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Where We Live: String of Pearls

The Aurora Avenue neighborhoods

My very first Patch article was about the Aurora Corridor Project, and I’ve come back to it a number of times. Fitting, really. It’s our ‘Drag’, our ‘Ave’, our up-and-coming Main Street, and it’s got a lot of ‘up-and-coming’ to go.

As Dan Eernissee,  said, “Good urban planning means ‘place making.’” The Aurora neighborhood will really be a string of neighborhoods up our threemiles of Highway 99. What are these places?

Aurora Village: There’s Aurora Village Shopping Center, from 205th down to 200th, between Aurora and about Ashworth. It’s a few big box stores with a few smaller retail and eateries. Across Aurora is an area of higher density housing, much of it new. Anyone there will tell you they live at Aurora Village, but the map says they’re in Hillwood. I think it’s time the city revisit neighborhood boundaries to best reflect history and current realities.

Echo Lake: The lake is natural, but heavily modified. A century back there was a shingle mill, eventually a resort grew up on the south shore, and now it’s surrounded by houses and multifamily housing. Echo Lk Park is only a sliver between the lake and 200th St. Technically, Aurora Village is part of Echo Lk Neighborhood, but the rest of the place is quite different. To the east, single family houses go up the hill.

Town Center: The center of it all will be Town Center (fitting) which goes from N 170th St to N 188th St. A downtown is supposed to be the center of a city, where the main public, cultural, civic, and commercial activity takes place, but I’m not seeing a lot of push in that direction. Our Comprehensive Plan

Cabaret District: The courts are pretty clear that jurisdictions can’t just wish away businesses that make a lot of people uncomfortable and we can’t ban adults-only businesses for offending someone’s religious sensibilities, so we are required to allow them room. That’s the “Cabaret District”. Now, that doesn’t mean it’ll become a solid line of XXX! Live Girls! Signs, but if a new business along those lines wants to open we can point them there where they’ll know ahead of time the regs, laws, and process will be smooth.


I thought based on one of Dan Eernissee’s comments, that the part of AS just north of 155th should become our Cabaret District (by whatever name), but as I see what already exists I think it would most easily be put immediately south of Town Center, between 170th and 165th, as the Drift On Inn, Club Hollywood Casino, and the former Sugar’s and Parker’s (sort of) are there already. Sure, Goldie’s and the Hideaway are further south, and Darrel’s Tavern is north, but that about pegs it.

Aurora Square: As reported by Tony Dondero here in Patch, Shoreline has created a Community Renewal Area for Aurora Square. That’s a legal construct which allows the city to assist in putting life back in a hard-hit area. This gives us the opportunity to build… well, maybe not an arcology, but at least something bigger, denser, and much more alive.  

Westminster Triangle: Maybe this could be the Garden District!  Dan mentioned this idea and I admit, I’d never thought of it. Westminster Triangle seems a good place to try it. When my wife and I bought our condo all the western windows had photocopies of artists’ renderings of what the Interurban Trail was going to be like, so we wouldn’t think it would always be a gravel-and-brambles no-man’s-land full of abandoned grocery carts and addicts. The trail as built is much plainer and less interesting. What if it weren’t? What if property owners whose land backed up to the trail were to have access to margins of the trail for additional garden space?

So, that’s a wish list. How do we turn it into reality? How do we turn a typical auto-oriented strip into a series of distinct places? Here’s a partial list-

Definition: As Dan said- boundaries. A recognizable place has a center and noticeable edges.

Street Furniture: You want people to sit and hang out? Put in benches. Street lights (see Aurora Corridor Project) can set a place apart, too, as can a lot of other touches, done consistently.

Design/Architectural: And besides the benches a coherent set of graphics, sidewalk touches and other things along that line help reinforce a neighborhood’s identity. In extremis, in Leavenworth the whole town mandated a Bavarian esthetic to remake itself. The Town Center will have symbolic gateways at certain streets. Perhaps our Cabaret District should have an amended sign ordinance to allow bigger, brighter, more flashy signage to set its stage.

Density: If you want an area to grow you have to let it! Our Comp Plan includes no accommodation for taller buildings, tighter spacing or any other parameter which would allow higher density in Town Center or any of our other ‘denser’ neighborhoods. I don’t get it.

Transit Placement: Aurora is already a river for transit, and RapidRide is coming. Exactly where the stops are put will strongly influence the rest of each neighborhoods’ designs.

Street Design/Connectedness: Maximize street connectedness. Make sure they all match up. For instance, if we put the Cabaret District where I suggest instead of putting all the most ‘controversial’ businesses along Aurora we could put them on a (re?)built Whitman or Midvale Avenue from 165th to 167th Streets.

That should give us a bit to go for. This is, after all, our Main Street we're building.

one opinion October 02, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Great noodling, Larry. I think you are already aware of where the so-called "Rapid" Ride stops are, though (see: http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/MetroTransit/RapidRide/ELine.aspx). Unfortunately, Metro seems content on not providing any underlying local service, as Community Transit does to the north (the #101 provides the local service, Swift the express/rapid service), instead bowing to the city's pressure to keep a dozen of the #358's bus stops. With too many non-BRT elements, such as sometimes on-board fare collection, traditional wheelchair and bicycle loading, and ringing for a stop, along with 12 stops in 3 miles, well above the BRT standard of about 1/3 of that, I suspect the effect will be similar to what the old #360 was when it was introduced as a limited-stop (in that case) alternative: virtually the same, no matter which neighborhood.

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