Seattle’s Shore Revisited

It’s not everyday that a comprehensive new vision for the urban fabric has an opportunity to blossom into reality, but a recent vote in Seattle has brought the dream that much closer for Cary Moon, Julie Parrett, and Grant Cogswell of the People’s Waterfront Coalition.

“We were a runner up the first year [2004 Next Generation® Design Competition] for our alternative vision for Seattle’s downtown waterfront, Seattle Strand (see Do The Strand, October, 2004),” says Moon. The idea was to “tear down the highway, don’t rebuild it, invest in transit and improving the street grid so traffic redistributes elsewhere, and then create a big civic and ecological park on Seattle’s downtown shore. Everyone locally thought we were crazy, it was politically impossible and technically incomprehensible, but now it looks like we’re winning.”

The fact that the People’s Waterfront Coalition is winning is impressive considering they’re not even on any ballot. At issue is what to do about the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was damaged by an earthquake in 2001. One way or another the structure will have to come down within the next few years. Seattle’s mayor Greg Nickels has favored replacing it with a budget-breaking tunnel while Washington’s governor Christine Gregoire prefers a new elevated highway. But this spring Seattle voters said no to both options, giving unofficial credit to People’s Waterfront Coalition’s surface transit option.

According to Moon, city, county, and state leadership have since been murmuring about moving forward with the Coalition’s transportation solution, but in the complicated world of politics and urban planning it’s hard to know yet what will happen to Seattle with this generation’s independent new approach.

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