In 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.