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What’s next for the push to Lid I-5

(Image: Lid I-5)

(Image: Lid I-5)

Getting a logo was a major step for members of the Lid I-5 campaign. Then they got a movie. Now they have a website. What started as a few concept drawings has grown into a small but dedicated group of architects and community members seeking to capitalize on a massive new downtown convention center by attaching to the project plans for lid over I-5 between downtown and Capitol Hill.

The group’s new website, which launched last week, will be a place to track progress on the campaign and store a rapidly growing library of supporting materials. Ideas have included reconnecting streets for better transit, creating a wide open green space, and using the lid to build affordable housing.

Lid I-5 organizer Scott Bonjukian says the group is currently “working on a lot of background tasks” as the Washington State Convention Center Addition project appears to have slowed down in its complicated design review process. The $1.6 billion WSCC addition will be built on land 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.

As part of vacating public right of ways the developers will be required to propose a series of “public benefits.” That’s where Lid I-5 hopes they will be able to insert their proposal. To help convince the commission, the group is working on compiling the results off the group’s well attended design charrette in May.


The Plymouth Pillars Park “triangle” that Lid I-5 is proposing developers fill in. (Image: CHS)

The Lid I-5 campaign, which grew out of the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council, has honed in on two near-term objectives: Have the WSCC developer Pine Street Group commit to funding a feasibility study of lidding I-5, and extending Plymouth Pillars Park over I-5 as the first corner of a new lid.

A smaller request will take place on Thursday as the City Council’s planning committee considers updates to Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan. Lid I-5 will be asking council members to restore language in the 20-year growth strategy to mention lids specifically when addressing I-5. Here is the current passage:

Policy T3.11: Look for opportunities to reestablish or improve connections across I-5 by creating new crossings or enhancing streets where I-5 crosses overhead, especially where these can also enhance opportunities for development or open space.”

Meanwhile, the convention center development team continues its complicated design review process this moth. LMN Architects will once again go before the Seattle Design Commission Thursday afternoon to continue briefings on its proposed streetscape designs that will be required as part of the project’s street vacations.

After the design merit phase is complete the commission will enter a “public benefits” phase to evaluate additional projects the developers will undertake to compensate for the proposed street vacations.

WSCC has requested the City remove a small section of Terry Ave between Howell and Olive and two alleys in the same block. Plans also call for an 8-foot deep “subterranean vacation” of Olive Way between Boren and 9th Ave. In addition to clearing the block for building above ground, the vacations would also allow for a 150,000-foot exhibition hall below street level.

The street vacations are also important for developers moving ahead on two nearby co-development sites, which could include a 28-story apartment building and 16-story office building with street-level commercial space. The street and alley vacations are significant, both in what the WSCC gains and what the city gives up, meaning the required benefits must be equally as important, according to city police.

Construction on the WSCC addition had been slated to begin in 2017 with the new Convention Center building scheduled to open in 2020, although that timeline will likely be delayed. The Design Commission is not expected to give its final approval of the public benefits until next year, after which the Seattle City Council would still need to approve the street vacations.

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15 thoughts on “What’s next for the push to Lid I-5

  1. Subterranean vacation under Olive Way means closing two blocks of Olive Way for construction for a long time. This would be combined with the early closure of Convention Place Station years before light rail trains will be able to replace buses from North Seattle that use the station and tunnel. This looks like a years-long transportation disaster, but for what outcome? The WSCC expansion doesn’t solve any problems for residents of Seattle. It only creates new ones. $1.6 billion of tax revenue could do much more.

    • But there’s a shiny new logo, a movie, and a slick website now! That’s the hard part, right? The $1.6 Billion will be easy. Just stick it to homeowners all around Seattle, like everything else. Piece of cake.

    • I guess they’ll have to use Howell, which is already a nice disaster. Buses can barely push through the line of cars that are violating bus lane rules.

  2. I like the idea of an I-5 lid and the many benefits it will bring to the area. I also like the idea of fixing our existing and crumbling infrastructure and having robust transit options.

    Until those are fixed and in place, I cannot support a pet project like this that only benefits a few and not all in the region.

  3. Logo, movie, website….looks as if we’re about 90% of the way there. Just a few i’s to dot and t’s to cross…like figuring out where to find the money. Hard work has already been done.

    • Yes, no one uses websites anymore– respectable people just run off a bunch of photocopies and leave them on windshields when they want to sway a bunch of people to support their public planning project. That’s how you get things done for real around here.

    • @fig

      yeah, because a website automatically generates the billions that will be needed for this project to become reality. great, we have a website instead of fliers. the point is, let’s try and get funding for this first; that’s the hard work.

      is it going to be paid for by the public? which public; those that live next door to it, all of capitol hill or all of seattle? what about the state (this is over their highway)? that’s the hard work and what should be, if not done, a clear direction in place, before worrying about a logo and website.

      if we are saying that the convention center should pay, and the convention center is funding this expansion with tax dollars, why not just skip the middle man and have the city/county/state use our tax dollars directly on this project instead of giving it to the convention center? Seems like that can be done without needing to make a logo, website or even fliers.

    • @zeebleoop

      Quoting “why not just skip the middle man and have the city/county/state use our tax dollars directly on this project instead of giving it to the convention center?”

      … because a small group of architects and green urban enthusiasts doesn’t have the power to allocate state funds like that?

      Look, asking about funding and planning and the practicality of implementation with our current traffic congestion issues are all reasonable, sensible things to do. But so is having a website so citizens can learn about the project — they’re clearly hoping for public interest to make the project more appealing to the city, or to give impetus to a referendum down the road. The weird opposition around the Lid proposal -gasp- having a website is nonsensical.

    • @fig

      “… because a small group of architects and green urban enthusiasts doesn’t have the power to allocate state funds like that?”

      i never once wrote that it should be this group to allocate funding. i did comment, however, that it seems like a better use of the groups time would be to focus on getting the powers that be in city/county/state on-board to figure out what a funding plan might look like and then come to the public with it.

      i know many people on this blog and in the general public love the idea of a lid over i5 and we don’t need to be sold on it. what we need to be sold on is how this will get paid for and by who. outside of that a website and logo aren’t really that exciting of a thing.

    • @zeebleoop

      “outside of that a website and logo aren’t really that exciting of a thing.”

      That was my point… websites are pretty de rigueur. The I-5 Lid organizers put together a website so people will have a designated place about the plan as it develops in its earliest stages and give feedback for the same. It’s pretty standard to do that and I don’t see how this is either a waste of time or an indication that they don’t have a detailed plan in development, as multiple people in these comments have suggested.

      On the other hand, this piece isn’t really about their website but rather about the convention development and other planned or possible future development in the area, so it’s a bit of a misleading lede.

  4. I’m all for this — IF it’s funded primarily through non-public funding. Otherwise it’s a little ridiculous to consider how hundreds of millions of dollars were spent last century to rip through primarily non-white and disadvantaged communities so that privileged white people could speed to their Downtown skyscaper jobs and back out to their suburban homes… only to turn around this century and ask to spend billions of dollars so that the privileged white people who now want to live in fancy new condos near their Downtown skyscraper jobs don’t have to be exposed to the noise and pollution.

    • I know right? It’s almost like the time where the land was ripped away from native peoples in an unfair manner. Not a proper blog entry unless we bring up race and class. Good work!

    • “…IF it’s funded primarily through non-public funding.”

      so you mean, mostly paid for with private funds? great, then since this lid was funded privately, those who paid for it now get a say about who uses it and when. versus us having public tax dollars pay for this and everybody can enjoy it. but i guess you want those privileged white people to have one more enclave all to themselves so you have something else to bitch about.

  5. Not understanding the ire directed at the Lid I-5 group here. Did everyone read the full article?

    The $1.6 billion is the cost of the convention center expansion proposed by WSCC, it has nothing to do with Lid I-5. Lid I-5 is group of people who want to get something good for the area out of this expansion, by tying it to improvements for the area.

  6. After reading the comments on this “Lid I-5” project it seems like most people are not in favor of spending so much money on a luxury good. Lets focus on some more practical projects like getting more light rail.