Friday, May 29, 2009

Big Plans for Bell Street

My friend Jim sent me this story from yesterday's Slog. It seems that Bell Street has been slated to become a green space. In order to make that happen, they're cutting the street down to one lane with a curb lane for parking. We're talking about 1st Ave. all the way to 5th. Here's an artist's conception:

Obviously, whoever drew this is unaware of Bell Street's layout; because of sidewalk improvements on the left side of the street, that's where parking will have to go. They also failed to notice that Bell is not lined with department stores.

Frankly, I'm not falling instantly in love with this idea. I don't think it will change much about the neighborhood, except snarl traffic on Bell. Like cranes in the shallows, Crackheads will still move stealthily about searching for those elusive stray rocks. Crazy people will still wrestle their demons in public. Can men with their reappropriated shopping carts will still loudly trawl for recyclables in every blue garbage can. A green space will change none of this. In fact, it may intensify the conundrum.

I say the city goes all out and installs fountains and swing sets and all kinds of other stuff. It should be more park than green space. At $2.5 million, they should be able to put in some cool stuff. Or how about this: city gives me the $2.5 mill, I buy the Rivoli, rig it up with barbed wire, machine gun nests and flood lights so I can go all "Omega Man" on the vampire armies of darkness. Does that sound good? It's been one of my personal goals for a long time.

Anyhow, here's a shot that gives you a sample of how this might look. Here's a view of the intersection at 5th & Bell:

OK, just imagine that patch of sidewalk on the right extended out another eight feet. Do you feel your quality of life increasing? Me neither.

Because this is Seattle, we can never tell how bad the planning will be on this project until it's finished. While it's true that Belltown can use many more green spaces, I'm not sure whether this is the best way to go about it. Why not acquire the former Speakeasy lot at 1st & Bell and parkify the heck out of that? Or what about the site of the old UA Cinemas at 6th & Blanchard? That place would park up real nice! I want fountains and all that other park stuff in a real park setting. Five blocks of 16-foot-wide greenery isn't going to accomplish that.

1 comment:

Jim said...

I have a difficult time understanding what is meant when city planners talk about creating urban "green spaces." What are they exactly? Are they public areas for people to utilize and enjoy or are they simply an abstract idea that aims to remedy the human races' extensive and long-time abuse of the planet? Too often they appear to be the latter; attempts to absolve ourselves of collective guilt with no sense of how they will serve the public or be maintained by our city government.