Page Two articles are from our reader community.

The Friends of Mount Baker Town Center is working to solve the infrastructure deficits which surround the Mount Baker transit station. This year (2014) the City rezoned the station area to allow dense growth up to 125′. While density will certainly add eyes on the street, the streetscape has a long ways to go to achieve the City’s minimum standards for livability. The open space gap was identified by the Department of Parks years before this new density, and the area also happens to be one of the most dangerous for pedestrian travel — with residents, students and employees needing to cross 10+ lanes of traffic to go east / west near the station.

How do we help achieve the vibrant town center that was called for by North Rainier residents in the planning process? It won’t be easy. But our group is glad to see the City’s planners and decisionmakers back in North Rainier Valley.   The current situation will require more than wide sidewalks and extra trees.   Let’s help the City, Sound Transit and others partner on the investments needed to reset the table and provide a recipe for smart, balanced growth.  The diverse North Rainier Valley community deserves the same levels of breathability and safety as other great Seattle neighborhoods.

Thank you for being part of the conversation on smart growth management in Seattle.   We look forward to engaging and encouraging the investments needed to correct the unfriendly and unsafe surrounds confronting Seattle’s newest “Town Center”, and reconnecting the historic Olmsted Parkways which 100 years ago were intended to connect this neighborhood with Beacon Hill to the west, and Lake Washington Boulevard to the east.

4 Replies to “Mount Baker Town Center: Partnering with Seattle Parks Foundation to Bridge the Gaps in Infrastructure”

  1. As someone who lived about a mile from this dangerous intersection for several years, I like the street realignment plan the city has floated in the past. I hope it includes bus lanes, not just because the buses shouldn’t have to crawl in general traffic during peak congestion, but also because the high speed of cars on these two streets can be calmed quite easily during off-peak hours by reducing general traffic lanes. None of this is directly related to the presence of open space in the area, IMHO.

    But given the choice between open space within the walkshed of the station, and open space further out, I hope the plan is for putting the open space further out. We have a serious housing deficit in this town that is causing rent to skyrocket. The areas right near the station should hopefully be maxed out with dense housing and first-floor retail to the extent the nearby homeowners have been willing to allow.

    That said, hopefully the housing will be designed so as not to block pedestrian, bicycle, and bus access to the station, and not to waste precious space on overbuilt parking lots or garages. There is unmet demand for rental units in which people who don’t own and don’t want to own cars can live without having the cost of an expensive car stall bundled into their rent.

    And when it comes to amenities, a short walk to the station to commute to jobs around town trumps the desire for a short walk to open space. Whether it be next to Mount Baker Station or the University District Station, the well-intended efforts to surround them with plazas are something I just don’t want. I want to be able to live next to a station, without a bundled car stall jacking up my rent, and have a short walk to any of the several parks that are already within walking distance of the station.

    Indeed, I want to see less open space around the station. Surface parking lots are the lowest and worst use of space surrounding a train station, followed closely by cement plazas. All they achieve is housing scarcity and suburban sprawl.

  2. My goal is the largest amount of housing, businesses, and other facilities within a 10-minute walk of the station. This is a hub urban village — the largest in southeast Seattle — and we need to make the most of it.

    I don’t understand what open space the group wants to add where. It looks like the biggest need is to enhance the ribbon connection between Cheastey Blvd and Mt Baker Blvd. That could be done in the existing footprint by replacing the footbridge with a more parklike structure, and improving the west side’s landscaping (just south of the station).

    I also want to see something under the station: a farmers’ market or something. Is the group addressing that? It’s effectively open space now but it needs to become a destination. The worst place for open space is steps from the escalators: it pushes everything further away from the station and makes people walk further. The best place for open space is at the edge of the walk circle.

  3. I live a mile from the Rainier/MLK intersection and Mount Baker Link station. I am through there all the time by bus, car, and light rail, and occasionally on foot. I worry that the needs for four through lanes of Rainier and continued local freight mobility on MLK and Rainier will be ignored in favor of a pedestrian village. Going anti-car on the planning here ignores the limited number of north-south arterial lanes in Seattle.

    I think we need everything at this crazy intersection, and I would look to the most congested traffic circles of Washington, DC, for the solution: a multi-line traffic circle with an underpass for through traffic on Rainier, perhaps even extending north of McClellan. And also an inviting park strip overpass (mini-lid?) connecting Cheasty to Mount Baker Boulevard. It’s all possible, if expensive. Dupont Circle in DC has an underpass for Connecticut Avenue, as well as a deeper Metro station. Thomas Circle in DC as an underpass for Maasachusetts Avenue. An underpass at a traffic circle is old technology for DC: those underpasses were added to these circles in the 1940s, the era of building the first Mercer Island Floating Bridge.

    I also really support the idea of a farmers’ market under the Mount Baker station. The danger is that we’re already inundated with farmers’ markets across Seattle, including one at Columbia City 1 1/2 miles south on Wednesdays, and another 2 1/2 miles north at West Madrona on Fridays.

    1. I’m agnostic on most of your suggestions, but the idea of an all-season farmers market under the cover of the station is intriguing.

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