“Their convention center would be much nicer if it was next to some ground instead of an interstate highway.”
Proponents of lidding I-5 at the base of Capitol Hill are getting serious: They have a logo.
As part of its ongoing efforts to inject community priorities into the massive $1.4 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion, members of the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council have been pushing forward the idea of lidding I-5. PPUNC and a group of designers are now preparing to make their first public pitch before City Council members during a Wednesday afternoon “lunch and learn” at City Hall.
PPUNC chair and Capitol Hill architect John Feit sketched out a handful of lid ideas for the meeting, which range from *simply* reconnecting the street grid at Minor and Terry, to a 7-acre park over I-5 between Olive Way and Pike, to a mix of park space and development. The new publicly owned property could also open the opportunity for building public housing, Feit said, perhaps even for some of the hundreds of service industry workers the WSCC plans to employ.
Leveraging “public benefits” required of the developers as part of the convention center expansion will be key to getting PPUNC’s proposal off the ground. The benefits typically include improvements to the streetscape like canopies, planting, and lighting.
While the Pine Street Group has dismissed suggestions that a lid could be part of the public benefits provides as part of the project, Feit is hoping the developers would be open to funding a crucial feasibility study to establish real lid proposals.
“I think its reasonable to get the Convention Center to pay for that,” he said, estimating a study could cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million. “Their convention center would be much nicer if it was next to some ground instead of an interstate highway.”
Convention Center developers may still have a role to play in placing the first piece of the I-5 lid. As a part of the public benefits process, PPUNC is exploring the idea of having developers extend the Plymouth Pillars Park off-leash area to cover up a smaller corner of the I-5 canyon.
Placing a price tag on I-5 lidding all depends on the plan. Northwest Urbanist publisher and architect Scott Bonjukian, who will be joining Feit on Wednesday, wrote a series of posts that outline cost estimates, analyze the site, and review existing lid projects in other cities:
As discussed later on, I recommend lidding approximately 8.4 acres, resulting in a rough cost estimate of $168 to $210 million. That can be rounded up to $250 million to account for rebuilding retaining walls and overpasses, traffic system modifications, and improvements to Freeway Park.
Paired with the massive benefits of freeway lids, and relative to the enormous megaprojects going on Seattle right now, a price tag of $250 million is an incredible bargain.
The planned convention center expansion will fill the space along the north side of Pine just across I-5 from Capitol Hill where King County Metro’s soon to be defunct Convention Place Station is located today. Plans are currently in the works to phase buses out of the existing transit tunnel.
Last month, the WSCC announced it reached a deal with the County to buy the 4 acres for $147 million. But that transaction, too, could come with strings attached after the Seattle Times called for more scrutiny of the proposed deal’s impact on transportation costs:
Expanding the center is a worthy project with long-term benefits for the region. The utility of Convention Place is also diminishing because it will be bypassed by light rail in the current tunnel scheme. But the Metropolitan King County Council — which is expected to finalize the deal in early 2016 — must proceed with care and thoroughly explain how the public would benefit and transportation would be affected.
LMN Architects presented some of its most recent design concepts which included a massive cardboard model of the center and its surrounding blocks. The project will soon move to the Seattle Design Commission, where developers will likely divulge more details beyond the proposed designs.
PPUNC park isn’t quite as ambitious as the conceptual “linear park” that was put forward by Patano Studio Architecture, but the plans did help revive the I-5 lid conversation.
Council member Lorena Gonzalez and outgoing Council member Tom Rasmussen are expected to attend Wedesday’s meeting. According to Feit, future District 1 Council member Sally Bagshaw, who will represent downtown, supports the idea but won’t be able to make the meeting.
City Council members will hear from I-5 lid proponents Wednesday at 12 PM inside City Hall’s Council chambers, 600 4th Avenue.