Street Critic | Report from the Central Hills Triangle Collaborative Collab 1

The Connections team highlighting the extant urban design plans proximate to the CHTC study area


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.

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15 thoughts on “Street Critic | Report from the Central Hills Triangle Collaborative Collab 1

  1. Why don’t we throw in another $1m and see if we can lid part of Lake Union as well – floating lid could have parks, housing, schools, boat launch, swimming pool. Why, the taste of that planning money gets my mind racing…

  2. Irony aside – what is a better business than charging consultancy fees to design something that will never happen.

    I don’t see the Olympic size pool in the renderings ? Should be easy to have that sit above eight lanes of traffic. Infinity edge dripping down onto the new conv center. Pass me some more money…

    • Maybe you should learn to lead charrettes and get yourself a new career.

      This is just how Seattle operates. They don’t call it “the Seattle Process” for nothing. Unless it’s a sports stadium, it will drag on forever.

      Look at it from the other angle – at least there’s a lot of people here who care about their city and spend timing trying to make it better.

  3. Would love to know what % of people involved in this are renters as opposed to homeowners. I.E, people who didn’t just get 18-25% increases in their property taxes in the last month or two.

    • Nah, what you’re smelling is the shit through the goose–as in how fast this city goes through taxpayer money for ridiculous projects that’ll probably never get built.

    • Yes, when property taxes go up then the apartment owner passes on at least some of that increase to the renters. But I don’t think the rent increases are anywhere near as much as what homeowners have to pay for their increased tax. On my home, which is worth about the median, my taxes are going up about $1800 this year….I doubt a renter has to pay that much more in rent. And when rents go up, there are factors other than property taxes that contribute to that increase.

    • Bob, you also get tax relief from your increased property taxes, which renters do not. You might also recall that a couple of years ago, most people’s property taxes went down when a bunch of levies expired (before others kicked in). Rents didn’t go down that year.

      Seriously, homeowners (of which I am one) really need to stop with the “oh woe is me” rhetoric. We have equity, we have borrowing power, and we could all probably sell and go live somewhere cheap and be pretty well off. Renters have none of these benefits, except for the benefit of their rent doubling over the last few years.

      I mean, I bought my place four years ago and even having barely paid off any of my mortgage, I could pocket like $300,000 in profit if I sold today.

      Oh, but let me complain about those taxes, it’s so much worse for me than renting….

    • The flip side is that your mortgage is likely a fixed amount per month, and you get to deduct your property taxes and get some tax relief. (At least for now.)

      Renters have only seen an increase, with no tax benefits. So even if their rent didn’t go up 18-25% this year (hey, my property taxes went up that much too!), they’re worse off with any amount of increase than homeowners. And they don’t have any equity for borrowing or, if want to exit the market altogether, an opportunity to come out with a few hundreds thousand bucks.

      But of course you probably know all of this and are just bitching about stuff you don’t like under the guise of “won’t someone think of the poor taxpayers?”

    • You’ve chosen to live in a place that underfunded its public schools for years, forcing the state Supreme Court to intervene, and where voters repeatedly reject taxes on the rich in favor of taxes on the poor and old. Complaints about raising property taxes ring very hollow given how willing Seattle voters have been to dig themselves into hole after hole.

      If you’d like to see how much property taxes cost in areas that actually have mass transit (instead of decades-late dreams) and functional public schools, check out the taxes on these cheap homes in the New York area: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/18/realestate/homes-that-sold-for-430000-or-less.html

      You may now return to your regularly-scheduled complaining about the tax structure which Seattle voters have imposed on ourselves.

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