Crosscut Wants Seattle to Do Density Right

For a newsource that has made some pretty wacky statements on urban growth in Seattle, like this, and this, and this, and this, and this, I was delighted to read this lead story on Crosscut today, suggesting a dense and innovative revision for the T. T. Minor property in Capitol Hill. Park space! Limited parking! Amsterdam!

But the debate comes down to, as it usually does, what is the right height—this time a choice between four or six stories—for neighborhood-scale density. Seems like a ridiculous argument to suggest that there is a uniform answer, although some folks have tried to suggest that six (not four) stories is the way to go, while others think more than four causes insanity.

How about we actually look at context? Or is that too crazy and innovative? How about yes, in the Amsterdam-inspired rethinking of T. T. Minor with narrow single lane streets, four stories would be appropriate, pleasant even. But when there is a wider right of way, like Eastlake Avenue, or NE 65th St, or NW Market St, six (or seven, maybe eight?) works better and gets us the long-term pattern that we need.

9 Responses to “Crosscut Wants Seattle to Do Density Right”

  1. michael

    Nice ideas, but the School District would be foolish to sell off that property. The number of kids in the Central District is increasing, and will continue to do so. Closing the school in the first place runs counter to these trends and the City’s general planning for the Central Area, not to mention the concept of having neighborhood schools being the center of community life.

    Rather, an interim use(s) should be found for that site until either it makes sense to the school district to reopen the school, or the school district is done away with once and for all, and school planning is done by the City in step with land use planning.

  2. David Sucher

    The functional test for “appropriate” residential height is “How loud is your voice?”

    No totally joking.

    Parent should be able to yell to child that dinner is ready. Is that 4 storie? Or 6?

    I don’t know but there is a way to get at the issue. Most discussions around design revolve around nebulous terms like “height, bulk and scale.” But we should be talking about humans and buildings interact in very specific ways.

  3. alexjonlin

    I live right near Roosevelt, where some developers are proposing 16 story buildings. This is insane, but a couple eight story buildings surrounded by 4-6 story buildings as a buffer between the tall buildings and the single family neighborhood would work great.

  4. Jon Morgan

    SF is full of six story buildings, and 90 or 95% of its residents live within two blocks of transit.

    I lived for 4 years in a 7-story building in DC that was not on, or even one degree removed from, an arterial. It was a 15 minute walk to either of two Metro stations. We had similarly tall buildings around us. We also had just 34 indoor parking spaces for 161 apartments, market rate for which was $200/mo. :)

    Context IS critical. But again, I think Seattle is thinking too small (or short). Every home, office, or whatever we don’t allow in dense Seattle neighborhoods is one that has to be built in sprawling, car-dependent suburbs or exurbs. When I moved back here, I was really surprised at the lack of urban feel in Seattle. Only Capitol Hill has *some* of it. Do we want to be a big, successful, GREEN 21st century city or not? Seattle needs to grow up–literally.

  5. dan cortland

    When I moved back here, I was really surprised at the lack of urban feel in Seattle. Only Capitol Hill has *some* of it.

    Downtown doesn’t? Belltown? SLU? the upper U District? the ID? What do you mean by “urban feel”?

    Context is either critical or it isn’t. This example isn’t a case of not allowing something in a dense Seattle neighborhood: the neighborhood ain’t that dense. If it were central Capitol Hill, you wouldn’t be contradicting yourself (though if I recall correctly, a few years ago a study stated that four stories on Broadway was likely the most viable height).

    Every home, office, or whatever we don’t allow in dense Seattle neighborhoods is one that has to be built in sprawling, car-dependent suburbs or exurbs.

    Is all the growth in downtown Bellevue illegal?

  6. Tom

    I agree with Jon Morgan above, build density around transit service, but don’t be short sighted and sell off community assets like school property, we only own so much collectively; there will be more “in city children” as we move forward to a denser city not less children.

  7. Joe G

    I agree Jon and Tom, as Seattle transitions into a bigger denser city we need to have the balls to actually let it happen. Most locals seem very resistant to the idea that the sky is disappearing around them, when in reality it has to happen so that there can be more sky on the outskirts. You cant limit density and preserve our natural environment.. It just does not work that way.

  8. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    I don’t know what the buildings are like, but a new school could easily be part of a development. (Yes, Portland is doing already doing it.) If the district retained ownership of the land it could also be regular income (like with UW’s Metropolitan Tract).

  9. Kathryn

    Hey MOST of DC is single family row homes. Much is duplexes or even mansions. The area with all the apartment buildings is known to be comfortable for New Yorkers. But a few blocks away, you will be back into single family home land.

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