Here’s Your Public Benefit: An Anorexic Version of Harbor Steps

One hundred and three ~6-foot wide concrete steps dropping ~60 feet across a ~130 foot span. That’s the public benefit the citizens of Seattle will receive for allowing the development of a luxury condo/hotel in one of the most prime urban locations in the entire Pacific Northwest. As we’ve already discussed on this blog, the contribution the new Four Seasons building will make to the public realm on 1st Ave is marginally better than the parking garage that it replaced. (And yes, I appreciate that the overlook from the end of Union Street will be nicer than it was: but functionally there will be little difference.)

The stair will provide a useful pedestrian connection down from 1st Ave to Western Ave, and then across the street to that pathetic fire escape of a stairway that takes you down to the waterfront. It will be interesting to see how much use it gets: I suspect its imposing look will discourage many. And of course there already was a more conventional stairway from the north side of Union down to Post Alley, but it will be closed permanently.

I have not been able to determine (i.e. google) who will retain ownership of the stair: the Four Seasons or the City. But in any case, reportedly it will remain open to the public 24-7. The top of the stair is precariously high above Post Alley: I can’t help imagining how ugly it could get when clubs like the Showbox empty out at 2 am, and if the access policy will change in the event of an accident.