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The Seattle Commons, an Editorial Opinion

    Two studies detail the projected financial impact of the Seattle Commons. Both foresee economic advantages. The Commons is so big that regardless how its details work out, it will affect Seattle for many years, and should mostly bring comfort and joy. The Friends of Seattle's Olmsted Parks officers and Board do not have an official stance of the Commons proposal yet. As individuals we are naturally of mixed opinions. My opinions regarding it are here presented, not so much to try to win converts as to inform and stimulate.
    I like the planning's wholistic approach. The team involves all manner of ideas, generated from boringly predictable standard design processes to off-the-wall freethinking. Its private and public cooperation garners the best of both sectors. The considerations (financial firmness, social integration, transportation, ecologic) have been balanced towards serving the greatest public good.
    Presently a low-density warehouse and light-industry area, of no remarkable "sense of place" or attraction, the Commons site (south of Lake Union) can be transformed into a great civic park and magnet for Seattle, as many other cities already have. It can be our Central Park, our Golden Gate Park. We really cannot rest content with Westlake Park, which is aptly described as a 22 million dollar glorified sidewalk. In the Commons' park, which is its heart, we can have an enormous green area, landscaped specifically in a Seattle fashion, so out-of-town visitors will imbibe Seattle's unique flavor from it.
    The emphasis on a pedestrian-oriented, high-density residential development, integrating both creation of jobs and providing some low-income housing, will help breathe refreshing humanity into the heart of the city. Nearby downtown will grow less ghostly at night and on weekends.
    The proposal has substantial support. It is well packaged, and the Environmental Impact Statement thorough. The objections I have heard are valid concerns. Some say spruce up the Seattle Center instead. Some say it is a luxury we cannot afford. Some say the only certain beneficiaries are the planners and contractors, and perhaps the businesses who grab the best sites early on. Some favor a smaller scaled approach. Some say forget a plan and let laissez-faire rule; let private interests do what they want, but give no taxpayer support to it. I am certainly leery of wasting tax dollars. Yet in this proposal, the sheer scope of it will likely be impossible without public participation. A developer cannot condemn land; we can scarcely hope a developer will have strong interests other than maximizing profit. So such Commons goals as civic amenity, low-income housing, reducing automobile tyranny, and ecologic improvement --beg for public oversight. The public-private mix will also bring in more volunteers and dollar donations.
    Commons staff and volunteers will take part in many community events during the coming months to inform citizens about the Commons plan. If you're interested in helping, or in learning more, call the Commons office at 628-8245, from 8:00 to 5:00 weekdays.

(originally published in Friends of Seattle's Olmsted Parks newsletter, January-February 1995)

Voters turned-down the Seattle Commons . . .


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Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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