The Central Hills Triangle Collaborative (CHTC) was the recipient of a $48,000 City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods grant in 2017. The CHTC is a joint initiative by Lid I-5 and the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council (PPUNC).
The CHTC is bringing together seven teams of design professionals and community members to reimagine what Interstate 5 would be if it were covered over (a term generally referred to as ‘lidding’) and contained open space, commercial uses, and housing.
Pairs of teams are working on three sites; which, from south to north include:
- Marion to Pike (open space focus)
- Pike to Olive (commercial focus)
- and Olive to Thomas (housing focus)
The seventh team, Connections, is charged with seeing the opportunities to connect the three sites to each other as well as to the surrounding network of transit, bike and pedestrian paths, as well as other urban design initiatives such as the Melrose Promenade and the Pike Pine Renaissance.
A site’s area of focus does not preclude it from having other uses, such as having housing above retail. Lid I-5 has not been advocating for any particular uses on any of the sites; instead, the CHTC’s providing areas of focus within defined limits ensures that a wide range of land uses, topography, and urban typologies are investigated. This range will enable the broader Seattle community to see a variety of options on what is hoped to be the future lid.
Hosted by Optimism Brewing, Thursday’s event lasted over 3 1/2 hours, its length sustained by the enthusiasm and camaraderie of participants. In addition to the team members, the event attracted both familiar and new supporters. The logic of each site’s focus was exploited by the teams as a means to not only explore the opportunities and limits they inherited, but also as a means to address larger city concerns of providing places for more affordable housing, employment, and open space.
The teams exhibited a profound sensitivity to their site’s social and geographical context, as well as to the work of others. The plurality of design approaches was reflected by the graphic means employed to convey them: hand sketches, SketchUp models, and precedent photos abundantly conveyed the intense interest and study the teams have devoted thus far in their labors.
Throughout the evening, Optimism patrons wandered in and out of the event, with a number lingering after the formal presentations to find out more about the CHTC and Lid I-5. Fostering this kind of community engagement and sharing of ideas lies at the heart of why DON offers these grants: to build community and improve our physical realm. DON’s funding of such an initiative was a bit of a leap in faith for the department. DON historically grants money to efforts that lead to physical improvements in a brief period of time.
A potentially decades-long effort, lidding I-5 is beyond the time horizon and granting ability of DON. Funding even the consultant fees to design a lid would far exceed DON’s resources. Yet funded the CHTC is, an indication of DON seeing that initiatives such as ours can leverage far greater funds by demonstrating intense and sustained community desire to vastly improve our built environment. If the initial success of the CHTC, as demonstrated last night, carries forward to its conclusion, neighborhoods in Seattle may have a new means to effect massive neighborhood change.
Grass roots urbanism is not new in Seattle. The Seattle Central Waterfront, whose initial vision was given political credibility by the Allied Arts ‘Waterfront for All’ campaign brought to the forefront a program to transform Seattle’s relationship to Elliot Bay from one dominated by the Alaskan Way Viaduct to one emphasizing pedestrians, bicyclists within an encompassing park. Allied Arts, founded to save the state’s most important built landmark, the Pike Place Market, had the credibility and history to execute the Waterfront for All. DON’s evolving culture of granting to initiatives such as the CHTC puts the power of neighborhood transformation in every Seattleite’s hands.