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A freeway lid in push for Hill-friendly convention center expansion? Thinking too small — How about a 45-acre park along I-5?

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 4.19.44 PM

(Images: Patano Architects)

(Images: Patano Architects)

Following a hearing on the “public benefits”of the $1.4 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion plan with a reported strong Capitol Hill-leaning set of community priorities, an even more ambitious initiative has apparently been rekindled by the opportunities in the project.

A concept for a “linear park” along and over I-5 from Patano Studio Architecture is being revived with hopes that the community effort to shape the Convention Center’s Pine Street expansion can possibly align with a massive initiative that would create an expanded meeting facility, a giant hotel, a 20,000-seat arena, and a 45-acre park along I-5 connecting Capitol Hill and neighborhoods east of the freeway with downtown:

The C.A.P. proposal solves multiple issues, our growing city can thrive from the complexity of the challenges facing its citizens. We can have a beautiful public park, a destination convention center, a downtown sports arena and affordable housing. Each of the neighborhoods have multiple opportunities to tie the city back together at large and small scales. Focus on the public amenities, public input and evolutionary process that the C.A.P. infrastructure supports will allow the development of the concept over time.

The concept is purely in the vision state at this point but some advocates believe the time is ripe to renew the push to lid I-5 — and they are hoping to harness energy from Capitol Hill community and development activist group the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council to make it happen.

UPDATE: Erik Barr of Patano tells CHS the push behind the concept is starting a “big idea” for Seattle. “That’s how Freeway Park started. Freeway Park started as an idea,” Barr said, calling the proposal “an opportunity for people to think about things in the big picture.”

Barr pointed at the boom times for big midwest and eastern cities that included massive civic projects in the 20th century. “Seattle is having its boom day right now,” Barr said.

PPUNC chair and past CHS contributor John Feit says the convention center expansion will again be on the group’s agenda Tuesday night at its September meeting at the Capitol Hill library:

The Pike|Pine Urban Neighborhood Council

Meeting Agenda

When: Tuesday, September 15, 2015; 6:00 pm – 7:45 pm
Where: Second Floor Meeting Room, Capitol Hill Branch, Seattle Public Library

  1. WSCC expansion advocacy update (John F, 6:00 – 6:20)

  2. I-5 lid design concepts and graphics (Chris P, 6:20 – 7:20)

  3. Coalition building (All, 7:20 – 7:45)

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(Image: Patano Architects)

PPUNC has not yet endorsed the I-5 lid or Patano park plan but Feit said he is interested in how the idea might connect to his group’s push to improve the pedestrian connection between Capitol Hill and downtown with a Pike/Pine-friendlier plan for the convention center expansion design.

WSCC reps say they are also committed to creating an active and more-engaged next generation for the center that creates a better connection to the surrounding streets. The design process for the expansion project will continue with a third early design guidance session planned for October. As part of the design reviews, WSCC developers are also planning to complete a “codevelopment” process to design “a 30-story building with 428 housing units and a 16-story building with 595,000 square feet of office space” just north of the project as part of the expansion. WSCC plans to sell the codevelopment properties to help fund the convention center expansion.

“The downtown core and Capitol Hill are experiencing unprecedented growth and development,” the brief document on the lid idea provided to CHS reads. “As the urban core densifies opportunities for significant public green space downtown are becoming difficult to imagine.”

“C.A.P. proposes to insert topography and public park space into the chasm created by Interstate 5.”

The creator of the Patano Architects vision for the I-5 park Christopher Patano was traveling and not available for comment on the proposal or how it might fit in with the convention center plans.

More information is posted at The Patano document is posted below.


UPDATE: We’re no scientists, but is it possible a lidded I-5 could help address this health issue in one of the scariest maps we’ve ever seen?

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37 thoughts on “A freeway lid in push for Hill-friendly convention center expansion? Thinking too small — How about a 45-acre park along I-5?

  1. I never met an expensive project that I didn’t like, but this looks over the top. I would love to have a new park but a new 20k seat arena?

    • Actually, I can see the logic of an arena. An arena costs 1 billion and the convention center costs 1 1/2 billion. If you are spending that kind of money in that small of an area having those projects contribute to the park makes sense. 1% of those costs would be 25 million. It costs about 18 million per acre to lid a freeway. If you built a part of the convention center on the freeway and put the park on top of that part of the convention center you could cover a lot of freeway. Both of those would be a huge boon to the hotel industry and having them pay some additional taxes to help cover the costs would be another potential revenue stream to pay for the park. In addition, with that development being adjacent to the freeway and the light rail system you’d solve a lot of transportation issues.

  2. this is great but what i don’t see is how much it’ll cost and who will pay for it. i went to the lid i5 website via the link above and saw the “lid madison to spring” study and for a full lid, for that 1 block section of i5, with basic amenities, the cost, back in 2009, was estimated at $97.5M. with inflation and cost overruns i can see this project being closer to $150M/block.

    how many blocks are we talking about; at least 20? So about $3B to lid i5 through downtown. and with only basic amenities. so no theater, no sports arena (do we really need ANOTHER one) and no cultural center.

    with so many people bitching about the cost of painted crosswalks i just can’t see this getting funded with tax dollars. so who will pay for it?

    • Are there loads of homeless encampments along myrtle edwards park? Nope.

      And sure, there would be some homeless people but god forbid you have to walk past a homeless while walking your dog. How terrible that would be.

      • So Db. Yah. Actually there are. A woman was beat to death through the side of her tent and her husband critically injured not far south from ME park under an overpass and there are entire stretches of Elliott ave full of campers. Your point? Mine is that I’m tired of shelling out thousands in taxes to house and support travelers from all over the country in Freattle. . All the while worrying about if they will get aggressive with me in telling me I owe them change while walking my dog. Your point sucks. A lot as it has become terrible for most.

  3. The long term benefits to capping I-5 include: better air quality, reduced noise pollution, increased pedestrian access to downtown and neighborhoods, green space in the city core, potentially increased property values . . .

    It would just be nice to not have a massive highway with vehicles roaring (or inching using commute) through the city. I-5 slices the city, but a lid of green space would add land and beauty.

    Yes to a lid on I-5!

    • 4 questions for you Nic:

      1. Do you own a home? And if so:
      2. How much did your property taxes go up in tax year 2015?
      3. how much did your 2016 assessment go up last month?
      4. what do you think that’ll do to your 2016 taxes?

      • Jim, how much has the value of your home increased in the last 5 years? The amount that homeowners spend on taxes is a FRACTION of the increase in property values that almost all homeowners have seen in this region.

        And like someone mentioned earlier in this thread, renters are paying these taxes as well in the form of higher rents. So it isn’t as if homeowners shoulder the burden alone.

      • what you people always seem to forget is that does nothing for you unless you’re planning to sell and move. And move where? Everything else costs just as much. It’s not like your house going up in value does you any good while you’re working and paying bills and just trying to get by.

      • Gee, this sounds a lot like the whole “well, who do renters think they are, believing they’re entitled to be able to afford to live in whatever neighborhood they want” criticism that gets thrown around here all the time. Please explain why this apparently doesn’t apply if you own a home rather than rent one.

    • @nic

      nobody’s arguing the long term benefits. what people are asking is how much will it cost to build and who will pay for it.

      it’s great to have dreams of this utopian green-space covering an exhaust spewing ditch but you gotta be able to pay for it. and from what i see and hear, we don’t have budget to build shelters for the homeless; much less build an elevated 2 mile park (plus arena, etc).

      if you have some magical source for the billions of dollars needed for this project, let us know.

  4. Nice, but holy cow! Have you even considered a rough cost? Tens of billions is my guess. We could shut down the rest of the state and fund this.

    More realistic might be a lid on downtown, but even that would be very expensive.

    • The Commons.

      That big grandiose plan that got a resounding NO from the citizens of Seattle that we now have had shoved down our throats by Vulcan and Amazon. The one the City has spent millions on messing with Mercer Street?

      Yeah, I remember the Commons.

      I would love to have I-5 lidded as far north as Lakeview, but it’s not practical, affordable or frankly, wise from an engineering standpoint.

  5. Never gonna happen.

    Even if this is entertained, the decades worth of environmental studies, land use impacts and so on will tie it up in red tape that we won’t see it in our lifetimes.

    I’d be happy if we just had pothole-free streets and safe/accessible sidewalks for everyone.

  6. I don’t think this is a ridiculous proposal. It may be impractical given a bunch of constraints, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering.

    The big vision is what gets people’s attention and opens up opportunity for the small stuff.

    – Sidewalk on both sides of Denny on widened overpass
    – Bike lane on bikeable Pike on widened overpass
    – Less cancer with vents or something?
    – Sound walls like sparse suburbs get, but horizontal?

    What other proposals are on the table? Maybe we can get more of an awning than a cap, and solve a bunch of problems for cheaper.

    • I believe the proposal is for an alternative location for the SODO basketball stadium already under design and city review. Patano Studios sees it (if I am correct) as a way to share the large parking burdens created by both conventions and sport events. I think it is a cover idea; unfortunately, I think the stadium developers are too far down their chosen path.

  7. I think it is great to see one perspective on what could be. It is only by dreaming big that we can achieve more attainable goals (and maybe even some big ones). This is the way we can make our city a better place.

    • i don’t disagree with you, john. i think dreaming big is a good idea. personally my dream is that we build an underground subway connecting every major neighborhood by 2020. but while we’re dreaming big we need to leave some dreaming for how we’ll pay for these things.

      so far, i keep hearing the “dream big” mantra without any commentary on what the thought is behind paying for these dreams. i’d love to hear the ideas behind that (other than, selfishly, another property tax increase on middle income households).

      maybe it’s a civic improvement tax on amazon, microsoft, facebook, boeing, nordstrom and any other major corporation in town? have them come up with at least a third of the cost of construction. but let’s come up with those ideas in tandem with the design dream. otherwise you’re just going to wind up talking to the air.

      • The problem with that idea is that if you try to soak the job-making companies too heavily, they just move the jobs. Look at Boeing– moving their assembly jobs to (non-union) South Carolina when the union wouldn’t deal. And have you ever heard of Microsoft Licensing, Incorporated? A subsidiary located in Reno, NV. Who really believes Microsoft has any real developer or product jobs in Reno? Microsoft balked when the state of WA tried to squeeze them too heavily on business taxes, but wouldn’t cut a deal. So what did they do? They funnel billions of $$ in licensing fees through a state that taxes them far less. We should expect big companies to pitch in some, but if we start expecting them to be ATMs, they’ll just move the jobs to somewhere cheap-ass (like Austin) that doesn’t.

  8. I’m not wild about an arena either but I am very happy to see people thinking “big” while we are in the middle of all of this growth. When they expanded I-90 across Mercer Island those folks were given a lid over the freeway and a park. I read not so long ago about how the state is building over passes for wild life to cross unhindered. With all due respect to people on Mercer Island and innocent animal slaughtered crossing the freeway, lidding an ugly, noisy, polluting traffic corridor in the middle of the highest density of population in the state should be the highest priority. We need to cover that wound and mend our community.

  9. According to the architect who was interviewed by KiroTV, “the cost would be around 800mm while development alongside the proposed lid would cover the cost”.

  10. YES on the lid! The idea of a park-cap was around when I moved to a Capitol Hill apartment along the freeway 23 years ago. I thought it was a fantastic solution to the pollution, noise, filth, and anxiety the freeway traffic caused then, and I think it’s even more necessary today. I don’t live on the Hill any longer, but imagine how peaceful the area would be and FINALLY, finally, the city would have a real downtown park!

  11. I think everyone can love a “big idea.” And even if the $$#s to create the idea pencil out to a point worthy of coming to consensus on a funding mechanism, what no one seems to bring up here is maintenance and security. We built one of the most nationally heralded urban parks, Cal Anderson, which is TINY comparatively. And the City can’t deal with maintaining its once former beauty even after voting in Park Levies to pay for backlogged maintenance. And despite funding “Park Rangers” for safety, and being a block from a precinct, the park is a veritable minefield day and night. I want ALL of these good big ideas, but until their are funding mechanisms in place for sustainability of good ideas…

  12. If You’ve seen the I-90 Lid that was constructed in Boston ( I resided there before, during and after construction), there is no question this would be a great long-term project for Seattle.

    Number of housing units, etc should be up for discussion, but the park and amenities spanning that far N to S is something so valuable to this growing metropolis that it cannot be ignored.

    We have so many non-tax sourced resources available with the huge investment in our City…let’s really think how to grow private funding….

  13. Capping I-5 is a good idea but making it a park a terrible one. We don’t need more parks we need more housing. In addition there are many downsides to I-5 cutting through the city, the biggest being that it divides the urban core. A park would do the same and act as a physical and psychological border between downtown and capital hill. The freeway should be capped and allowed to develop, sell 20 acres to developers, use 20 acres for affordable housing and perhaps 5 acres for green space.