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Our Next New Place

A look forward to a newly reborn neighborhood.

As Will Hall said recently, city planning is all about 'placemaking'- defining and enhancing the distinctive natures of places within the city so citizens can comprehend, utilize, enjoy and take pride in them. When Sound Transit Link Light Rail comes it looks like . Two stops are planned, at 145th St. and at 185th St. I mentioned these in "" but I think a bit more attention is due, so let's do a first draft plan for the 'new' neighborhood I called "Link South".

Link Light Rail's station- centerpiece and raison d'etre for Link South- will be roughly 400' (about two blocks) long and 100' wide, and will be right along the Interstate. Because it is coming up from Northgate I assume they will choose to put it up the east side of I-5. That probably puts the station north of the 145th St northbound onramp to access the small, existing park-and-ride lot. I expect that P&R will expand to fill its block, maybe with a second level. I'm not much of a park & ride fan. I think we should be building our ridership right into the site with serious, multistory upzoning, , and a solid, prefinished plan.

Assume I'm right about the alignment. The map shows you a compact, contiguous area bounded by Paramount Park and Paramount Park Natural Area on the east and Interstate 5 on the west, NE 145th St on the south and NE 155th St on the north. Indeed, those bounding features are a big part of placemaking. You know the old saying- "Good fences make for good neighbors." That’s smaller than my original boundary in “2062”, but that was based on a ‘generic’ station in the middle of the freeway. If it comes up the east side, then the area on the west of I-5 would seem too inconvenient or distant to feel like part of the neighborhood. Still, there should be at least two and perhaps three pedestrian freeway crossings to guarantee foot access.

The station will stretch from the ramp to NE 149th St, perhaps eliminating all the houses along the freeway. This will allow direct access to the Link via 148th and 149th Streets, and will work much better if 4th Ave NE is completed through to NE 155th St, maximizing pedestrian, automotive, and transit interconnection. That road will also make a much more attractive mileu for higher density housing and commercial development in the immediate area- more streetfront, and that is exactly what's called for. By the freeway north of NE 152nd St is a lot owned by some public entity (no tax ID number on record), which can be another park for all the new residents.

What is a neighborhood anyway and what goes into designing one? It's not like most of ours were ever designed at all- indeed, I think Bill Boeing's old haunts, Innis Arden and The Highlands are the only ones, strictly limited though they are- but facing the issues we are a bit of careful consideration is due, so here we go. In Seattle, when they were doing the Neighborhood Plan for South Lake Union, their “Key Elements” included:

>A pervasive human scale ambiance consistent with a vital aesthetically pleasing, safe and energetic neighborhood which embraces a dynamic intermixing of opportunities for working, living and playing;

>Retention of a significant element of the area’s commercial activities, including opportunities for business growth;

>A full spectrum of housing opportunities;

>Ecologically-sound development and life-styles and promotion of ecologically sound business practices consistent within the regulatory environment; ease of transportation for all modes within and through the area;

>A variety of open spaces serving the needs of the area and the city, with emphasis on Lake Union, and its continued preservation for a wide range of uses; and

>Sensitivity to the area’s history and historical elements; and coordination with plans of adjacent neighborhood.

Some of this is directly useable, but some is problematic. The first is right on, but the second… there is no commercial activity there now, so it’s all “opportunities for business growth”. The third is great (with proper emphasis on much higher densities), the fourth and fifth are fine as is (minus the Lake Union reference). The sixth, though? Hmm. The area’s history is one of clear cutting, single family tract house development and the area’s callous amputation by freeway.

So what history is it we must be sensitive to? Each family surely has felt attached to their home, and I don’t mean any disrespect to that, but we must change almost all the current place to make it into the place it must become, so maybe we need to look at it in different ways. Next to Paramount Park and Natural Area maybe the existing houses will remain, but I hope the houses closer to the center can be reused- repositioned and stacked to form a denser but familiar transitional tier between the surrounding, unchanged single family neighborhood and the much denser ‘interior’ section of Link South.

Fifth Avenue NE will naturally become the ‘Main Street’ of Link South neighborhood. It’s a through road, too, connecting Northgate to Link South to Ridgecrest (the Crest Theater, et al) to 175th St (Town Center and North City) and all the way to 185th St, and has I-5 connections at 145th and 175th. Vancouver Metro Area’s experience with SkyTrain can be instructive. The greatest density, both commercial and residential, should grow right around the station itself- a cluster of highrises-  and it should trail off toward the edges.

Of course, this exercise is not the last word, nor even the first. The city of Shoreline  is vigorously involved with the process, and is deeply into the Puget Sound Regional Council's "Growing Transit Communities" program. We, of course, must be deeply involved with the city! Let them know how much better this place would be with good planning rather than a haphazard, timid approach.

John Niles April 22, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Why is the present location of bus service any consideration at all in the location of the two Shoreline train stations? Given that this Central Link light passenger railroad won't open until the 2020s, there is plenty of time to reroute bus service to wherever the freeway train stations eventually locate, yes? Available planning documents indicate the intent of Sound Transit is that buses will be re-routed as necessary to make sure the trains southbound to downtowns of Seattle and Bellevue in the morning are full to standing room only. Fully-loaded trains are necessary in order to further justify the construction of the multi-billion dollar subway tunnel that is set to run from just south of Northgate, then underneath U of Washington and Capitol Hill, and on down to the bus tunnel connection along Pine Street in downtown Seattle. The long-range master plan of Sound Transit is posted on the web at http://www.soundtransit.org/Projects-and-Plans/System-planning/2005-long-range-plan.xml .
Karla Fay April 23, 2012 at 12:24 PM
155th is not a better choice than 145th, on the SW there is the Twin Ponds Park, which is part of the Thornton Creek watershed, on the SE is the fire station and no access to the freeway by any means whatsoever, what makes you think that it is a good choice? At least 145th has a complete 4-lane arterial, a complete interchange, a park & ride lot, and a completely signalized intersection and a bus station already installed next to the freeway. What is located at 155th? ...NOTHING I think you could say the same thing for 185th, but they are brain dead in city hall and not only that, but duplicitous as well, because they have been harping for years to Snohomish County that Point Wells will increase traffic on 185th but now they want to what? Increase traffic on 185th where there is no complete arterial access like they have at 175th! Who owns most of the available land around 185th? The school district and utilities, so we get to pay another public agency the big bucks to obtain access, upzone those neighborhoods at 185th and 155th (if they should chose that ridiculous place, it is totally stupid to even think about it - what about the Metro bus barn where there is space or even James Keough Park that no one uses just to the south of 175th) instead of these other places? But I think it is too hard for the city to think outside of the box.
one opinion April 24, 2012 at 12:24 AM
I ran out of space, but I agree, both ST and city staff are using today’s transit routes to make arguments for tomorrow. However, one should also not assume that today’s transit service levels will be the same tomorrow, either. Metro's at their maximum taxing capacity and averted a 17% cut with a 2-year, $20 VLF. After that, they’re back to facing cutting service. As you know, they're primarily funded by sales tax growth, and their contractual increases and higher fuel costs are growing faster. With no solution yet in sight for funding transit, the future looks to be further service cuts.
one opinion April 24, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Re: the above, the segment from 5th NE to 15th NE on 145th has been a bottleneck for at least 35 years in the a.m. hours. It’s no doubt why Metro has largely abandoned using that street for commuter service, which is instructive for the potential of future bus service there. Adding another reason for people to use it for vehicles will move people into the neighborhoods north of 145th. The 67-space Park & Ride lot is inadequate to accommodate new traffic, and is likely in the way of the route heading N. W of I-5 is also a congested mess, even just getting from SB I-5 to that P&R, but also from Aurora east. Metro offers one peak hour route and zero other routes in that stretch, again instructive for what they might offer there in the future. I'd expect them to use NE 155th, 15th NE, and 5th NE. Note that ST will only be looking at E of I-5, not on the Twin Ponds side, unless their Board adds that option back, highly unlikely. I don't think that freeway access is a high priority, for it's local people that will be using these stations. To make 145th viable, the city needs to: acquire it, figure out how to pay the $150,000+ to maintain it; greatly improve traffic flow, which I don’t think their planned two-way left turn lane alone will do; improved pedestrian connections from the W and E; and deal with the environmental issues. They’re also challenged by only having control over N of 145th; Seattle owns the S. All of these and other issues should come out in the ST study.
one opinion April 24, 2012 at 01:03 AM
The segment from 5th NE to 15th NE on 145th has been a bottleneck for at least 35 years in the a.m. hours. It’s no doubt why Metro has largely abandoned using that street for commuter service, which is instructive for the potential of future bus service there. Adding another reason for people to use it for vehicles will move people into the neighborhoods north of 145th. The 67-space Park & Ride lot is inadequate to accommodate new traffic, and is likely in the way of the route heading N. W of I-5 is also a congested mess, even just getting from SB I-5 to that P&R. Metro offers one peak hour route and zero other routes, again instructive for what they might offer there in the future. I'd expect transit to use 155th, 5th, and 15th as they do now (e.g., #330 on 155th/15th SCC to Lake City). Note that ST will only be looking at E of I-5, not on the Twin Ponds side, unless their Board adds that option back, unlikely. Local people (Shoreline, LFP, Lake City) will be the source of most riders, thus I don't think a freeway interchange is the highest priority. To make 145th viable, the city needs to: acquire it, figure out how to pay the $150,000+ to maintain it; greatly improve traffic flow, which I don’t think their planned TWLTL alone will do; improved ped connections from the W and E; and deal with the environmental issues. They’re also challenged by only having control over N of 145th; Seattle owns the S. All of these and other issues should come out in the ST study.

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