In October 2009, Seattle Parks selected SvR Design + Hewitt as the primary design consultant for four Belltown blocks, from First to Fifth Avenues will be turned into Seattle’s first park boulevard with swales and natural landscaping. Last month SvR Design + Hewitt presented two different design options for Bell Street in the Seattle neighbourhood of Belltown to the community to receive feedback.
The design team presented two options for the first area of the project between 4th and 5th Avenue. The design team walked the audience through a comparison of the options requesting input on the “Sluiced Surface” option and the “Measured Movement” option.
The community offered positive feedback and direction for the design of the park. The community encouraged the designers to look into a combination of the two designs emphasising the importance of safety, activation, lighting, and using green / recycled materials.
Nate Cormier, senior landscape architect at SvR, said the two designs are meant to represent “bookends” of the area’s history. Bell Street and the area around it have changed dramatically in the past 100 years. Tons of rock and soil that originally formed a steep hill there were removed and the land was regraded.
After receiving the communities feedback the team will come up with a single design and present it at a public meeting in April. Construction should occur in 2011.
Neal Peirce of the Seattle Times has written an op-ed piece about the reawakening of America’s urban parks stating that
if there were ever a bonanza decade for America’s parks, this is surely it. Add stunning new parks in Boston, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver and Santa Fe, plus the success of conservancies in revamping great old parks in such cities as Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and San Francisco.
Just read Chris Grygiel of Seattlepi.com blog post about the new tree measure in Seattle that could grant developers exemption for retaining trees if the trees preclude or prohibit the development of the site. This new tree protection measure seems a ham-fisted attempt at protecting trees which are in current developments (houses, offices, etc) not future developments. I can understand the need for exemption, as cities like Seattle try to encourage development in the city to create denser (in-fill) developments on existing sites instead of allowing urban sprawl to continue unabated. However, exemptions should be given only where the tree is inspected and assessed by a qualified arborist that the tree is at the end of its life or of very poor form for it species. Developers should be encouraged wherever possible to retain all existing mature trees (including tree offsets/buffers) to maintain the green canopy of the city. The benefits of trees within a city are indisputable and the length of time it takes for new trees to mature on a development is decades.
Developers may find this stance very anti-development – however new development should occur within cities to provide denser housing, offices, and retail. This is where more flexibility in tree protection measures are needed. Flexibility would come in the form of clauses that grant exemptions if the developer can show that they are going to plant new trees or install a green roof that contributes the equivalent benefit as the tree to be removed. For a developer to provide the information for this type of exemption may increase the cost of developments as the developer will have to engage consultants to assess the green value of the new trees and green roof. However, the increased environmental cost of trees being removed may be far greater in the long term.
By Damian Holmes 3 August 2009
As questions of density, affordability and livability continue to drive discussions about how to design our urban worlds, architects, citizens and city officials are all looking for a shared sense of what the “new urbanism” means — whether and how to regulate, encourage and ultimately create the kind of built environment we want.