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Meet the architect who wants to build a lidded park over I-5

(Image: Patano Studio Architecture)

We’d pay $5 to see the plans for this (Image: Patano Studio Architecture)

With Wednesday’s announcement of the $147 million sale of Convention Place Station and the end of buses in the transit tunnel by 2019, the way is now paved for the $1.4 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion to open in 2020. Another nearby project of even larger scope might soon take smaller steps toward joining the new convention center wing in improving the connection between downtown and Capitol Hill.

Small steps is the way architect Christopher Patano, the man who wants to put a lid over the I–5, believes the 45-acre urbanist’s fantasy park can eventually become reality. Patano believes crowdfunding is his next step.Seattle CAP2 Seattle CAP

Patano’s architecture studio is carrying forward the seemingly quixotic idea to construct a lidded park over the interstate. The plan would cover the stretch of I–5 from First Hill all the way up to the Roanoke exit with a public, two-mile park. Patano’s plan would also include an expanded meeting facility, a hotel and an arena.

Ever since he made the first pitch, Patano said that the response has been overwhelmingly positive and the studio is ready to move forward. The studio has the ideas — now it needs the money.

Seattle CAP7 Seattle CAP6“The next step is trying to secure some funding to do the next level of engineering and design,” he told CHS in late October. “Teaming with engineers to get into the structural approach for the lid. We need a little bit of money to dive into the technical issues. We know they’re solvable.”

Specifically, he said the next step is just to further the design into a more comprehensive proposal, where all of the technical specifications and engineering questions have been ironed out.

For Patano, the large idea needs a bottom up approach. At least at the beginning.

“This is really a crowd-sourced idea,” he said. “There are a lot of projects around that world that are bottom up. Suddenly people see it and think, ‘This is a good idea.’”

In that vein, he said the studio wants to launch a crowd funding campaign to raise money for the I–5 lid design from the ground up. He admitted that such a large scale operation would eventually have to find local, state and federal funding. But, for this next stages of design enrichment, he believed that his studio could find that funding directly from the people who believe in such a plan.

“We don’t need to raise money for the whole project,” Patano said. “We just need to raise money for this next step and we’re gearing up to talk about anyone that wants to talk about it.”

And so, the obvious question is: How much to design the project?

“I don’t know yet,” Patano said. “We don’t need to design the whole thing. We need street studies, traffic studied, just to push the whole design forward. I’d say $500,000 — conversationally, that is.”

Seattle CAP12Patano remains certain that a reworking of I–5 was inevitable, he said his team was just trying to provide the best option available for the city.

“Really everything in our proposal is going to happen,” he said. “The convention center, the expanded housing, the arena and I–5 will have to be rebuilt. Washington’s Department of Transportation knows more than anyone that it will have to be rebuilt.”

To that end, he’s tried to fend off those nagging questions of how much it would cost to build a 45-acre park over an urban interstate.

“The first thing we’re going to try to deflect is, ‘How much is this going to cost?’” Patano said. “Well, WSDOT, you’re going to age to rebuild the freeway anyway. Why don’t we plan this out and give you more time to do so? That’s why I like this crowdsourced, bottom-up approach.”

Eventually, even with support from the “crowd,” an I-5 lid will need to find a civic path to existence. So far, no Seattle or state politician has embraced the idea and wedging the massive project into the convention center expansion’s “public benefits” negotiations would require a massive political push.

Patano says the support the idea has received, though, has only strengthened his resolve. He says there is a contingent of developers, design professionals and people within City Hall — though he wouldn’t name names — who approached his studio in support of the idea.

“I thought we’d hear more pushback, but nine out of ten comments have been positive,” Patano said. “So, it seems like it’s worthwhile.”

You can learn more — but not yet pledge your support — at UPDATE: There’s a new site for the project underway, also, at

UPDATE 11/23/15 9:00 PM: This is interesting. The last item on Tuesday’s City Council transportation committee meeting agenda? Lidding Interstate-5 Near Washington State Convention Center Expansion

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Meeting begins at 9:30 AM Tuesday. You can drop committee chair Tom Rasmussen an email here.

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39 thoughts on “Meet the architect who wants to build a lidded park over I-5


    I’d love to see this happen. I’m young, but I’m afraid I might be dead before Id come to see this completed.

    • So many reasons to do this. Thanks to Patano architects and others who are working to move this vision along. (Seattle’s answer to Central Park/the Highline –the kind of park a few other cities have done and what Seattle needs/should do)

    • I personally would love it if all public spaces were designed like cold prison cells. Unwelcoming to the point where even the homeless don’t even tread! /s

    • Yes, clearly being a “bum” (pejorative) is a “paradise”! Imagine your view under thousands of droplets of freezing rain and exposure to street crime all with lack of social services, health care and hope. True paradise!

  2. This needs to happen.

    We have the visionaries, we have the wealthy individuals and corporations already in place with more coming. Work it into a re-do of I-5, which is at the end of its expected life anyway. Sell some bonds to pay for it so that people who move here in the future can help pay for this.

  3. Earlier it was said 800mm to be funded by developers. Now deflecting conversations on costs but notes city/state/crowdfunding.

    I love the idea, it sounds great! Its such a strong sell I can’t help but think of the Simpson’s Monorail episode.

    But we apparently like pet projects (waterfront tunnel) so I expect that may come to reality. Who knows…

  4. The dream of a lid adding open green spaces over the freeway isn’t a pipe dream for the folks who live on Mercer Island and it shouldn’t be a pipe dream for the folks who live in Seattle.
    Now they are going to build a 2.5 billion dollar iconic convention center next to an huge open, ugly, noisy, polluting trench and just act like it isn’t there? Where are the people of vision in this community?

  5. This is the most significant and important developmental idea to hopefully happen in Seattle since the Denny regrade. Seattle deserves a park like this so badly. A massive green space in the center of this beautiful city is exactly what we need. Hopefully we don’t blow it like we did with the Seattle Commons 20 years ago.

  6. Wow. Apparently all it takes to convince people to further restrict the only north-south arterial in Seattle is to buy an architectural CAD rendering application and show I-5 without the relentless clog of traffic. Oh wait, this is a good idea. Now our increasing homeless population will have a place to camp. For an additional taxation rate of $10 per $1000, we could genetically engineer some unicorns to live on the lid.

    • Further restrict I-5? The portion of the freeway which the proposed lid would cover, is already unable to be expanded anymore. It is completely bound on all sides, east, west, vertical, and even subterranean. Where do you propose it gets expanded to?

      • Quit digging. It’s obvious that you are a shill for this brilliant idea. The fact that you want to prove your intellectual superiority only shows that there might be a downside to legalizing weed, or alcohol, or keyboards. GFY.

      • Quit digging. It’s obvious that you are a shill for this brilliant idea. The fact that you want to prove your intellectual superiority only shows that there might be a downside to legalizing weed, or alcohol, or keyboards.

      • How original, instead of engaging in a productive dialogue, you’re being snarky. Everything I said is the truth. You’re the one talking about unicorns.

      • I-5 cannot expand any further as it is today and a lid on top if it won’t change anything.

        The reason I-5 can’t expand is not even the current convention center. It is because all land that is adjacent to it is already built upon and prohibitively expensive.

        This would make expanding I-5 simply at grade (at land) cost much more than SR-99 tunnel. We can barely afford the tunnel, not to mention this.

        Imagine it costing $5b to expand I-5 just through downtown. That can buy you 10+ miles of light rail which can move 32,000 people per hour per direction in comparison to 2,000 cars per hour (with mostly 1 person inside) for a lane of highway. So the math points to the very low likelihood of I-5 ever being expanded in the context of dense Seattle.

  7. I love the idea, but I’m afraid it would become another crime magnet like Cal Anderson Park. Just take a walk in any park near the downtown, Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square areas.

    • By that logic, Seattle as a whole is a crime magnet. Hey, I appreciate nihilism as much as the next person, but a blanket statement that an urban park shouldn’t exist just isn’t right. Should there be blue emergency phones? Yes. Should there be proper lighting and enforcement of park rules? Yes. Criminals aren’t waiting until this thing would be built before committing crimes. Besides, this seems like a project that wouldn’t be up until the mid 2020s and who knows what the city will be like then.

  8. Let’s totally do this. Rent isn’t high enough, property taxes aren’t high enough, sales tax isn’t high enough.

    Everyone loves a park, and yes this is a beautiful vision of a utopian future, but yikes. This project would be a horror show. It will take multiple years, create even more traffic and pollution during its construction (imagine the carbon costs; it will likely never make back what it will cost in heavy machinery, dust pollution, extra traffic pollution, etc.), and yeah, let’s totally crowdsource every civic project! Maybe Kickstart it too! Every great design project has taken the input of tens of thousands of people!

    • I’m not contributing to the Kickstarter, but that’s a crowdfunding option and some people may choose to contribute and that’s their right. They know (and article states) it’s funding the idea development portion more not the actual project. Where have you read all the facts about carbon, time, rent, property taxes, etc. in relation to this project, as compared to other proposals?

      Also, in what way is this utopian? The city is sliced in parts by the highway there. Infrastructure development could create many jobs, more green space, and have non-economic benefits to the energy and feel of the city too. Utopian would be a project to shut down the highway entirely and turn that into a park with the side walls of amazing giant murals and cheap and clean housing built down there with free bicycles for everyone, etc. Lidding a highway is not utopia. It’s an option to consider.

      • By that logic we should make the city as ugly and as unattractive as possible to avoid gentrification at all costs.

        There are means to deal with rising housings and Seattle just approved a whole bunch (see: HALA).

  9. I wonder what this will do to accident rates – a lot of people become even shittier drivers than they already were when put into a tunnel. Myself included.

  10. Yes! Yes! Yes! Seattle would have its very own Central Park. Making the Emerald City the true New York of the West. I can’t wait. Start this project IMMEDIATELY. Way to go Seattle! Genius.

  11. Love this idea. Covering up I-5 makes so much sense. It would basically create real estate in a very high demand location. I suspect there are very smart ways to do this that would generate revenue, in addition to creating a wonderful park for all.

    • Unfortunately, creating real-estate on the lid would be prohibitively expensive. The engineering requirements to support a building, compared to a park, are orders of magnitude greater. A park is a much more feasible idea.

  12. The cost to design this isn’t going to be $500,000. It’s going to be at least $5,000,000, unless they find a team of civil, structural and traffic engineers willing to work for free. Hell, even the cost to do an environmental study is going to be over $500,000.

    This is what happens when architects try to go beyond drawing pretty buildings on paper.