Capitol Hill Champion seeks support for Denny festival street plan

Turns out, just because CHS calls something a festival street doesn’t make it an official City of Seattle festival street.

The Capitol Hill Champion group is drumming up community support for its push to convince the Seattle Department of Transportation powers that be — hi, Seth Geiser! — to officially designate the street for future festival purposes.

The city’s festival street program allows streets that aren’t considered vital arteries to be closed to traffic “for pedestrian-focused special events.” The newly one-way Denny already has already debuted as a quasi-festival street — most famously as host of the Capitol Hill Station grand opening celebration’s street fair. 

According to Champion reps, the full block of E Denny between 10th Ave E and Broadway is an ideal festival street — especially when development around the station is complete and the plaza area is activated. The only issue might be SDOT’s stipulation (PDF) that festival streets not host events with planned attendance greater than 300. The department also forbids vendors. Both issues appear solvable, Champion reps say.

The East District Neighborhood Council will vote on the proposal in coming weeks. In the meantime, you can direct your feedback to Seth Geiser, 206-615-1035, Seth.Geiser@seattle.gov.

To learn more, the Champion group has provided this handy festival street FAQ:

What is a Festival street? A Festival Street promotes a sense of community in that it provides an approved public right-of-way location that can be closed to traffic on multiple occasions during the year for pedestrian-focused special events. At the same time, only one permit is necessary for the entire year of recurring events to be held on the festival street. Streets that are considered the most suitable for the festival street title are non-arterials within or providing connections to pedestrian-oriented neighborhood; commercial areas where a festival street activity could reinforce commercial and mixed-use activity, and enhance the quality of the pedestrian environment without conflicting with the desired traffic circulation. – excerpted from the SDOT blog at http://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2012/03/08/a-festival-what/

Will any modifications need to be made to the street? No. The section of the block from Broadway to Nagle Place was specifically built by Sound Transit as a festival street. It’s curbless, with an expanded sidewalk, and eastbound traffic is not permitted. The rest of the block has a standard street design, and no modifications are required or anticipated. Special events including the Sound Transit grand opening, HonkFest, and PrideFest have used the full block without issue.

How would local parking be affected? There are two paid parking spaces on the south side of Denny, just east of Nagle Place. They would be unavailable when the Festival Street is in use. When the Festival Street is in use for a permitted activity, vehicles will have no access to Nagle Place from Denny. Drivers needing to access parking on Nagle Place or garages or lots with access from Nagle Place will be able to enter and leave Nagle Place from E Howell and E Pine.

Do nearby property owners support the proposal? Sound Transit owns all the property adjacent to the block except for the portion that abuts Cal Anderson Park. Sound Transit has evaluated the proposal and officially affirmed their support, given that they will have access to their station buildings via Nagle Place from Howell (south of Denny) and John (north of Denny). Gerding Edlen will be developing the Sound Transit property on the north side of Denny (sites A and B-south), and the site immediately south of the south station entrance (site C). Site C garage access will be from Nagle Place. Gerding Edlen has expressed cautious support for the Festival Street designation, with the assurance that their residents will continue to have access to Nagle Place from E Howell or E Pine. Their primary remaining question is about how often the Festival Street will be closed to traffic. We don’t know how often it will be used, but the goal is to have the farmer’s market use it twice a week, and have other events occasionally, probably in conjunction with the plaza. Bonney Watson’s lower parking lot entrance is on Nagle Place between E Denny and E Howell. They are support-ive of the proposal as long as their customers continue to have access to that lot. The owner of the apartment building at the NE corner of E Denny and 10th Ave E expressed initial support. Like Gerding Edlen, he has questions about how often the street will be used. We have reached out to other businesses and building managers on Nagle Place, inviting questions or concerns, but have heard back only from Cure. The manager at Cure wanted to know how often the street will be used.

SDOT contact for questions or comment: Seth Geiser, 206-615-1035, Seth.Geiser@seattle.gov

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