameras, data transmission lines, sprinker systems. It’s amazing the stuff that goes into public spaces these days – and they need mechancial rooms, vents, and conduit runs to put it all in. But the old restaurant was never designated as particularly “historial” – just as the old office spaces weren’t. They kept that grand staircase between the two floors of office space, but that’a about it.

        I very dimly remember the restaurant. It must have closed in the early 60’s or thereabouts. It always seemed a kind of depressing place. Dark and sort of run-down. Nothing like the dining rooms in lesser cities (The Harkett House at the Omaha Union Station, for instance, was gorgeous – which is weird, because it seemed like they got most of their traffic late at night)

        I don’t remember Seattle Union Station ever having a dining room. But we seldom went over there.

      5. Well, electrical systems and sprinklers can add up fast. And forced air is a space hog (the geothermal systems I’ve seen are hydronic).

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