Vote for First Hill’s pavement parks

20150808_120116In 2015, First Hill community groups and the City of Seattle worked to solve a neighborhood puzzle: how to create more open space in the densely packed neighborhood. The result was two prototype “pavement to parks” projects. The First Hill Improvement Association is now stumping for support for the project in a vote recognizing the best “urban street transformation of 2015” —

The two pavement parks along University Street are up for StreetsBlog USA’s Best Urban Street Transformation of 2015! Please take a moment to vote in favor of our neighborhood’s creative adaptation of an unsafe intersection into a community gathering place!

The First Hill neighborhood is a dense urban community home to high rise residential building, major medical institutions, educational, and commercial uses — and a scarcity of public open space. Rising land values and development pressures have made acquiring traditional space for a new park difficult. So, in 2014, the First Hill Improvement Association partnered with three city agencies — SDOT, DPD, and Parks- to explore a concept sweeping the country: repurposing land in the public right of way from pavement (especially awkward public intersections or overly broad streets) into new uses as community gathering areas — pavement parks!

Through the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan, two pilot pavement parks were created on First Hill: one at University Street and 9th Avenue, the other at the intersection of University, Union, and Boylston (UUB). The first of their kind in Seattle, these pavement parks have been embraced by the First Hill community, and function as a public living room for many residents. Particularly at UUB site, it’s common to see small gatherings of people sitting, talking, eating, and enjoying themselves outdoors in what had formerly been an unsafe five leg intersection.

These spaces accomplish the two fold mission to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety, and to provide community gathering spaces!

We’re not going to lie. The First Hill project has its work cut out for it — it stands in a distant fourth place as of this posting. It’s difficult to argue against the current top vote getter: a project to redesign 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard in NYC to be safer for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.

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9 thoughts on “Vote for First Hill’s pavement parks

  1. I did vote for Seattle. I would think the public investment required for some to the projects such as the one in Chicago had to be greater than for many of the others. It would nice to see some carbon reducing plants find a way to the painted parks. I am having a difficult time believing in carbon reducing plans that do not include retaining open space with trees and plants and minimizing the need to place concrete on all surfaces for cities. Maintaining and increasing the forest coverage on the earth is also important.

  2. Put a LID on I-5 and make a REAL change to park and open space on First Hill. These proposed “improvements” are definitely welcome but they do not mask the fact that this neighborhood needs and deserves to have I-5 covered and turned into a park and open space. This is something we need to be talking about doing now, not some distant and meaningless date down the road.

    • You’re right. Now that we’ve solved the homeless problem, crime is no longer an issue, rents have stabilized, and housing is now affordable to people across the entire financial spectrum, it’s time we spent billions of tax dollars on a nice park. Who doesn’t like a nice park?

      Of course a giant park in the middle of the city will be quite attractive to the homeless, be another crime nexus, will cause an increase in rents, and will make housing even costlier, but surely we can solve that too. Again.

    • As someone many consider synonymous with God observed 2000 years ago “The poor you shall always have with you”. History appears to bear out the accuracy of that observation.
      The problem with the (very valid) priorities you’ve identified is that it trying to solve then first would preclude making any civic improvements- forever. Putting a lid on I-5 would create jobs and improve greatly the quality of life for for everyone in our community while we await a solution to the problems you identified.

    • You make a very important point. There will always be issues more critical than the one being discussed, but that doesn’t mean the latter doesn’t merit consideration.

    • There is a finite amount of money available, unless you believe property taxes are an endless source of revenue.

      There’s also a finite amount of public [gah, I can’t think of the term of thinking of]… goodwill and willingness to back certain issues. You’ll probably find more support for an I5 lid, but it’s mostly the privileged classes who push aesthetics and niceties ahead of attempted solutions for complex problems like the homeless and poverty. You see that with bike lanes for the mostly moneyed amazon-style employees to more safely get to work on their personal choice of transportation over bus lanes that are the only option for working- and business-class people. Instead of proposing housing solutions, we get proposals to lid I5.

      I’m pretty sure we’d get the lid before we’d see inexpensive public housing, though.

    • Building low-income housing or following the Utah model of building housing for the homeless would be civic improvements and would also create jobs.

      The “create jobs” side of this isn’t particularly compelling, because we don’t really need more temporary jobs.

  3. A lid over I-5 would be nice.Who do you expect to pay for it.
    The propertyowner in higher taxes.I have an idea,a city sales tax on everything.Until that happens I will vote against it

    • A lot of funding sources should pay for this. The federal and state governments which built this monstrosity through the center of our city ought to be the major contributors. This transportation corridor and the adjacent convention center has a major, positive regional impact on the economy and quality of life so the county ought to contribute as well. I would agree that if we’re talking about foisting the burden of that improvement on property owners in the city of Seattle it would not be fair.