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Belltown’s Bell Street Park – 2nd Public Meeting

The second Bell St. Park meeting was held this evening at the Olympic Sculpture Park’s Paccar Pavilion. The first meeting was a raucous occasion. Most of the community came prepared to let off some steam about the continual drug dealing and crime problems that have plagued the neighborhood for the last couple of years. The first meeting was overwhelmingly focused on safety.

The second meeting consisted of reviewing the basic design principles that SvR Design Company was utilizing as a basis for the first mock-ups that the public has seen of the park concepts. SvR presented two basic design strategies. The first they termed as “Sluicing”. This is a throwback to the fact that Belltown used to be a massive hill until being sluiced into the ocean (Go Green Ancestors!). The second option was codenamed a much less phonetically catchy “Measured Improvement”. 

At this point, I’m really not going to try and walk you through the design principles of each option. Check out the embedded flickr set that I dorkily took during the entire meeting. Just, keep in mind, that for some unfortunate reason the two options were mistakenly labeled opposite. Sluicing = the angular smorgasbord. Measured Improvement = the sensible right angle fest.


The most important goal of this project should be to attract a steady stream of people. This is the key factor that will solve crime. Both options are going to have the same net effect on the amount of people walking through Bell Street. It is my opinion that either option will be a nice place to walk through. However, as we’ve all learned from the beautiful, yet ineffective Growing Vine Street, it doesn’t matter if you have a bunch of fancy planters and Frank Lloyd Wright water features – it’s not enough to get people to stick around.  

What we need is infrastructure which will enable economic development and new business. The better of the two options for this goal is the “Measured Movement” option. The Measured plan calls for large areas of community gathering spaces and expansive open spaces. This is wonderful. I love the design. The biggest gripe that I have, is that the whole damned project is on the wrong side o the street! Unfortunately, there is little room for businesses to move in and take advantage of the larger sidewalk space. So, kiss the dreams of expansive Las Ramblas cafe seating goodbye.

I feel like an old codger who hasn’t taken his fiber here. But, I really believe that this project needs to attract new business to be a true success. Otherwise, I’m afraid the fears of the community are correct. This project could be a massive opportunity pissed into the wind.





2 Comments on "Belltown’s Bell Street Park – 2nd Public Meeting"

  1. I’ve been living here for almost a year now, having lived in a number of different cities before (all downtown)… I don’t really have that much hope for the Bell St Boulevard project.

    You’re right that the key to driving down crime is to generate foot traffic, but I don’t see how this will change what seems to be woven deep into the basic fiber of Seattle’s being: our people are homebodies who don’t get out very much. When we *do* get out, we drive. Seattle’s pedestrian culture is somewhere between “pathetic” and “non-existent”.

    Yeah, I know it’s an unpopular opinion to have, but just look at us. On, say, a Wednesday night go out onto 1st (an economically well developed street with *many* respectable businesses)… not a soul around after, say, 8pm or so. Now go to any other downtown in any other city and you will see the streets bustling. The whole downtown, up through Belltown, even up on Cap Hill, is practically a ghost town on every night that doesn’t start with “Fri” or “Sat”. Heck, even Fridays and Saturdays has a pathetic number of people on the streets compared to just about any other city our size.

    Businesses largely close at 5pm or 6pm, even on weekdays in this city, where in most other cities our size they would be open at least till 9pm. The lack of open businesses drives away foot traffic, which starts a vicious cycle that drives away even more businesses. 1st Ave is supposed to be the “it” street – lots of restaurants, boutiques, and other interesting shops, and even that isn’t getting *any* foot traffic apart from partiers on Fridays and Saturdays.

    So what hope does Bell St have?

  2. Hey Jerry,

    I agree with the fact that 1st has turned into kind of a weird zone where people come from all over the area to party on friday and saturday nights, but then vacate otherwise.

    That’s why I think the bell st park needs to have more of a slow paced organic feel to attract business with a steady stream of people; book shops, cafes, small bars with outdoor table areas, cigar shops, bakeries. I don’t know – just throwing up ideas.

    But currently, 1st caters to the party crowd. That’s why we’re seeing long time businesses like Flying Fish heading for the hills. They can’t take it anymore. Bell st should be about catering to the people who live here, not just providing a gorgeous sidewalk or thoroughfare for people to build more club venues.

    I think a good example of a vibrant neighborhood street is 15th ave in Capitol Hill. There’s a grocery store, small neighborhood bars, a bank, a gift shop. The street is safe – I used to walk it at all hours of the night. Belltown has a chance to do something even better than 15th. I hope we rise to the challenge with forward thinking plans that think beyond aesthetic enjoyment and into the actual practical long term use of the project.

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