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A playful idea for Capitol Hill’s first pavement park

Summit Denny Meeting Boards.pg3An element of puzzling and play and lessons from the first pavement parks on First Hill could be part of the design for a new open space along E Olive Way after a community brainstorm on the project last week.

At Thursday’s Capitol Hill Community Council meeting, the Seattle Department of Transportation invited the public to contribute ideas for a new Pavement to Park project at Summit and Denny.

Among design ideas floated at the meeting were interactive features — perhaps a painted maze, like the one at the new Seattle Center playground. The Pronto bike racks currently housed on that stretch of Summit will remain, but could be moved as a block or split in two to form traffic edges. Coming up, the city will hold a community event at the park’s location to show off a design concept and gather more feedback.

Summit Denny Meeting Boards.pg1At the meeting, SDOT representative Susan McLaughlin invited ideas on “expressive elements” for the Summit and Denny park. She pointed out the good-sized and apparently rugged palm tree thriving on what is now a small traffic island/parking strip between Summit and Olive. The site faces some challenges for a park: it’s in the roar of traffic, and the sidewalk in front of the market is used as a truck loading area. But the transformation should at least make the area safer and more pleasant to walk through, even if not everybody wants to sunbathe at an oasis off Olive.

Pavement to Parks brought you a handful of small gems last summer, including UUB, the turquoise triangle on University, Union, and Boylston. It’s creating small, and initially temporary, parks under the Adaptive Streets Program, which is tasked to address the need for increased public space and/or safety. This summer’s project at Summit and Denny addresses both, claiming roughly 3,000 square feet of Summit Avenue between Denny and Olive for pedestrians.

That short segment of Summit in front of an apartment building and a mini-market currently serves as both parking space and through street, and that’s the problem according to SDOT. It presents an opportunity for drivers to cross Denny onto Summit and nose into traffic on Olive rather than to turn at the four-way intersection. That intersection also reportedly presents ambiguity for pedestrians—it’s not immediately clear that the crosswalks are really there to be used.

The Capitol Hill project has a budget of $75,000 and a toolkit of paint, planters, granite blocks, epoxy gravel and café tables that enable an SDOT road crew to quickly install, change, or remove a park. Summit and Denny, like the other Pavement to Parks projects, will initially be a two-year installation while the city assesses the usefulness of the design and considers whether more permanent infrastructure is justified.

At last week’s meeting, community members also gave useful feedback on the University, Union, and Boylston Pavement Park that was launched in August. Capitol Hill resident Paul Feldman says he has had plenty of opportunity to observe UUB because he lives nearby. Contrary to some early concerns he heard from other First Hill residents, the park’s use by people who are apparently homeless hasn’t created a problem. And UUB has provided an opportunity for conversation between people who otherwise wouldn’t have interacted, making him “a big, huge fan” of the park.

There are just a few things, though. There’s not a clear pathway through the park, so it’s unclear which areas are for sitting and which are for walking. Feldman and others pointed out that the cables securing the café tables and chairs are limiting and awkward. Solid blocks for seating and a clear walking path would be preferable. Given the temporary nature of the park elements, these design problems at UUB should be easy to fix.

CHCC and Central Seattle Greenways are potential community partners for the Summit and Denny park. SDOT is doing community outreach and gathering ideas through April and May. If you have a comment, or if that palm tree inspires you, answer the questions in the form below and return it to Susan.McLaughlin@Seattle.gov

Once the initial design is drafted, SDOT will invite public feedback at an event in June on the Summit and Denny site. Construction of the park should take place in August or September.

Capitol Hill Pavement to Parks Survey

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9 thoughts on “A playful idea for Capitol Hill’s first pavement park

  1. Yes please. This is such a dangerous stretch of road. Hopefully a pavement park will change people’s driving behavior around this area.

  2. I believe that that triangle of green space at the junction of Olive Way, Summit Ave. and Denny Way is called “Three Car Park”, (probably a reference to how many Smart Cars could be parked on the Summit side).

    About two years ago there was an official Seattle Parks sign on the site that kept getting vandalized and they finally gave up on the signage after about 5 tries. I can not find it listed in the index of Seattle Parks now.

  3. I remember that sign. It was called Four Car Park and listed “loitering” as one of the permitted activities. Obviously a prank of some kind.