Photo by Genesee Martin
LMN Architect Mark Reddington, far left, presented plans for the expansion of the convention center on Thursday, Feb. 4, detailing how the project could impact the area surrounding Olive Way between Ninth Avenue and Boren Avenue, as well as Pine and Howell streets.
Photo by Genesee Martin LMN Architect Mark Reddington, far left, presented plans for the expansion of the convention center on Thursday, Feb. 4, detailing how the project could impact the area surrounding Olive Way between Ninth Avenue and Boren Avenue, as well as Pine and Howell streets.
<
1
2
>

 
By Genesee Martin
Expansion plans for the Washington State Convention Center Addition reached a key milestone during a meeting with the Seattle Design Commission on Thursday.
The purpose of the meeting was to gather recommendations and ideas for plans that could include a lid over I-5 where the project comes in contact with the interstate. In addition, under discussion was the public benefits package that is required due to the scale of the project.
Plan designers are also asking for vacations of streets and alleys that currently run through the project site. If approved with the vacation requests, the expansion project would close and use portions of Olive Way and Terry Avenue, in addition to three alleys.
The expansion site is located between Ninth Avenue and Boren Avenue and Howell Street to Pine Street, taking the space that is Olive Way and the end of Terry Avenue.
The Pine/Pike Urban Neighborhood Council previously introduced the idea of lidding parts of the I-5 during a presentation to the city's transportation committee in December. Proponents say lidding the interstate would provide connectivity for pedestrians, residents and visitors, as well as employees living and working in the area.

 
PPUNC member and Capitol Hill architect Jim Castanes read a statement from chairman John Feit in support of an I-5 lid, estimating the cost for an environmental study would cost around $500,000.
One corner of the project site would partially cover I-5 at Pine Street and Boren Avenue. PPUNC suggests the convention center, as well as other project developers in the area, design and construct a lid over the interstate to benefit the community and neighborhoods.
"One of the things that has been ongoing for decades, but it has become really lively recently, is whether or not ultimately there are lids over parts of the freeway," LMN Architect Mark Reddington said. Demonstrating with his hands how I-5 curved away from the sound, he said, "There are all kinds of funny shapes and parcels around the edges of these streets that might be considered for a lid. We"ve been looking at those kinds of possibilities in the context of this (project) to ensure that as that type of opportunity would unfold, to be sure that this project could work with those. In fact, one portion of our site " this corner actually " would sit over the freeway."
The commission raised questions focused on why the vacations were necessary and what the difference would be in the expansion facility. Reddington said the addition would be taller and cast a larger shadow for surrounding neighborhoods.
In addition, where Olive Way cuts through the project, a significant break was created, dividing the addition. If the vacations were granted, a loading dock would be located below grade for the expansion facility, its services and parking, Reddington said.
To reduce traffic impacts, trucks would go down Boren Avenue to the loading area and exit through a different route. If the vacations are not granted, the trucks would be forced to take the same route entering and leaving the facility. Pine Street Group Managing Partner Mark Griffin said the project will not work without the vacations.


 
Commissioner Ellen Sollod pointed out that truck traffic from the Paramount Theatre already uses Boren Avenue and would be impacted by the convention center addition.
Seattle Department of Transportation Street Vacation Manager Beverly Barnett said the presentation to the design commission was the first step in the process. An Environmental Impact Statement is already underway and expected to be completed by the end of February, Griffin said. The EIS will examine traffic flows, pedestrian use and how increased traffic would impact city streets, as well as circulation and activities.
The design commission will hold another convention center expansion meeting in May for a potential approval recommendation. The commission makes a recommendation for approval. The Seattle City Council will make the final decision about the street and alley vacations sometime in the first quarter of 2017.
"I am particularly thinking about Boren and the lid," said design commissioner Shannon Loew. "And while it is not the apparent responsibility of the convention center to lid I-5, it's certainly coming up in conversations in a wide array of ways. Hearing from the public a desire to see the lid occur, it certainly makes sense given the presence that we have. Whose responsibility it is to execute is a very complicated question; none the less, it is an edge, and understanding how Boren and in particular that corner on Pine and Boren relate to a new, future facility that is on top of I-5 is enormously important. So for example, especially back in your studio, one of the things that I would love to know that you have done all to lid it, in the model, with say a hypothetical park and say, "Do we like it?" And show us that thinking. That would be helpful."
Loew said many of their questions would be answered by the EIS and it would provide more data for planning and design.
One concern raised repeatedly during public comment was whether workers employed at the convention center and its expansion would be able to afford living in the area and how the developers would address the issue. Griffin said acquisition of the property had come with an affordable housing mandate of $5 million. Pine Street Group was hired by the convention center board of directors to manage the development. He said they intend to use those funds for an apartment building near the project site, which could cater to convention center employees and their families.
"This is phenomenal," Loew said. "You obviously are doing an enormous amount of work, the way you are working, what the plans involve and everything, you're making enormous disciplines and we are extremely grateful for that."
Griffin went on to summarize what recommendations the design commission would like to see when the project comes back in May.
"We are asking for a bit more high-level intension, well designed to give us a sense of cohesion around the very important and different strategies that involve urban design here," he said. He mentioned circulation for traffic and pedestrians, as well as sustainability, equitability and form, and what the expansion would look like once completed and how the design would play out with the surrounding area.