If you’ve found yourself Googling “woonerf‘ recently, you may be aware that “festival streets” and “activated alleys” are in vogue among Seattle city planners. A proposal for one such project in the heart of Capitol Hill’s nightlife core is now getting some legs.
Last week, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce received at $160,000 grant from the city, in part to explore an idea to make a stretch of Pike/Pine pedestrian-only.
Chamber director Michael Wells said the idea has been floating around for a while and the grant would fund a study and community outreach to gather ideas and concerns. Unlike the Capitol Hill Block Party, Wells said the street closure wouldn’t be tied to a specific event. While closing a street down permanently is not likely, Wells said anything is on the table.
“It could happen once a summer, once a month, on the weekends,” Wells said. “It has to be more than just a bar crawl.”
Capitol Hill developer Jerry Everard pitched in on the Chamber’s grant proposal. Back in 2013, he told CHS about a vision for a pedestrian-only greenway along 10th and 11th that extended south from Cal Anderson into Pike/Pine. While this latest grant might not bring that vision into fruition, it could be a start.
“I hope we can find a solution that makes a nice connection from Cal Anderson to Seattle U that benefits businesses, residents (in all that new construction) and the Park,” Everard said in an email.
Finding a common ground among residents and businesses owners won’t be easy. Closing off streets means losing space for parking for cars, tour busses, and street-side dumpsters.
While creating a pedestrian-only stretch of 10th through the heart of Pike/Pine would seem to be a streets and sidewalks enhancement, the Chamber actually proposed the project as a public safety initiative. According to Wells, the Seattle Police Department sees the project as a promising way to better manage the late-night clash of cars and hordes of people streaming out of bars.
Finding a way to calm traffic — and revelers — in the area has been a topic of discussion in central Pike/Pine for years. Way back in 2009, CHS was dreaming of narrowing E Pike and adding space for more streetlife and less traffic. Closing off 10th Ave around E Pike would be a much less radical change and could mesh well with plans afoot around Seattle’s new streatery and parklet program making use of the corner of 10th and E Pike.
The Only in Seattle grant is a key funding source for the Chamber and many other neighborhood organizations. Mayor Ed Murray announced the $1.8 million at a Wednesday media conference.
Capitol Hill’s share of the grant money will also help fund a fresh study of safety concerns in Cal Anderson Park, which would include determining where more lighting is needed, and is part of a plan to fund staffing to help the chamber and the Capitol Hill Community Council better organize.