April 11 2015 – An Elevated Park for Seattle’s Waterfront?

Big changes are coming to Seattle’s waterfront. Will these be changes for the better? Waiting for tunnel boring Bertha to get back  her groove allows us to consider a vision other than the one proposed by the city.

This may be an excellent time to harmonize an elevated park into the vision.  When the process started for our waterfront, the High Line in New York was just opening.  We know now how great an idea it is to elevate a park.  Cities across the world are scrambling to get plans underway for their own elevated parks and it’s “just in time” to not miss that opportunity here.

Obviously, the seawall and the utility relocation already taking place makes sense for both project approaches, so no change there.

Park My Viaduct’s Alternative Waterfront Vision harmonizes a mile-long elevated park with a spectacular view into downtown Seattle’s unique, historic and eclectic western edge from Pike Market to Century Link Field
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The proposed elevated park incorporates both historic and new components. At the north end,  an architecturally interesting 400′ long section of the historic Alaskan Way Viaduct near Pike Market can be preserved and retrofitted in its entirety followed by a 4600′ long beautiful new single-column, single-level garden bridge that continues to Sodo and the stadiums.

The grand gateway to the park from the downtown bluff is created with a beautiful new pedestrian and bike access bridge that connects the street end at First and Union Streets to the park continuing across Alaskan Way to Waterfront Park, Pier 57, and the Seattle Aquarium.

The north end of the park would connect directly to the proposed “Marketfront” plaza at Pike Market while the south end would connect to Century Link Field.  A ramp is also planned to connect to First Avenue at Railroad Way.  Elevators and stairs are planned to frequently connect the park to Alaskan Way along the entire mile.

While the goals and guiding principles are largely the same – namely “A Waterfront for All” – the priorities and approach to design and configuration of the components are quite different.

  • The City’s plan places the key green space called the “tideline promenade” between the expanded designated truck route and the commercial buildings on the piers with 10 service driveways and ferry loading/unloading interrupting the space repeatedly.   With the Alternative Waterfront Vision, that large 6 acre promenade is located 55′ up at the 360 degree spectacular view level on a new garden bridge where it is completely car-free for 1 mile.
  • The City’s plan uses a large multi-use ramping and stepped lid to connect Pike Market to the Aquarium, but just because two things can be connected doesn’t mean they should be connected.  Since both the Seattle Aquarium and most of the Pike Place Market is closed in the evening, that connection will often be inactivated with perceived safety problems especially for women. With the Alternative Waterfront Vision, there is no menacing lid. Charming connections are made to Pike Market from the park and from Alaskan Way while the grand gateway is at Union Street where there is plenty of built in activation day and night.
  • The City’s plan creates an imposing viaduct for a by-pass truck route designed to help vehicles avoid backups caused by the trains below Pike Market.  That route calls for a complete abandonment of the historic alignment of Alaskan Way with the section from Pike Market to Olympic Sculpture Park mostly dedicated to truck deliveries to the cruise ships on summer mornings.   The design of the on ramps to the by-pass route “bury” the south end of the Waterfront Landings Condominiums and disrupt the peace at the foot of the Pike Street Hillclimb.   With the Alternative Waterfront Vision, a more balanced by-pass truck route is achieved with a standard “T” intersection from the historic alignment of Alaskan Way without surrounding the condos with a truck ramp or pushing all the traffic east to the foot of the Pike St Hillclimb.
  • The City’s plan fails to reintroduce a street car or trolley to the waterfront which we heard loud and clear from our talking and listening tour over the last year people really want.   The Alternative Waterfront Vision allows for a trolley or streetcar to run from the Olympic Sculpture Park to the stadiums with a trolley barn planned at the south terminus.

The viaduct delivers unstoppable views to the entire city of Seattle and all of its visitors.   That view is likely the people of Seattle’s most valuable public view asset.  “Who would throw away that view?”

Unlike the unobstructed water’s edge at Golden Gardens, Alki Beach, Seward Park, or Green Lake, Seattle’s central waterfront at street level has no romantic edge and very limited and interrupted views because of the long angled buildings on the piers.   One can even observe some buildings along the east side of Alaskan Way that have parking garages on the lower floors because the views of the water have always been blocked by the buildings on the piers.

It’s not until you’re up at the (northbound) viaduct level -approximately 55′ above Alaskan Way – that a view over the roofs is available.   You can check this yourself and get a pretty good idea of how much of the view is blocked by the buildings on the piers when you compare what you see travelling southbound on the lower deck (3 stories) of the viaduct compared to what you see travelling northbound on the upper deck (5 stories).

They’re not suggesting the viaduct stay.  They have a beautiful new completely car-free elevated park (garden bridge) in mind.

In cities that already have elevated parks – Paris with the Promenade Plantee and New York with the High Line – adjacency to the parks has done nothing but drastically increase the property values and ignited positive economic activity beyond all expectations.

Consultants will soon be studying the Economic, Environmental and Socio-Cultural Benefits of the entire Alternative Waterfront Vision which will include financial facts about what this park can do for our City and all of the people who live or visit here versus the proposal of the City of Seattle.

The Alternative Waterfront Vision will be paid for with largely the same funding scheme as the City’s plan and both projects cost about the same.    One superbly delivers; the other not so much.   We’re all going to pay.  So which one do we want to see built?  The one that performs beautifully in all ways or the one that doesn’t?

The proponents are going to present a very clear analysis of all of the ways we can pay for this project in the Financing Chapter of the Feasibility Study so that the public can give its guidance.  Let’s not rely on special interests to tell us how it’s done.  This is a public project.  Let’s make it a true “Waterfront for All”.

[Adapted from Park My Viaduct website]

Presentation by neighborhood activist and former mayoral candidate Kate Martin, founder of Park My Viaduct.

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One response to “April 11 2015 – An Elevated Park for Seattle’s Waterfront?

  1. Pingback: April 11 – Kate Martin & Park My Viaduct | Seattle Neighborhood Coalition

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