Rocker Hendrix part of Judkins Park light rail station design

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Entrances from 23rd Ave (above) and Rainier Ave. (Images: Sound Transit)

Jimi Hendrix will be looking down when you hear that train a comin’ at the Judkins Park Station in 2023. The Central District’s most celebrated son will be honored with two large murals at his home neighborhood light rail station, according to the latest designs for the Judkins Park Station.

Architects from Hewitt and Sound Transit presented the most recent artwork and schematics for the elevated station to the Seattle Design Commission Thursday. The station design is currently 90% complete, putting Sound Transit on track to start construction by next spring.

Screen-Shot-2016-03-21-at-9.26.11-PMThe Central District station, tucked into I-90 between Rainier Ave and 23rd Ave, will be the first stop on the 10-stop East Link light rail line that will connect Bellevue, Redmond, and Seattle across the I-90 bridge in 2023.

The station is one of the most complex Sound Transit has tackled so far. Entrances will be located at Rainier and 23rd, which includes a prominent entry point to cyclists and pedestrians coming off the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail.

The design commission meeting featured an in-depth walk-through of the station’s layout, design elements, pedestrian access points, and connections with Metro busses. While Design Commission members were mostly supportive of the designs, they also voiced concerns about a recently added gateway feature at the station’s Rainier Ave. entrance.

The structure was added in order to hold the roll down gate to close-off the station from 1-5 AM. Current designs call for the entry way to have a weather protecting roof and large station sign. The gateway also cuts into the pedestrian right-of-way and clutters the view of the station that is already busy with structural elements from I-90 — issues the commission said architects needed to resolve.

“I expect a better prepared applicant at this stage,” said Ross Tilghman, the commission’s vice chair.
Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 10.02.39 PMScreen Shot 2016-09-01 at 8.02.52 PMCommittee members approved the designs with a condition that the architects return before a subcommittee to offer alternatives to the gateway issues. Commission members also requested that design elements, like the station’s guardrails, be “toned down” and made more uniform.

As part of the station construction, Sound Transit will tear down one existing pedestrian walkway over Rainier and make improvements to another to aid passengers in getting from one side of the station to the other.

Plans also call for the concrete slopes under I-90 to be replaced by quarry rocks and some landscaping to discourage encampments, according to architects. Sound proofing walls along the station are intended to dampen the roar of I-90 at the platform level. Landscaping will also be visible from the outdoor platform.

Passenger safety was another concern raised Thursday as the station’s long and narrow shape creates blind spots, particularly near the elevators. “This station is a red flag for security,” said commission chair Shannon Loew.Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 8.03.49 PMScreen Shot 2016-09-01 at 10.01.55 PM

New Jersey-based artist Hank Willis Thomas is currently working on the Jimi Hendrix murals, which will make use of blown-up photographs adorning two outdoor elevator shafts at the station. One will be created from a composite of photographs of Hendrix at the peak of his career. The other is a 15-year-old Hendrix taken in Seattle. At the request of the Washington State Department of Transportation, that mural will include a large swath of blank space at the top of the photograph so as not to distract drivers passing by on the freeway. Artwork from local artist Barbara Earl Thomas will be included within the station, primarily on wind guards surrounding the platform seating.

plan_11-21The stop will be a popular one with Hendrix fans. Jimi Hendrix Park, a 2.5-acre green space at 25th Ave and S Massachusetts, remains under construction within walking distance of the future station. The planned August grand opening of the project has been delayed until 2017:

The Contractor returned to the site this spring to finish the majority of the park construction. The Friends of Jimi Hendrix Park have been actively seeking additional funds to add elements that weren’t funded through the earlier project. They have been very successful and due to their efforts the central shelter and another link pathway will be included. The site will remain fenced until the turf is established and central shelter is complete.

The Judkins station brings some welcomed streetscape improvements to the immediate area. While the site of the future station is surrounded by a string of lovely parks and green space, the area under and around the cavernous I-90 overpass is a pedestrian dead zone.

East Link will connect with the Central Link at the International District Station. Riders heading south towards the airport will need to transfer while a single seat ride will take you to Roosevelt Station and beyond. Due to its location in the midst of I-90, there is no planned development to surround the station like on Capitol Hill.

A Sound Transit staffer said the agency is planning to hold a series of public meetings on the station design in the coming months.

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