This is what Frank Chopp would like to see on your waterfront. He’s calling up architects, soliciting drawings, gathering ideas, all with one purpose: to convince Seattle voters that a brand-new, gigantic freeway on the waterfront can be good urban design. From what I’ve seen, he’s got his work cut out for him. The sketch above is not my creation; its an honest-to-God drawing by WA-DOT of what they call Option 9.
And it’s Frank’s baby. Too bad its an ugly baby.
The structure goes sidewalk to sidewalk, with Alaskan Way (the surface street you see on the waterfront) put underneath the new viaduct. The entire space on the waterfront is swallowed by concrete. From Ivar’s front door, it’s 25 feet to the concrete wall of the viaduct. This is perhaps the most drastic change in Option 9.
Although it isn’t clear in the drawing, the new viaduct will be fitted with sound barriers on both sides. What does this mean? The view cherished by so many drivers will be history. It’s perhaps the most-liked element of the current structure. The “people’s” view while driving on the thing will be replaced with…
…a new park, or at least that’s the plan. I’m a bit skeptical. The late Jane Jacobs, who had a lot to say about cities, was never a big fan of parks. That is, there is a history of cities building parks that become magnets for crime. Seattle has parks that work, and those that don’t. An expansive lid over a freeway that’s only accessible by skybridge does not seem like the kind of park that will be successful over time.
James Vesely wrote this in the Sunday Times:
In the next few days, there’ll be another bear in the woods. Perhaps a new viaduct design will emerge that will be pleasing to the eye, if not to the mayor.
I bet James has the inside track from the pro-rebuild folks (the Seattle Times is staunchly pro-rebuild). I betcha the new viaduct design will look a lot like the drawing above. WA-DOT and the folks in Olympia will do anything to manipulate voters in the days before the election. They said they’ll pull funding for the ‘surface plus transit’, and they said they won’t fund a tunnel no matter what. They want a ‘re-build’, and they’ll do whatever they can to secure it.
How long will Seattle voters allow themselves to be jerked around? How long will Seattle pols be content to be bullied by committee chairs in Olympia? Will Seattle’s waterfront be subjected to Frank Chopp’s hideous Option 9?
A backlash is brewing in Coffee Town.