In the last couple of weeks, I wrote two different articles in the DJC that looked at making public city space more pleasant for the pedestrian. Though one is an ice skating rink and one is a "park boulevard," they are essentially riffs on the same theme.
Both projects are looking at new ways of creating friendly, inviting open space in a dense, urban area. I'm wondering if this is the future of open space in Seattle?
Let's start with the park boulevard. The idea for the park boulevard seems very Scandinavian. If approved by city council, the Seattle Department of Parks andgo here.
The ice rink would go in Occidental Square Park, in Pioneer Square. Though the area is already a park, it's also a center for homeless people to hang out and doesn't alwaysPI, click here. For comments in the Stranger, click here.
I spoke with Donald Harris, property and acquisition services manager at the parks department for the Bell Street story, and he said one of the reasons the park boulevard makes sense is that land is simply too expensive to buy in downtown Seattle to turn into parks. In addition, the department has also had trouble with some of the parks that are there such as Regrade Park, another magnet for homeless people and drug dealing.
One could say that the same potential will exist on Bell Street, once it's a park. I'm guessing the argument against that is because it's not enclosed, people will be continuously moving along it. Also, once it's a park, park rangers will be allowed to patrol it.
Do you think this is the future of our parks and open space? To take existing rights of way, and to re-imagine them as public space, or to reconfigure existing parks to bring more people to them? If you had limitless power, what public area would you reconfigure into a park? How would you re-invent the city?
It seems like we might be seeing more of these ideas. According to City Council Resolution 31073, relating to the Parks and Green Spaces Levy,
"In an increasingly dense urban environment, such projects present an opportunity for the city to improve the quality of life for its residents without having to incur the significant expense of property acquisition and major park development."
Are you one of those people who is dismayed by the elevation of the pedestrian over the car or is this where the city should be heading? I, for one, will be curious to see how Bell Street turns out.
But what really strikes me, is that the reason parks decided to do this project now is Seattle City Light is replacing utilities along Bell Street from Second to Fifth Avenues, and someone made the connection between that work and reinventing the street as a park. What if that person never made the mental connection? How many other opportunities are we, as a city, missing?
P.S. If you read this today - Thursday - parks will be discussing the boulevard at a meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the Woodland Park Zoo Activity Center. If you're reading this Friday, city council's Parks and Seattle Center Committee will hear a preview of the project at 9:30 a.m.