Posts Tagged ‘Neighborhoods’

Boise, Portland make APA 2008 Great Places

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Seattle was absent from the American Planning Association’s 2008 Great Places in America list but Boise and Portland both made a showing. Last year, the Pike Place Market made the Great Neighborhoods list.

Could be a protest, could just be lunch time

This year, Boise’s North End Neighborhood was ranked among the 10 Great Neighborhoods and Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square was ranked among the Great Public Spaces by the American Planning Association.

I think it makes sense for Seattle to make the list every year. Still, I’m pleased to see other great Northwest spaces make the cut.

Pioneer Courthouse Square serves at once as Portland’s Grand Central Station and Times Square. It’s sandwiched by Max tracks, hosts public concerts and protests and has built-in chessboards and benches that are popular to the homeless, businesspeople and tourists.

Thirty years ago, it was a parking lot. Portland’s 1972 Downtown Plan proposed the square and in 1982 the group “Friends of Pioneer Square” raised $1.5 million to make the project happen.

Yes, this is Idaho
I’ve spent a lot of time in the square, eating lunch, people watching and waiting for the Max. My one gripe: It could use a few more overhangs for rainy days.

Boise’s North End is a great close-in neighborhood that allows most of its residents a 10 minute walk to downtown Boise and is home to some great old houses.

It has its own little walking district, Hyde Park, that’s peppered with little shops and restaurants. Neighborhoods with strong identities are common in Seattle and Portland, but in Boise, the North End really stands out. In terms of its architecture and walkability, it’s similar to Queen Anne.

Also on the list this year: New York’s Central Park, Wichita’s Old Town, Washington Street in Boston and the Santa Monica Beach.

Reading the scale

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

A recent afternoon walk around Capitol Hill led me from Volunteer Park down 14th.

Along the way I saw this single family fantasy:

Beautiful bricks!

Beautiful bricks!

Then not to far down the road yet another study in brick:

This is the Fairhome.  Unfortunately there is no vacancy.

This is the Fairhome. Unfortunately there is no vacancy.

The Fairhome is a solid building that recalls a time when apartment buildings looked like they were built to last forever.

If we peek around the corner of the Fairhome we see:

Gasp!  A single family home.

Gasp! Single family!

And across the street are some great looking old homes.

Solid Seattle houses.

Solid Seattle houses.

And just to the south is this little multifamily number:

Kid on bicycle not included.

Kid on bicycle not included.

And a duplex.

And a bit further south, a duplex.

Scale (as in “this project is out of scale with our neighborhood”) is often used to reject multifamily in and around single family neighborhoods. This neighborhood came together when suburbs were not common and when expectations about scale were different. Look at the stark contrast in scale on 14th and Mercer:

Big switch.

This is a Seattle Housing Authority property.

Talk about out of scale! A high rise of low-income housing?

But this neighborhood — old and new, wealthy, middle class and poor–seems to be working.

The mix is what we want in Seattle’s housing future. There isn’t a clear line or barrier between types of housing but a gradual progression of types of housing, income materials and style. This looks like it happened “organically” but couldn’t we plan the same kind of integration? Who wouldn’t want to live in any unit or house between the Park and John?

A teacher and his development dreams

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

In Seattle, we have a lot of serious development players. We’ve got our own big guys and we’ve got the big guys who come here from all over. We’ve got billions of dollars that trade hands every month and cranes all over town.

Tom Flood on the site

It’s serious business. But we’ve still got our funky side too. We have our shadow development community. It’s small but it’s still here. And sometimes you get a glimpse of it.

Tom Flood is a teacher and sculptor who owns two funky falling-apart structures on the corner of 34th and Pike in the Madrona neighborhood. For years, he taught kids how to sculpt and weld and build Go-Karts at the building that used to say Madrona Auto in front.

He has plans to build seven super-sustainable live-work units on the site. They will all have green roofs with solar cells and natural ventilation. There will be a central courtyard and rainwater will be used in toilets and washing machines.

What Flood wants to build there
A “living fence” in front will let passersby watch graywater being treated as it passes through a transparent planter filled with soil and plants.

The project will cost about $3 million. Flood works as a part-time teacher and his wife, Diane, is a switchman for BNSF Railroad, but they joined forces with small developer Shilshole Development to make it happen.

In the end, the Floods and their kids plan to move into two of the units, gardening on the roof alongside their neighbors.

Flood knows it will be hard for Madrona to accept the loss of his iconic structures. But with a big central courtyard and tenants running small businesses at street level, he hopes to add to the pedestrian landscape. And he plans to salvage the old structures and keep their parts visible on the new.

The project is in design review. Construction will likely start early next year.

Read other bloggers weigh in on other developments planned along 34th in Madrona here and here.