City looking to beautify empty lots with “Holding Patterns” initiative: 9 targets on Hill

The empty lot on Harvard Ave (Photo: Jon Polka/THE SPECTATOR)

Capitol Hill is all too familiar with stalled construction projects that leave blighted empty space in our neighborhood. Luckily, were also pretty good at keeping them fun, active and entertaining. Well, with the Great Recession putting many projects on hold indefinitely the city is looking to do something with these empty lots through their “Holding Patterns” Initiative. From the press release:

Have you noticed how many lots have been left empty or partially developed due to the stalled economy? These vacant project sites are all around us. Unattractive and unbecoming of our city, we pass by them every day: empty holes, barren plains of gravel, voids in the city fabric. How can we convert these eyesores to opportunities?

Whether a concert space or a bumper car track, basketball hoops or a fleeting performance stage, from temporary to semi-permanent, wacky, practical or both, the Design Commission is welcoming any and all ideas. Artists, designers, non-profits, businesses, developers, students, astronauts, everyone is invited to contribute ideas. Interdisciplinary teams are encouraged.

Capitol Hill’s most notorious empty lot is certainly 500 E. Pine, aka The People’s Parking Lot, but there are quite a few others sitting idle around the hill. Here is a map of all of our sites (disclaimer: I’m not as familiar with the NE part of the hill, so if I’ve missed anything let me know).

View Capitol Hill’s Empty Spaces in a larger map

In all I’ve counted 9 lots for a total of nearly 3.5 acres of empty space. So what say you Hillites? What are some good ideas for these lots? Bounce some around here but if you’re really serious, here is how to submit a formal proposal to the city:

Photo: Jon Polka/THE SPECTATOR


Submit via e-mail to a pdf formatted file and in the body of the email the names/backgrounds of participants and contact information for one person. Please put “Holding Patterns” in the subject line. 6 MB maximum file size.

Deadline: Monday, May 24th 2010

Your submission should include the following:

  • a brief narrative including rationale, goal, purpose, program, and design
  •  intent the location, if specific (all city-wide locations are acceptable)
  • a site plan and/or images that communicate your ideas
  •  Maximum of four 8.5” x 11” single-sided pages per site category
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15 thoughts on “City looking to beautify empty lots with “Holding Patterns” initiative: 9 targets on Hill

  1. As I am about to move in to an apartment facing the Harvard lot pictured here, I can only pray they don’t put something noisy in there… I’d be fine with a gravel parking lot, but people just remember somebody has to live next to that too.

  2. How about we focus on keeping up the parks we have and let the private sector manage their property. If the city doesn’t like stalled development projects, do a little more work before a permit is granted to ensure the financial commitments are in place.

    We have a beautiful conservatory that is on the chopping block, and pools that are going to sit empty this summer, lets focus on those instead.

  3. I’m glad that someone is taking this on. I think that the city should require property owners to fund part of this activity if their property will remain dormant for over a year. It would be nice to limit these activities to day-time though due to noise concerns.

    I’m tired of people telling others to move to the Eastside if they don’t like noise. Capitol Hill is a dense neighborhood, NEIGHBORHOOD being the key word there. Lots of people LIVE here which means we need to be able to sleep at night and have a little peace and quite every now and then to maintain our sanity. While a certain amount of noise is a given, we need to reduce nuisance noises such as car alarms, back-up beepers on trucks, leaf blowers, night-time deliveries, and super-loud businesses. It would also be nice if when we’re walking home drunk from the bar at night, we would remember that some people are trying to sleep in the homes around us and perhaps keep our voices down a bit.

    Many people bought homes in parts of this neighborhood before it was a major nightlife destination (myself included). We just want to keep our mixed-use community livable. Lower ambient noise also helps keep our neighborhood safe. At this point, there is so much yelling and screaming happening in my alley at night that I’ve given up trying to discern if someone needs help or is just being a drunk idiot.

  4. how about the one where Manray used to be for this “bumper car track” or basketball court? it’s not nearly as residential and more ideally located.

  5. The voice of reason? You don’t say :).

    I agree, let’s focus on public parks and let the private land owners do what they want (within reason).

  6. Can anyone dig up the reason WHY this lot on Harvard has been empty for so long? This is NOT a stalled project due to the economy. It’s been an eyesore (and a place for the homeless to sleep, etc.) for many years. This would’ve been a great pocket park on the hill, but I’ve heard rumor of soil contamination, a greedy landlord, etc. This seems like a prime lot that has languished for far too long.

    And just to add my two cents…I own on the Hill and I live there precisely because I want an urban environment. Urban means noisy. That said, most parts of the Hill ARE very quiet. If you compare living on the Hill, smack dab in the middle of a major metropolitan area, to many other cities, we’re blessed with peace and quiet.

    Now if we could only turn Broadway into more like Vancouver’s Robson Street—which has an active street life as late as 2am—then we MIGHT be able to complain. At this point, I’d be happy to pump some life back into a stagnant Broadway in exchange for a bit of actual life on the street. Just sayin…

  7. We should hire a city farmer, then have developers sign provisions in their permits that they must turn their lots over to the city while the project is stalled, to be turned into farm-land until the developer can prove they have the funding to conclude the project. The food can be distributed to food banks and other non-profit agencies, according to need.

  8. I remember that when the houses that were there were demolished, there were notices that they had been condemned. And then the lot was used somewhat as a staging area for the Joule construction.

    Another property that needs to be torn down is on the NE corner of Belmont Ave. E. and E. Republican. The house had a fire a few years ago and is now abandoned, and the back yard is now used as bathroom/shooting gallery for our local junkies.

  9. Neither your story nor the press release explain exactly HOW these lots will be commandeered for art / wallabee / bumper car use.
    Or are they all, somehow, public-owned lots?

    I’m all for incentives for landowners to temporarily turn over unused/unusable lots for community use, like, say, P-patching. But the 1st incentive for private owners would have to be a city-backed release/100% waiver of any liability; the second would be a break on property tax (even if in form of a temp de-valuation of land).

    Add to your map:
    There’s also the fenced lot next to the Polyclinic and the FedRep “potential park” site. Isn’t the old “tilting condo” property on Lakeview (1517 Lakeview Blvd) still empty? (though might be JUST north of your map). 23rd & E John has a half-finished foundation and nothing more. 1837 E Denny.
    Little further E and S: Spruce & 20th has something for sale being labelled as “lot for sale”. Also 1821 E Jefferson. 2904 S Jackson (though there’s houses there now, they’re slated to be dozed).

  10. People that complain about noise and choose to live in the heart of the urbanity? Burn me up.

    You live 100 feet from broadway, …and don’t like noise? You are actually talking about living ON a lot zoned retail/commercial (with loading docks and everything) and in a 65’+ zone no less.

    snark /on – You know there’s PARADES on broadway, right? And protests? And on rare occasion, flash-bangs and tear gas?
    I’m curious about this strange planet you come from where urban density = silence.) /snark

    If this seriously concerns you (and it isn’t merely a flip remark on a comment board), please consider: Seattle’s a city and you are choosing to live in the neighborhood that borders DOWNTOWN – the second densest neighborhood in the entire city. If you don’t like noise, I’m not going to say move to the eastside (cause, realistically, they often have noise, too) but you really need to bluntly look at a) your lifestyle and your priorities and b) soundproofing your apartment / adding white noise.

    i.e. Put some WEEDKILLER, asap, on that Seed of NIMBYism you got growing there.

  11. Whether ‘nightlife’ moved in or not, you knew you were moving into a neighborhood next to downtown. You mentioned an alley: so you are in a very urban part of the US, clearly. And you also knew population numbers were going to grow over the years, not shrink. And you knew “nighttime deliveries” and backup beepers were part of urban living. The zoning around you was no surprise, even if the particular business owners were. And even then, the zoning process is pretty open and fairly democratic…
    Pity party regarding noise? None here.
    Rather than try and dicate that others change their freedoms (however stupid or disagreeable… people have the right to be loud, have the right to arm their car alarms, as long as it’s within the law: and most stumbling drunks are within the letter of Seattle’s law), – perhaps instead, you should change your ability to hear them: noise reduction insulation & windows, white noise generators = your friends.

  12. I was excited to read the blog on “Holding Patterns.” I have lived on the Hill for 30 years and have been dismayed to see the ugly,empty lot at 19th and Madison. My neighbors and I were waiting for the lot to be developed, and I remeber the developer addressing a Miller Park Neighborhood Community meeting several years ago to explain his plans for development of the space. In the meantime the Fratelli’s structure (including the iconic cow mural) was destroyed and the space left to graffiti and garbage.

    I would like help with any plans to convert this eyesore. Maybe a plan could incorporate a reference to Fratelli’s and the cows.


  13. To the person who said living on Capitol Hill means you have to accept noise….

    NO way. Excessive noise, such as a pub, bar, dance hall, or party house is not to be tolerated on our hill.

    I have called 911 about 2 times a year, for reasons of occasional excessive noise; the person who lives near here is only saying he/she hopes it will not be some new bar or watering hole that stays open til 2AM — this happened to me here on Summit (the Summit Tavern) and it was not fun. Now I get all kinds of hooligans leaving the tavern at closing time (2am) and shouting their way down the street or to their motorcycles or whatever.

    Bellevue is not the only place that deserves and should expect quiet during the dead of night.