»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
FOR A BACK YARD, NOT A FRONT LAWN
June 29th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

waterfrontseattle.org

Bertha, the humungous deep-bore (or deeply boring) tunnel digging machine, is still stuck under the ground, and won’t resume creating an underground Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement highway until perhaps some time next year.

But that delay won’t stop the rest of the total central-waterfront makeover from going forward.

A new seawall (which won’t protect us from long-term rising sea levels) will resume construction any month now, following a summer hiatus.

And the planning stages for a post-viaduct remake of Alaskan Way’s real estate, combining a surface street with a mile-long pedestrian/recreational “promenade,” continue apace.

At the end of May, the Seattle Office of the Waterfront (waterfrontseattle.org) released a new set of drawings and paintings depicting the project’s latest plans.

Unlike the project organizers’ previous set of sketches, which some online pundits snarked at for depicting all lily-white citizens enjoying the sights, these new illustrations show a healthy variety of skin tones on their make-believe happy citizens.

But the images still depict sizable groups of adults and kids walking about and enjoying sunny, warm days near Elliott Bay.

Days which, as anyone who actually lives here knows, are both precious and rare.

What would this landscaped playground look like the rest of the time?

It would probably look as barren and windswept and unpopulated as the waterfront mostly looks now during the wintertime, only prettier. (Which would, at least, make it friendlier to early-morning joggers and bicycle commuters.)

And, unlike some of the Waterfront Project’s earlier conceptual images, these new paintings don’t make the place seem too precious, too upscale, too (to use a far overused term these days) “world class.”

This is good.

It’s not so good that the fictional laid-back and mellow waterfront enjoyers in the images aren’t doing much of anything.

One image shows some kids splashing around a set of small, floor-level fountains (officially called a “water feature element”) at the planned Union Street Pier (to be built between the Great Wheel and the Seattle Aquarium).

Another image shows a few mellow aging-hipster couples (apparently all hetero) waltzing to the tunes of a small acoustic combo at the same Union Street site at dusk (with the “water feature element” turned off).

Otherwise, the fantasized open-space enjoyers are seen mostly just standing, sitting, strolling, bicycling, and talking on cell phones.

We don’t need a civic “front lawn;” the Olympic Sculpture Park already serves that function.

We need a civic “back yard.”

If we can’t have industry on the central waterfront in the container-cargo age, we can at least have industrious leisure there.

I want (at least seasonally) food trucks and hot dog carts, art fairs and circus/vaudeville acts. I want a summer concert series like the waterfront had years ago. I want a roller coaster to complement the Seattle Great Wheel, and smaller amusement attractions and rides nearby (finally replacing Seattle Center’s sorely missed Fun Forest).

Some of these events and attractions would require ongoing funding. The Waterfront Project doesn’t have that funding authority; its duty is only to design and build the promenade and to rebuild piers 62-63, using a part of the funding for the viaduct replacement.

So activities in this area, along the promenade and the rebuilt piers 62/63, would need to be supported separately. The Seattle Parks Department is having enough trouble supporting its current operations. But a semi-commercial amusement area, with concession and ride operators paying franchise fees, could support a variety of warm-weather-season activities and at least some off-season events.

(Cross posted with City Living Seattle.)


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa
© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).