Thursday, 23 May, 2019

Mayor Murray Launches ‘Move Seattle’, A 10-Year Transportation Investment Plan

Move Seattle supports all modes, courtesy of SDOT.
Move Seattle supports all modes, courtesy of SDOT.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray stood before community members and city staff in Ballard yesterday to launch his 10-year, citywide transportation investment plan. Move Seattle, as it is known, will be Seattle’s roadmap for near-term investments and tying together all of the big transportation plans that Seattle has. The plan is focused around five central pillars: safety, interconnectedness, vibrancy, affordability, and innovation.

Seattle already has an amazing set of transportation and street use assets, but the Mayor wants to build upon this to meet not only today’s needs, but grow for the future in an innovative way. The Mayor recognized that Seattle’s transportation foundations are built upon investments made over 60 years. And while this is a good basis from which to grow, the demands of the modern city have radically changed since the days of collector-arterials and cascading greens for cars. Move Seattle will take a big leap forward by integrating key transportation policies like Complete Streets, Vision Zero, and each of the major 20-year modal transportation plans on the book (which include the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Transit, and Freight Master Plans) into one overarching plan.

The big ticket project list, courtesy of SDOT.
The big ticket project list.

The Mayor wants the transportation department (SDOT) to use every tool in their arsenal to deliver comprehensive projects that put the City’s public right-of-ways to their best use. That doesn’t mean that every street will meet every modal need. Instead, in the spirit of Complete Streets, SDOT will look at corridors as whole systems–something the agency has been doing for a long time–to provide for all modes in city projects. Ultimately, the city will rapidly see a change from one primary mode to a wide variety of modes to drive equity and balance needs.

As the Mayor noted, “More choices means fewer cars on our streets. That means, when you do need to drive, you’ll be up against less traffic. And with roads less clogged, freight deliveries can make it to their destination on-time, supporting jobs and growing our economy. Move Seattle prioritizes the maintenance of our existing system so that system remains functional and safe. Retrofitting our bridges for seismic issues, repaving our streets, investing in new traffic light technology to ease congestion, improving safety in our school zones, improving pavement markings, replacing aging signs, and adding lighting to enhance visibility.”

Of course, the Mayor’s plan requires serious capital investments to bring it to fruition. The city already has a massive backlog of needed maintenance and repair let alone expansion and reallocation. The Mayor recognizes this and plans to propose a series of funding sources to ensure the success of the overall program goals for Move Seattle. This year, the Bridging the Gap levy will expire without reauthorization from Seattle residents. While the levy was never intended to fill all of the funding needs, it was meant to get Seattle on the right path, and it’s certainly achieved that. The Mayor has been exploring a bigger version, and that’s something we anticipating hearing about in the coming the coming weeks.

The small details matter, too, courtesy of SDOT.
The small details matter, too.

The Move Seattle plan itself is fairly accessible, despite its 76-page length, with handy diagrams and lots of interesting statistics, infographics, and other tidbits. For instance, SDOT talks about using innovative approaches to putting right-of-ways and public spaces to better use. As parklets, food carts, and sidewalk cafes increasingly become popular across the city, SDOT wants to expand those programs where they make sense. The way the agency sees it, the right-of-way is meant for all and should be more than just a way to move people and goods, it also is a place for interaction, creativity, spectacle, and freedom.

The latter portion of the plan talks about some high-profile projects that the Mayor and SDOT hope to prioritize over the next decade. To many, the project list won’t be too surprising with many of them focused on moving people around the core of the city and its various urban centers.

Long-time poster children for completion like the Burke-Gilman Trail’s Missing Link (noted as E on the project list) will finally see an end under the plan. For this project specifically, SDOT thinks it will take $15.9 million to finish, but they also highlight why the project really does deserve priority attention. Each project gets a project score in four areas, six qualitative measures, and a total project cost. From a safety standpoint, the Burke Gilman Trail Extension is off the charts scoring 20 out of 20 under the measure. It also ranks highly in interconnectedness by extending the trail that much further into the urban core of Ballard.

Rating a key project.
Rating a key project.

We’ll follow up to dissect elements of the Move Seattle plan in future articles.

Hotel Clare: A Glamorous Addition to Downtown

Design change for the Hotel Clare site, courtesy of DPD.
Design change for the Hotel Clare site, courtesy of DPD.

Plans for the Hotel Clare site are getting a big makeover. Located on the corner of Second Avenue and Virginia Street, the project is getting scaled back from a 39-story residential and hotel tower to a now-proposed 17-story hotel. For the beloved Terminal Sales Annex Building that currently sits on the planned site, the project redesign could be an improvement. Ankrom Moisan Architects are leading the project design for Columbia West Properties, Inc, who hope to create a new luxury hotel for Downtown Seattle.

Previously, the applicants had received approval for the construction of a tower with 190 residential units and 154 hotel rooms. The 537,500 square-foot building would also have included 6,431 square feet of ground floor retail and 288 parking stalls. But the project revision will eliminate all residential units and instead develop 208 luxury hotel rooms with 68 parking stall (58 for cars, 10 for bikes) in a 140,500 square foot building. Ground floor retail will be comprised of 4,609 square feet.

The Hotel Clare proposal, courtesy of DPD.
The Hotel Clare proposal, courtesy of DPD.

The Project Proposal

Standing at 17 stories tall, the building will gracefully mix new and old into the project design–just as the architects intended. Steve Jones, Senior Architect of Ankrom Moisan, shared the overarching objectives for the project:

Hotel Clare is designed to highlight the Terminal Sales Annex Building. The landmark has long been an important element of the neighborhood and we want to respect that history while designing a new 208 guest room hotel on the site. We intentionally placed the guestroom tower to provide space and air to the neighboring buildings while allowing the Terminal Sales Annex to stand proud along Second Avenue. The tower placement preserves views from the apartments in the new Viktoria building, and provides a good separation between offices in the Terminal Sales Building and the new hotel guest rooms.

In addition to highlighting the site’s landmark, our client’s goals are to create a unique destination, minimize traffic impacts and to be a good neighbor along this stretch of Second Avenue. In collaboration with our client, we have designed a plaza with enhanced landscaping at the corner of Second and Virginia. This plaza provides a bit of open space for the public and emphasizes the Terminal Sales Annex’s history of being a sentinel on the street.

From the beginning of the project, the design intent has been to provide a backdrop to the landmark. The strong framing element reinforces the proposed tower’s east/west orientation where the majority of the views are.

As should be apparent–and in keeping with the project goals–much of the landmark structure will be retained and incorporated into the overall tower structure. On the ground floor, some podium elements will be located immediately adjacent to the Terminal Sales Annex Building, as well as a lobby entrance and porte cochere for hotel guests.

The podium elements will be distinct from the hotel tower and landmark building. The Second Avenue podium structure will be broken in two parts. The southern portion will appear partially as a one-story retail space up to the street front while the second will be recessed to give depth. A black overhang will cover the recessed space and cap the window at a prominent height while forming a portion of the southern column wall. It will also match the the tower’s black detailing. Meanwhile, the north portion of the podium will be two stories tall with ground floor retail and second story internal uses. In contrast to the southern portion, the north will feel of a smaller scale and flush with the landmark building using light limestone finishes.

The Virginia Street and alleyway side of Hotel Clare, courtesy of DPD.
The Virginia Street and alleyway side of Hotel Clare, courtesy of DPD.

The tower itself will be significantly set back from Second Avenue to reduce the feel of a such a long rectangular structure and give due respect to the landmark building. The facade will be a mix of glass and metal, but the architects have decided to add variation by using different types of glass and by offsetting window panes. Ultimately, these variations are meant to help create a more vertical feeling for the building to visually draw people’s eyes upward. A minor recess will be present on the top-most floors in the northeast corner. Additionally, the black column theme will come into play on the south side of the building, and continue across the roofline.

The Virginia Street and alleyway sides of Hotel Clare will be a bit more playful. Cantilevered angles will project along the alleyway while dark metal paneling will cover a large square area of the facade. In futuristic fashion, the elevator shaft will be pushed to the outside of the building. In this space, the cylindric elevator will run up and down for hotel guests and staff. As Jones notes, this will provide “a 2-stop, exterior express elevator [to take] guests from a street level lobby up to the upper floors. This allows the guests to experience amazing views of the Sound, Waterfront, and our skyline. This design element will help activate the skyline in the neighborhood.” Meanwhile, the porte cochere will dominate the lower portion of the structure. Built for cars, the space will serve as the place to drop off and pick up hotel guests. Vehicles will enter the porte cochere from Virginia and then exit through the alleyway back to the street. Garage access will also be available from this point.

Plaza area of Hotel Clare, courtesy of DPD.
Plaza area of Hotel Clare, courtesy of DPD.

While not very visible in most of the renderings, the architects plan to add some green life to the building. A landscaped plaza space will be located on the corner of Second and Virginia, which will include some seating for passersby and guests. The space isn’t large, probably no more than 200 square feet. Other landscaping will be provided in the form of streetscape and street tree improvements, as well as terraced landscaping near the base of the elevator shaft base. In between the elevator base and corner plaza will be the main lobby entrance for the Hotel Clare tower.

The project applicants have requested two departures from standard code, one minor and a second of larger significance. The minor request calls for intermittent breaks in overhead weather protection on Second Avenue. As in many newer buildings, the architects hope that small, stylized breaks between the glass canopy covers will be allowed in order to create a rhythm to them. The requirement for continuous overhead weather protection only applies to Second Avenue, where the podium structure won’t be set back from the street.

The more significant request for departure from code is to increase the area of building setbacks. Along Second Avenue, upper floor setbacks would be present in the podium structure and north of the landmark building. The land use code allows for up to 40% of the facade area between 15′ and 35′ above the sidewalk grade to be set back. The applicants propose 44%, but argue that the this will greatly increase the stature of the landmark building, even highlighting it by design.

The Past Lives On

Terminal Sales Annex Building and its smaller neighbor, courtesy of Google Streetview.
Terminal Sales Annex Building and its smaller neighbor, courtesy of Google Streetview.

A prominent feature of both the previous plans and the revised version is the historic Terminal Sales Annex Building. This building is a protected structure and located in the mid-block portion of the planned redevelopment. Originally opened in 1916, the building was first home to the Puget Sound News Company. By the 1940s, the building was “annexed” by the adjacent Terminal Sales Building, a sales and display center for distributors serving large, local department stores.

To link the buildings together, the property owners decided to physically connect them together via a skybridge (which has since been removed). Besides this historical connection, the building is of significant note because of its exemplar local style of Collegiate Gothic Revival using granite and glazed terracotta materials on the facade. The exterior details are very linear and ornate with raised parapet to the set the structure off.

The two structures to be removed, courtesy of Google Streetview.
The two structures to be removed, courtesy of Google Streetview.

The Terminal Sales Annex Building’s two neighbors to the south are not as lucky. These buildings will be demolished to make way for Hotel Clare’s brand new podium retail uses. The southernmost structure slated for demolition is a 4-story reinforced concrete structure built in 1911 that once served as an office building. The smaller building to the north is a single-story retail space. It followed the other two buildings onto the block in 1917. While new can be good, it’s always worthwhile remembering what came before, too.

How To Get Involved

If you’re interested in attending the community design review meeting for this project, you can do so tonight. The Downtown Design Review Board will meet at City Hall in Room L280, located at 600 Fifth Avenue. The design review meeting begin promptly at 5.30pm. Alternatively, if you wish submit comments in written form, you can do so by e-mailing Beth Hartwick, Project Planner, at and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) at

For more design review materials and upcoming meetings, see DPD’s design review page.

Not a Bad Way to Pass the Time!


Picture 1a


I’m yelling out the window at friendly faces. We’re on the 7, going through lower Pioneer Square. First it’s a man I don’t know, but who knows me. Then there’s the guy who’s always dressed in fluorescent construction gear. There he is, outside the Men’s Shelter deep in conversation with somebody. He recently lost his school textbooks. When I honk to get his attention, his eyes light up. On Jackson, I spy Grover across the street– Grover is a driver, and he bucked the popular trend by actually losing weight when he went full-time. That’s how you know anything is possible!

I hop out of the bus at the red light to look at the exterior signage; someone told me it wasn’t displaying correctly, and they’re right. Later, during the time a new bus is sought for, I will make a handmade sign and hugely enjoy the antiquated throwback nature of such. For now, Grover walks past, asking, “Nathan! Wha’s goin’ on?”
“Oh you know, just hangin’ around on the 7 here! Not a bad way to pass the time!”
He laughs with (not at!) my enthusiasm.
“Have a good one!”
“Have a good one!”

A last minute runner, fumbling for his fare, pulling out a $2.50 ticket– “I’m s’posed to only be paying .75,” he mumbles to himself.
While he’s smoothing out the ticket to put it into the machine my brain cycles through the ideas articulated here, and I say aloud, “you should save that.” Tearing him off a transfer. “Use it for a driver who’s givin’ you a hard time!”
His smile carries the warm, open-hearted realization: ah, the world is not against me. I do have friends out here. “Thank you!” he says, with feeling.

Another fellow, very serious, tanned red by the sun, boards with a gigantic inch-thick steel square. At four by four feet, it looks like it weighs more than I do.
“You’ve got the goods today, I see!”
“Are you takin’ that down to the Recycling place?”
“Do they measure the contributions by weight, or…?”
“Yeah, by weight.”
“Well then, looks like you hit the jackpot!”
He grins.

A man and his toddler son form a distinctive pair in the mixed-race tableau of the 7, being about the only Caucasians on board.
The child is curious about God. “Did Jesus die?” he asks, wide-eyed.
The father replies without concern for being judged or ridiculed by those around him. They discuss theology in subdued tones, the father gazing out the windows from time to time, as slanting afternoon sunlight glances in. I’m reminded of Rockwell’s Saying Grace. As they exit, Dad says to me, “you’re kinda like the mayor of the number 7!”

As night approaches, Eric steps in, introducing me to a friend of his (“this is Mike.” Mike nods). Eric is tall, dressed in large, dark, faded outdoor wear, textures of plaid and padding, well-used denim built to withstand the strain of a difficult life. He has a perpetual baseball cap and long stringy hair framing a gaunt, pale, hollow, and loving face. Blue-gray eyes which have seen much, and yet aren’t afraid to wear emotions easily. You know the type. He would travel four hours to see his aging mother in Bremerton once a week no matter what, until he one day told me she had passed. You could see how it hurt him. Today he’s happy to have made the bus.

“Oh, hey, Nathan! I wouldn’a jaywalked if I’d known it was you, since I know you woulda waited!”
“I’m glad you made it! I appreciate the hustle!”
After they settle down in their seats, Eric comes back up. “Hey, do you want some girl scout cookies? These are the really good ones. Caramel, chocolate and coconut. With coconut flakes.”
“Coconut, oh my!”
“Yeah, let’s see.” He reads off the gory details. “Crisp cookies coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut, and striped with a dark chocolaty…”
He had me at crispy. “That sounds outstanding! I would love some!”
“Have you had these ones?”
With enthusiasm: “No!”
“Well hey, why don’t I give you this row, and then these can be mine and these can be for Mike.”
He’s about to give me five cookies! Yes, I am glad he made it!
“Eric, you’re amazing! This is so perfect, because I forgot to bring dinner!” Normally I don’t go for sugar, and as I write this now I can’t believe I actually ate five of these things in one evening, but in my dinner-deprived state my decision making skills were definitely elsewhere. You think differently when you’ve just spent seven hours eating brown rice crackers somebody gave you from the food bank. Plus, uh, coconut’s healthy, right?

After he opens the box and supplies me, he asks the rest of the bus if they want girl scout cookies. Even with the mention of chocolate and coconut, they have more self-restraint than I, or maybe they’re confused by Eric’s ramshackle appearance. I know better though. Looks can be deceiving.

Don’t Forget! New Meetup Location at Vivace SLU on Tuesday

Alley 24 in South Lake Union.
Alley 24 in South Lake Union.

Last week, we mentioned that we’re getting new digs at Espresso Vivace in South Lake Union. Tomorrow night will be our first evening meeting at the new location. Our goal in the move is to make it easier for people getting to and from the meetings and have just a bit of extra space for our guests. Vivace should meet both of those needs. Besides that, we can see Pronto! from our new home. Yeah, it’s not quite Russia, but it’s definitely a welcome neighbor.

Vivace is located in the newish Alley 24 complex, a mixed-use site built by Vulcan and home to big-time developer Skanska USA and some good eats like Lunchbox Factory. If you’re an urban design nerd, you should like the careful mix of historically preserved former industrial brick buildings turned townhomes. Alley 24 also has plenty of new apartment units with some fascinating architectural designs. Of course, it wouldn’t be named Alley 24 if it didn’t have alleyways. These are definitely some of the coolest around, and you’ll get the chance to see people walk through them right by Vivace.

Sorry, we got distracted by how cool the new digs are! So, yes, come join us Tuesday at Vivace to talk all things urban. We meet at 6pm with the agenda beginning around 6.30pm. Feel free to bring snacks or food with you, but don’t forget to get some delicious bites or coffee from our new coffeehouse friends. You can’t miss the space, it’s right across the street from REI’s flagship store in South Lake Union.

Metro Proposes Bus Restructures Around New Light Rail Stations

Buses in Downtown Seattle.
Buses in Downtown Seattle.

UPDATE:  Metro released formal alternatives on Thursday. The new information and maps have been updated throughout this post.

This week King County Metro and Sound Transit will jointly release two alternatives for bus service restructures to happen in 2016. The effort is intended to better connect riders with two new Link light rail stations opening one year from now, nine months ahead of schedule, in Capitol Hill and the University District. I’m a member of the citizen ‘sounding board’ on the project but the opinions here are my own.

Sunday Video: Burke Gilman Trail Leaning Bike Rail



New Leaning Bike Rails and Improvements Installed at Burke Gilman Crossing by SeattleDOT on Youtube.

SDOT just installed a leaning bike rail on the Burke Gilman Trail. Staff from the transportation department talk about how it works, why it benefits people bicycling, and what it took to build it.

What We’re Reading: Downtown Seattle Is King

Downtown Seattle map of projects, courtesy of the DSA.
Downtown Seattle map of projects, courtesy of the DSA.

By the numbers: All the key numbers of a growing, changing, and vibrant Downtown Seattle.

Learning from Spock: You’d have to live a hole at this point to not know of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. He was a gentle soul, just like his Spock character, who really did believe in Utopia–we can learn from that.

Fair changes: Bus and train fares may be going up in some ways, but ORCA Lift is also coming to reduce fares for low-income individuals. Look for the changes beginning tomorrow (March 1).

Killing a sprawl bill: Washington State Senate Democrats may have just stopped the Republicans in their tracks on transportation policy. Due to a two-thirds vote rule on tax increases (created by Republicans earlier this session), the Republicans may need more support than they anticipated for their transportation package.

Flash back: New York City wants you to take a stroll down memory lane to bygone eras. A new system has been launched to look at historical maps throughout the boroughs.

Bonkers for bridges: London seems to have a fascination with fancy pedestrian and bicycle bridges. Have they gotten just a little bonkers?

Bike map makeover: Seattle’s official bike map just got a big overhaul. Tom at Seattle Bike Blog breaks it down for us and says how it could be even better.

Please fix it: Just how dangerous is Rainier Ave S? The answer is: very. On a per mile basis, it has almost 100% more collisions than Seattle’s next most dangerous street. Of course, it could get a whole lot better.

Born Again Bertha: Repurposing the tunnel: Sure, it’s totally in jest, but a new idea is being floated with how we might convert the SR 99 tunnel to a whole bunch of bigger and better uses. The Stranger talks with man behind this grand idea.

Comparing Seattle: Someone spent a lot of time on Google Maps and Wikipedia to compare Seattle to places across the globe.

Public benefit: $2.9 billion could come directly from developers to pay for a Sydney, Australia light rail project.

New brew: Elysian might have sold out to Budweiser, but an Elysian brewmaster could end up creating his own brewery.

Underground parking: Of course it would be the Dutch to create underground bike parking storage first

The NYC Subway: This gif is pretty slick, watch the NYC Subway grow from nothing to everywhere.

Squeezing it in: A beautiful little home that once served as a small workshop in London.

Not sprawling: A new index says that Los Angeles in fact isn’t sprawling, or at least not as much as San Francisco and New York City.

Life and death of citiesCity centers are growing jobs while suburbs are quickly drying up for jobs.

Ripe or rotten carrots?: Tax exempt for 40 years, that’s what one Brooklyn landlord would receive if they kept 700 units rent regulated.

Blocking growth: Some Mercer Islanders have rallied to stop any new housing options on the island community.

Bellevue bike lanes: New bike lanes are coming to 116th Ave NE in Bellevue.

Repairing the streets: Tacoma’s mayor wants voters to support a $50m-per-year measure to fix Tacoma’s decrepit streets.

City broadband: Cities across the US could create their own broadband networks thanks to legal barriers being dropped.

The freezeway: An Edmonton, Alberta architecture student wants to create a freezeway for ice skaters. Something tell us this is lawsuit waiting to happen, but the idea is fun!

A British Eiffel: There can only be one Eiffel Tower, but the British had a number of plans that never became viable in the end.

The value in street names: What’s in a street name? Evidently, the data suggests that there’s a lot actually. A handy database has everything you ever wanted to know about the First Avenues and Broadways of the US.

Can’t Stop the Sound Transit Train, Growth at Breakneck Speed

Central Link light rail at Othello Station, courtesy of Sound Transit.

Time and time again, we wonder: when will transit rider growth diminish? And time and time again, we’ve been pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t happened! Not only do people clearly love transit, people are simply moving to communities and taking on lifestyles than necessitate it. That’s great news for organizations like Sound Transit that get to occasionally bask in the glory of wildly positive news.

Yesterday, Sound Transit got to do a little bragging about their 8% annual growth in systemwide ridership. The agency now has a daily weekday average of some 109,000 boardings. That brings the total number of boardings systemwide to 33 million for all of 2014. This level of growth is vastly outpacing the national average for transit agencies, which stands at just 1.8%. So, just where is all of this ridership growth going?

Sound Transit says that Central Link now has average weekday ridership in excess of 32,924–a 13.7% increase over 2013 while Sounder and ST Express have weekday ridership averages of 12,694 (a 9.6% increase) and 60,944 (a 6.7% increase), respectively. In total numbers for 2014, Central Link light rail had 10.9 million boardings (a 13% increase from 2013) while Sounder and ST Express had 3.4 million boardings (an 11% increase from 2012) and 17.6 million boardings (a 6% increase from 2013), respectively.

If you can’t tell where the shining star is here, you’re missing all those double digit growth numbers on Link! Matthew Johnson over at Seattle Transit Blog has done a great job of consistently showing the amazing growth on Link over the past few years, and all data shows that this train ain’t a’stoppin’ anytime soon.