Publicola, in case you hadn’t heard, is back. The indispensable source of local politics, policy and public-sector gossip lives on as a part of Seattle Met. Today, Erica C. Barnett posted a summary of some of the tasks before proponents of the arena that could bring the Sonics back to Seattle:
More details (than you probably ever wanted to know) emerged from today’s arena council briefing, which we mentioned in Fizz this morning, on the transportation and land use impacts of the proposed arena.
Council members, of course, have declared themselves universally “agnostic” on the arena (even Richard Conlin told PubliCola that he isn’t opposed opposed to the project, he just has lots of questions). But their questions for staffers definitely trended more skeptical than supportive.
Here’s some of what they learned:
• Although the plan calls for a new pedestrian plaza connecting Safeco Field and the new arena along what is now Occidental Way, the area around the stadiums in general is zoned specifically to discourage hotels, housing, and street-level retail uses—the kind of stuff that draws pedestrians to an area… (Continue Reading Arena Land Use and Transportation Challenges | PubliCola)
This is a guest post by Maggie Humphreys, who works with Skanska on communications and public affairs initiatives and shared this reflection on the June 28 Brownbag about the Living Building Pilot Program. We welcome guest posts on topics relating to the built environment and Smart Growth in Seattle.
There is one major roadblock for deep green building in our cities and it isn’t a lack of interest from developers and design teams. Stonewalled lenders at banks and other financial institutions are wary of investing funds into green buildings for fear that they won’t be price-competitive and financially sustainable.
Last week, Lisa Picard, executive vice president of Skanska’s west coast commercial development unit, shared how Skanska’s Stone34, the first project designed for a market rate tenant in Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program, is working to create a new economic structure where both developers and lenders can confidently invest in deep green buildings.
During the presentation, Lisa shared this graph which describes the difficulty in achieving deep green sustainability. Projects pushing the status-quo inevitably garner high levels of criticism – from both lenders and from community members, or quoting Voltaire, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Moving from the status-quo means changing from the expected and creating a new norm—a process necessary for positive change. Stone34 is looking to prove that deep green designs and technologies can be incorporated into a building that’s affordable for all tenants and patrons at a market-competitive rate; to create a new norm. Further, it will demonstrate to the community how intentional place making and built environment can foster better communities.
Accompanying Lisa at the brownbag were Jim Weber, CEO of Brooks and Jessica Clawson, a local land use attorney working with Skanska on this project. Environmental and land use attorney Chuck Wolfe moderated the panel. Jim noted that as a smaller company, their greatest risk would be to stick with the pack and maintain the status quo. The same stands for land use and development – the greatest risk would be to continue on the path of today’s building practices ignoring the opportunity for addressing our biggest challenges. Stone34 represents a key opportunity to disrupt the status quo and establish deep green building as the new norm.
King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson and Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien to hold joint town hall meeting on NBA & NHL arena proposal
Come meet with County and City representatives and ask questions about proposed arena.
Tuesday, July 10
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
North Seattle Community College
Cafeteria, College Center Building
9600 College Way North
Under the proposed memorandum of understanding negotiated between County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, and private investor Christopher Hansen, up to $200 million for the arena would be financed through public bonds that would be paid back from rents and tax revenues generated by the facility. You can learn more about the proposal at the Seattle City Council’s arena proposal page.
“The proposed arena is an important issue currently before the county and city councils. This meeting will give community members the opportunity to ask questions, express their thoughts, and know their voices are being heard,” said Ferguson. “As an elected official, I believe it is important to meet with and hear directly from the public and the people I represent.”
“As both City and County Councils are digging into the details of the arena proposal and beginning to understand the potential benefits and risks to the region, it is critical we are also hearing from the public,” said O’Brien. “We are receiving thousands of emails on the topic, but there is nothing like getting out in the neighborhood and engaging directly with the people we represent.”
The King County Council and Seattle City Council are currently reviewing a proposal for development of an approximately $500 million multi-purpose arena. Under the proposed memorandum of understanding negotiated between County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor McGinn, and private investor Christopher Hansen, up to $200 million for the arena would be financed through public bonds that would be paid back from rents and tax revenues generated by the facility.
More details about the town hall meeting are available here
Hear directly from Crosscut Contributor, Historic Preservationist and Architect Patricia Tusa Fels at our upcoming July 12 Brownbag, also featuring Liz Dunn, Dennis Meier of DPD and Great City Board Member and Architect Jeff Reibman. We’ll be taking a look at Development activity in Seattle’s Pike/Pine neighborhood and strategies to retain the dynamic and diverse culture that makes it such a hotspot to live, work, play, and build.
Nearly all talk of the environment in and around Seattle is about the mountains and the sound, rivers and hiking trails. Yet most of us spend a big portion of our time in the urban environment, which has an effect on all of us: our wellbeing, our outlook, our family life, and prospects for our work and leisure. There is a serious disconnect between our collective reverence for the outward “environment,” and our willingness to let the city’s own environment be shaped by developers.
It is especially ironic that Seattle, situated amidst glorious and gloriously complicated ecosystems, leaves the guidance and stewardship of its experiential environment to private developers and their tendencies towards monoculture. It is naïve and irresponsible that we assume their focus is on the overall vitality of the streets and neighborhoods in which their buildings sit.
Instead, the city should be looking creatively and deeply at the land use rules on the books, with an eye towards eliminating or modifying those that don’t foster the complexity of the place. Diversity by design is the key to creating a city that can be seen, experienced, worked and lived in by more of its citizens and visitors… (Continue Reading: Why Seattle needs a new urban environmentalism | Crosscut.com)
Just how green can a green building get? Come join us at noon today to find out, and learn how you can play a role in advancing the changes that, if approved by City Council, could make our green building dreams come true.
You may have seen some of our earlier posts on the topic… today we are thrilled to be convening a group of green building leaders to talk about a proposed project in Fremont and some proposed legislative changes that could make it possible for more Seattle buildings to go easy on the grid.
Impressive urban developments seem to be springing up all over the world, many of them designed by U.S. architects. But while American architects and planners increasingly embrace walkability, the fine grain urbanity that makes cities vibrant places is almost completely absent in newer projects abroad. In short, they may look like Manhattan from a jetliner but function like Phoenix on the ground. Julie V. Iovine, executive editor of the Architect’s Newspaper, calls on professionals to fight for what works.
…Recently, for the Korean developer aptly named Dreamhub, Daniel Libeskind created a master plan for 34 million square feet based on the concept of islands in a sea of green, called Archipelago 21. That’s for the 21 or so renowned architects—many American—each doing their own thing in the splendid isolation of their own “island” see a few of them on page 8. Even as the plan invokes sustainability, high-speed rail and green spaces, it barely addresses the street-level experience of people trying to get from, say, Murphy Jahn’s 1,050 foot double-tower with its four-story skyparks and solar shading to REXs high-performance, “mega-braced” frameless facade for a short term residence or to SOM’s 64-story diagonal tower with monumental lobby braced by what appear to be the very legs of Ozymandius… (Continue reading: Editorial> Walk the Walk – The Architects Newspaper)
TIME’s EcoCentric blog has a cool profile on the astonishingly green Bullitt Center. The building was the first project to apply as part of Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program.
How can a six-story, 50,000-sq.-ft. office building in downtown Seattle function completely off the grid? The answer involves solar panels for energy, geothermal wells for heat, a giant rain cistern for water and composting toilets for keeping sewage out of everything else. The toilets were just installed at the Bullitt Center, which is set to be completed this fall. “You have to remember to flush before and after,” says Bullitt Foundation president and Earth Day founder Denis Hayes. “But that may be the single largest lifestyle change.”
Hayes’s Seattle-based sustainability-advocacy group is bankrolling the largest multistory project that is trying to meet the superstringent requirements of the Living Building Challenge LBC. Created in 2006 by the Portland, Ore.,-based International Living Futures Institute, LBC calls for buildings to not only have net-zero energy and water systems, but to use half the energy required to get LEED platinum certification which is administered by a fellow nonprofit. LBC won’t certify a building as “living” until it has proven it meets the group’s goals for a full year after people move in. So far LBC has certified only three buildings worldwide, all of them in the U.S. and all exponentially smaller than the Bullitt Center. Another 140 projects in eight countries are vying for the designation.
What makes the Bullitt Center so impressive is its height — or, more accurately, its relatively small rooftop — and its location. While it’s pretty easy in cloudy Seattle to harvest rainwater and treat it via an onsite biofiltration system, getting enough sunlight to power the building required rethinking every aspect of the project, big and small. The builders had to get a variance from the city to let its rooftop solar panels hang out over the sidewalk. But the solar panels won’t do all the work. The building’s design and its tenants have important roles too. To help cut energy consumption to 23 percent the amount of a traditional building its size, natural light will account for 82 percent of all lighting, thanks to oversized windows and higher ceilings that help get light farther inside. And so will air, as the building’s electronic “brain” automatically opens and shuts the windows based on temperature needs, eliminating the need for air-conditioning units… (Continue Reading Seattles Bullitt Center Will Be the Greenest and Most Sustainable Commercial Building in the World | Ecocentric | TIME.com)
Join us on June 28 to hear about the first project for commercial, market-rate tenants to participate in the pilot program, Stone34. Our expert panel including Brooks Sports CEO Jim Weber–who is moving his company’s headquarters to Seattle to occupy that building–will share an update on efforts to improve regulatory conditions to encourage more such ultra-green buildings in Seattle.
Growing up–urban “infill” development–offers numerous lifestyle, economic and environmental advantages over growing out, or, sprawl. But one planned redevelopment of the Capitol Hill block home to Bauhaus and other local favorites highlights the issues at play as our community grapples with the challenge of accommodating growth in character-rich neighborhoods while retaining the diverse, dynamic vibrancy that makes them so attractive to investment and development.
Check out this recent commentary from an architect-historic preservationist and artist-activist and join us Thursday, July 12 as we look at the City of Seattle’s Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District and hear from those most familiar with what the policy does and doesn’t mean for the future look and feel of Downtown’s lifeline to Capitol Hill culture.
Having just returned from working away from Seattle, it feels good to be back. One of the pleasures of extended stays abroad is experiencing our home city with fresh eyes. But reentry this time was marred by news that the Bauhaus Block on Capitol Hill is to be developed, with only the building’s façade to be left.
This bit of news raises a larger question about the city’s role in development. Does the city of Seattle have a responsibility to protect small businesses, popular culture, and the vitality of its street life? Or should it only be responsible for upholding the ‘rights’ of developers?
For decades here in Seattle, through mayor after mayor, the litany has been the same — if ‘we’ don’t give developers what they want, they’ll go elsewhere. It’s quite difficult to know whether this dictum is true, since the opposite strategy has so rarely been tried here, but looking around the city it’s easy to see what this trend has cost Seattle: Its vaunted quality of life, its standing as a ‘green’ city, and its general appearance… (continue reading: If it ain’t broke, don’t tear it down and build condos | Crosscut.com).
Urban infill development can bring precisely the kind of fuel small businesses need: more people living above and around the neighborhood’s commercial district. But some have expressed concern for existing businesses that may lie in the path of future development…
How can the the Green Bay Packers represent a model for communities who wish to control their own destiny while respecting ownership rights? As you might have guessed, it has to do more with organizing than the offensive line. Read on for more, and join us at GGLO’s Space at the Steps for our July 12 Brownbag. We will look at the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District with the help of those most familiar with what the policy does and doesn’t mean for the future look and feel of Capitol Hill’s lifeline to Downtown commerce.
The possible redevelopment of the Bauhaus block on Capitol Hill has generated some fruitful discussion about land use, preservation, and the basis of our economic system, capitalism. Many people have asked: Is that all there is, price tags and profits? Don’t culturally important buildings have an intrinsic and financial value?
The answer is that historic buildings often do have special values, and we can preserve and profit at the same time if we focus on solutions, and avoiding the blame game.
People can get understandably upset when an owner decides to change how a property is going to be used, even though ownership is a basic principle we all understand. When we buy something we’re taking what we’ve worked for and acquiring something of value and making it ours. Sharing is also a basic principle, and we expect commercial space to have some public component… (Continue reading: “Bauhaus solutions: Preservation isn’t free” by Roger Valdez at Crosscut.com.)
Posting on the Congress for the New Urbanism’s blog, Michael Lewyn, author of “A Libertarian Smart Growth Agenda,” makes the argument that while small towns can be walkable without being densely developed, the opposite is true for urban areas. Have you experienced both small town and big city walkability? Is density truly the secret ingredient?
Los Angeles has over 7000 people per square mile, yet doesnt have a reputation as a particularly walkable place. By contrast, I was pretty happy living without a car in Carbondale, IL a small college town with 2178 people per square mile. How come?
I would suggest that the bigger a city is, the more dense it needs to be to be walkable and transit-friendly. For example, suppose that city X has 4000 people and encompasses only 1 square mile, while city Y has 2.1 million people and 300 square miles. City X is less dense than city Y- it has 4000 people per square mile as opposed to city Ys 7000. But obviously city X is more walkable: a person of average walking speed can get from any point to any other point in 20 or 30 minutes on foot. In such a small place, only the elderly and disabled will need public transit.
By contrast, in a 500-square-mile city, walking outside your neighborhood will be pretty time-consuming. So you will need New York-level density and transit service to enable most people to function without cars… (Continue reading: How Much Density Is Enough? It Depends | Congress for the New Urbanism).
The Architect’s Newspaper has an update some stalled, high-visibility development projects in Chicago that are beginning to show signs of life. While Chicago’s overall population has declined over the past decade, it’s downtown has boomed. So-called “zombie” projects there are getting new investment and a fresh look as relatively safe investments.
Two high-profile Chicago eyesores that for four years served as testimonials to the recession’s chill on real estate have found new life in recently announced developments. Once destined to be the first Shangri-La Hotel in the United States, the concrete base at 111 West Wacker Drive has stood unfinished since May 2008. The then-named Waterview Tower was originally designed as a 1,000-foot, 1.3-million-square-foot luxury hotel and condominium building. But without end financing, Teng & Associates abandoned the project.
In 2011, developer Related Midwest revived the stalled project with money from their recovery fund, which focuses on distressed properties. The new plans call for a slightly shorter tower, but at 57 stories the new design should easily fit in among the towers of Wacker Drive’s canyon.
“One eleven West Wacker Drive is an incredibly prominent location in Chicago. In fact, the architectural boat tour starts at this location,” said Related Midwest president and CEO, Curt Bailey. “We recognize the significance of the location and are designing a building befitting its importance. It’ll be an incredible addition to the Chicago skyline,” Bailey told Bloomberg News… (Continue reading Zombies Live! – The Architect’s Newspaper).
Roger Valdez (who spent a year reading the Seattle Land Use Code and lived to blog about it) has an prescription for getting Seattle back to where it was in the 70′s, when affordable homes were plentiful… No Boeing Bust required.
Among the more risible arguments advanced by the anti-growth crowd is that somehow by allowing more development in Seattle we will end up overbuilt, with too many housing units and not enough people to fill them. One Seattle City Councilmember even worried aloud that neighborhoods like Roosevelt would become transit oriented “ghost towns“ with window shutters flapping in the wind, and tumbleweeds rolling down the street if the Council rezoned key blocks there.
In my ongoing reading about how the law of supply and demand plays out in the housing market I found a study that looks at the overbuilding issue,”The Supply Side of the Housing Boom and Bust of the 2000′s. Even if we were overbuilt or overbuilding, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, especially with Seattle’s already tight supply of housing.
But don’t just listen to me, here’s one of the findings from a literature review of a variety of studies including one by Edward Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko:”
Downtown Seattle gets bigger as Amazon continues to grow its corporate headquarters. From the Puget Sound Business Journal:
The latest planning documents for Amazon’s proposed 3 million-square-foot campus in Seattle’s Denny Triangle area show big changes in the neighborhood are expected in upcoming years as numerous projects get built.
Within a couple of blocks of Amazon’s future campus, developers have proposed five residential projects, including two high-rise towers of 39 stories and 40 stories. These developments could one day add more than 1,700 residential units to the neighborhood.
To the west of the campus are: The Martin, 2105 5th Ave., a proposed 24-story residential building with188 units; 2116 4th Ave., a 40-story residential tower with 365 units; and 2121 Sixth Avenue, a 24-story building with 654 residential units. Just east across Westlake Avenue is the site of the proposed 39-story 2030 8th Ave. building, with 380 residential units. A couple of blocks to the north would be 975 John, a proposed seven-story building with 145 residential units… Continue reading (and check out the slide show): Amazon plan: 2 towers, 1,700 living units near future Seattle campus – Puget Sound Business Journal.
Advocacy for urban affordable housing often revolves around one of two strong, succinct statements. But, David Alpert of the blog Greater Greater Washington (D.C.) breaks down why we should resist the temptation to oversimplify:
Just subsidizing housing doesn’t solve the problem
Just building housing doesn’t solve it either
Both the former and the latter are a part of the solution. The author finds too many advocates of one to the exclusion of the other.
When discussing housing affordability, there are 2 groups of advocates who are constantly talking past each other. Affordable housing groups do not engage with the economic arguments for building more housing, while proponents of expanding the housing supply don’t spend enough time thinking about how to ensure that an increased supply benefits everyone.
This week, Lydia DePillis critiqued affordable housing advocates for only talking about public programs that help lower-income people afford housing.
[A]ffordable housing shouldn’t be all about setting prices artificially low—it’s also about letting builders build the amount of housing this city needs… (Continue reading Affordable housing advocates should talk about land use… and land use advocates need to talk about affordability – Greater Greater Washington.)
Our friends at Futurewise are looking for a few good folks to join in the fight for our future.
Farms, forests and the families who love them will all benefit from the skills you’ll build working with this great organization.
AdvocacyCorps is an intensive ten-week summer bootcamp for aspiring urban & environment advocates. It is organized by Futurewise, Washington State’s premier advocacy group for saving farms and forests, protecting rivers and lakes, and building strong cities and towns for all.
AdvocacyCorps is exclusive to 12 outstanding young leaders between the ages of 19 and 26 who can dedicate their summer to leadership development and political organizing to make a difference for Washington State’s communities and environment.
The 2012 program will run from June 15 to August 24; the last week is optional for students returning to school. Participation is paid in serious experience, not in dollars.
Applications are due by May 15. Review and acceptance of applicants as applications are submitted.