From Boston to San Francisco and cities in between, increasing the quality of livable and usable urban space has become a hot issue. Waterfront redevelopment, highway removal, and linear park creation (and activation) are leading the way.
For Seattle, that means redoing the waterfront by replacing the deteriorating seawall, removing the earthquake damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct, and building a tunnel.
When these projects are complete, it also means carrying out James Corner’s massive over $1 billion waterfront plan with proposed features like a public promenade, lookouts, a dedicated bike path, and more, that would wind along the western edge of the city from Belltown and south to Pioneer Square. Other related projects also include a Pike Place Market addition, an aquarium expansion, and Pike-Pine improvements, among others.
But a new kid on the block is trying to shake things up.
Enter Initiative-123. Seattle-based Kate Martin (who ran for mayor in 2013) is leading a competing vision to the James Corner plan.
The opposing proposal calls for a mile-long, six-acre elevated High Line style park. The idea is to reinforce and convert a southern portion of the viaduct into a promenade and then extend it, rebuilding an entirely new portion as a dedicated haven to walkers and cyclists.
“Elevated parks are at the forefront of urban open spaces and delays in the unimproved plan have created an opportunity for a re-imagining of Seattle’s waterfront,” reads the I-123 policy. “The city’s unimproved waterfront plan attempts to mix commercial, transportation, and pedestrian space into an end product that doesn’t meet any of these users’ needs.”
The proposal is gaining traction, recently getting enough signatures (over 20,638) to go before the city council on August 17. With the council expected to reject it, I-123 would then get put on the ballot, and possibly be up for a citizen vote next summer. And should the ballot measure pass, it would establish a public development authority.
If this happens, “it is going to create serious problems, with the millions of dollars that have already been spent,” City Council member Sally Bagshaw told the Seattle Times last week.
For now, we wait.