[Update: Seattle in Progress is now at www.seattleinprogress.com. The links below have been updated.]
I pass construction sites every day — it’s hard not to in Seattle — and every time I do, I wonder what’s being built. This question started to bug me more and more: in an era of rapid growth and enormous neighborhood interest in directing that growth, why isn’t it easier to get a clear picture of what’s being planned and built at any particular site? There are land use notice signs, but they give little more than an aerial outline of the building and are quickly covered in graffiti. The City publishes design proposals from the architects, but they’re burried in the depths of the City’s website, where few outside the official planning process will ever see them.
Two views of the same development. Left: Land use notices give you little sense of the project. Right: Design proposals are full of information and visuals, but neither the city nor the builder make any effort to bring public attention to them.
Seattle in Progress is my answer to this problem. It’s a mobile web app that informs and engages residents in local land use and building design decisions. All the basic information about a planned building is available with a single click on a map. And detailed design proposals can be viewed quickly and easily.
Here’s an example of the basic functionality of the app, showing the map view, a project description and a rendering from the design proposal:
Left: Pins show every project that’s gone before a design review board recently. Middle: Clicking on a pin reveals basic information about the project, such as number of stories and units. Right: Clicking the thumbnail lets you flip through each page of the design proposal.
Give Seattle in Progress a try on the desktop or your phone at http://www.seattleinprogress.com/. Or use the shortcut http://nprgr.es for less typing on a phone. You can also receive notifications of upcoming development projects by following us on Twitter, @seattle_nprgres.
I’ve been using the app to learn more about my neighborhood, and I’m always discovering interesting developments:
Learn about planned re-builds long before construction starts: The Value Village building on 11th and Pine.
Linda’s Tavern will be surrounded by the new 714 E Pike building.
First Hill is getting a new high-rise to rival First Hill Plaza.
Seattle in Progress is just getting started. Looking forward, there are two big features coming soon. First, you’ll be able to follow specific projects or whole neighborhoods and receive email updates on any new activity or change in project status. You could, for instance, ask to be notified of any new construction or demolition within a mile of your house. Second, there will be more emphasis on voicing your opinion. There will be notices of upcoming public meetings and the ability to directly submit feedback to the design review board.
I’d love to get feedback on the app, or just general ideas on how technology could increase public awareness and participation in urban planning. I’m curious what professionals in the field–developers, architects, urban planners, contractors, real estate agents and others–wish technology could do for them. And I’m curious what interested residents, neighborhood activists, journalists and bloggers would like to see.
Ethan is the founder and lead organizer for Seattle Tech 4 Housing, a grassroots education and advocacy group fighting for progressive housing reform. Seattle Tech 4 Housing was founded on the principals that the tech boom can and should benefit every Seattle resident; that abundant and affordable housing is the foundation of an equitable city; and that the tech community in particular has a responsibility to fight for solutions. Ethan is also the founder of Seattle in Progress, a real estate tech consultancy and website for tracking construction in Seattle.