Archive for June, 2011

Magazine: Amanda Burden works to reclaim NYC’s waterfront

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

WSJ Magazine, a publication of the Wall Street Journal, has an interesting article about Amanda Burden, daughter of well-known socialite Babe Paley and director of city planning for New York. The magazine says she is spearheading Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to rezone nearly a quarter of New York City and reclaim the city’s waterfront. Her populist achievements include zoning for new affordable housing in East Harlem, Brookyln and the South Bronx, as well as the massively popular High Line, an abandoned railroad track that has been transformed into a popular tourist destination in the meatpacking neighborhood.

New York City waterfront. Courtesy of

Time to add more options at light rail stations?

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Local news sites/blogs Seattle’s Land Use Code, Publicola and Citytank have been having an ongoing discussion about plans for an upzone in the Roosevelt neighborhood of Seattle. Those commenting have argued over how much density is needed near the light rail station planned for Roosevelt. But — as at least one of those commenting pointed out — how about the stations themselves: Why aren’t more useful things offered at transit hubs? As DJC contributor Clair Enlow noted, the stations could be mobility hubs, where commuters could grab a pre-reserved bike or park one, line up a taxi for the other end of the ride or pick up pre-delivered groceries on the way back. It’s a kind of multi-modal switching platform, where transportation meets information technology, and people can connect with essential goods and services, she writes. What do you think? Could we be doing more with the stations and the parking lots surrounding them?

This rendering provided by Cascadia Center for Regional Development shows a concept for a transit hub at the South Transit Park and Ride. It accommodates shared vehicles and places for pickup of pre-ordered goods. Passengers can transfer from rail to bus and find retail shops. King County Metro's plans to redevelop the park and ride do not include commuter rail. The site is along 108th Avenue Northeast, west of Interstate 405 and north of state Route 520. Image courtesy of Veolia Transport

Not so smart growth

Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Photo courtesy of
Sightline Daily, a blog of the Sightline Institute, has begun a series on what is says are outdated laws that are preventing some smart, innovative sustainability solutions. In “Making Sustainability Legal,” senior researcher Eric de Place looks at the issue. Seattle-based Sightline researches the best practices in public policy for a sustainable Northwest.

It’s back

Sunday, June 12th, 2011
AvalonBay Communities is building the 204-unit Avalon Queen Anne, an apartment and retail property in Seattle's Uptown neighborhood. Studio 216 rendering, courtesy of AvalonBay Communities

Four years ago, some of us were reminded (again) that the greater Downtown Seattle housing boom isn’t a birthright. Even with apartments and condos somewhat countercyclical, the whole shebang can slow dramatically, or even stop. But wow, if you love to see Seattle growing and filling in, the fun times are back.

From Lower Queen Anne to Broadway to the far side of First Hill and the CBD, something like 2,300 housing units are under construction right now, many of which I walked by in a big loop today, confirming actual starts vs. mere fence and site prep. That’s less than half the peak volume for that area, but a very healthy number, particularly since most started in a short period. More than 2006, these homes tend to be for the middle income ranges.

A couple thousand units isn’t a massive addition for that area in the scheme of things, with around 60,000 residents already here. But it’s part of greater Downtown’s march toward the real citydom. Slowly more neighborhoods have active sidewalks. Some gaps in our smile (parking lots) are getting fixed.

“Real citydom” is a concept whose meaning and desirability are very personal and subjective. For example, some argue, perhaps rightly, that the “real” part takes a decade or two at least, so that the neighborhood and building have had time to grow and adapt beyond their original states. Or maybe it’s about how much varied stuff is within walking distance, preferably including some good takeout pizza. On the flip side, some people prefer surface parking, and “city” is a bad thing. My bias isn’t a simple as “more is better,” but that’s a good start.

The Terrazza “apodment” project on 11th by Seattle U is very impressive, and one of the starts confirmed today. Per a recent DJC article, the 56 units will average 180 square feet, and there will be no elevator or parking. This is a crucial piece of Seattle’s affordability puzzle. While these homes aren’t for everyone, here’s a way people can live in a central neighborhood without subsidy at a low cost. This lets us focus levy funds et al where they’re really needed. Seattle keeps a few more of our bohemians or low-wage workers, a crucial aspect of any city’s success.

On the same walk, it was also fun to see tourist season in full swing. No, seriously! It’s fun for one’s city to be a host, even when people walk slowly four abreast. It’s sort of like being complimented. The waterfront was full of people all the way to the Sculpture Park, even with this week’s new crop of cruise passengers mostly loaded already. At the park, with the temperature pushing 70, several of the loungers clung to tiny havens of shade, apparently moving every 15 minutes…

Another topic for another day: While greater Downtown is growing housing at a good clip, the region isn’t. Does this suggest a low risk of overbuilding?

What kind of development will Seattle get post-viaduct?

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

A New York Times article says that preserving the High Line viaduct in New York as a public park revitalized that

Image courtesy of James Corner Field Operations
area and generated $2 billion in private investment. The story quotes Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as saying

that the deluxe apartment buildings and hundreds of art galleries, restaurants and boutiques near the High Line make up for the $115 million the city has spent on the park and the deals it has made to encourage developers to build along the High Line without blocking out the sun.

Do you see any parallels with the High Line and plans for the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle and Seattle’s Central Waterfront?

Photo courtesy of Iwan Baan