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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thinking Dense at Northgate

posted by on May 28 at 15:20 PM

Under a plan pushed by Mayor Greg Nickels’s office, the city is considering upzoning as much as 98 acres of the Northgate area. The upzone could allow building heights to double on some blocks. An environmental impact statement (.pdf), released earlier this month, cited some of the problems the neighborhood has experienced: “For the decade after Northgate was designated an Urban Center [in 1993], development did not keep pace with the targeted growth rates for either employment or housing…. due to an economic down-turn, various zoning and regulatory constraints, traffic congestion and lack of infrastructure investments…” Tonight the city’s Department of Planning and Development will hold a public meeting to hear comments on the schemes for increasing density. A pop-up image of the existing zoning is here. A diagram of one of the proposed zoning changes is here:


Numbers refer to the maximum building height in those zones

Some neighbors have argued that the density goals in the neighborhood plan could be achieved through infill without changing the zoning, whereas others, such as Renee Staton of the Pinehurst Development Group, generally support the plan. “I think it should be rezoned because it allows for more housing in the urban core,” she says, “and I like that there would be incentives to build affordable housing.”

But, Staton says, the plan also has flaws. For instance, she thinks that the mall itself should also be rezoned to provide residential density and remove surface-level parking. She also believes that it’s necessary to provide pedestrian amenities to integrate the bigger, bolder new Northgate with the surrounding low-density neighborhood. “We would like to see the pedestrian-oriented infrastructure addressed before cars,” she says, “because if you want it to be a sustainable community, you want people able to walk safely. Let’s put sidewalks on these streets where people are walking to the bus.”

The public meeting is tonight at 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of Northgate Community Center, 10510 Fifth Avenue NE.

RSS icon Comments



Posted by Is The Worst | May 28, 2008 3:30 PM

Dominic, are there any plans for development in the U district? I've always thought the ave could support a smaller, downtown-feeling area outside the city center.

Plus, thanks for keeping us all updated on important local city/county planning. This is the kind of stuff that needs exposure in local media outlets, and never seems to get it.

Posted by dbell | May 28, 2008 3:39 PM

dbell, because the local media gets paid by talking about how great the real estate industry is doing here.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | May 28, 2008 3:45 PM

I agree with Staton that the real as-yet untapped source of new land for infill development is that which is dedicated to parking, both in Seattle and in the suburbs. The urban cores of many of the suburbs and the Seattle neighborhoods could benefit from cannibalizing the large amount of land dedicated to parking and using it for new, transit- or pedestrian-oriented residential and commercial development.

Posted by lorax | May 28, 2008 3:47 PM

As a resident of Northgate I am thrilled. It is one of the only semi-decent areas of Seattle left where someone of modest income can afford to live. The one thing lacking is that it isn't a "walkable" neighborhood, but it is definitely a busable one. Sidewalks would be a definite plus.

Posted by smp | May 28, 2008 4:14 PM

I live just north of the mall and I welcome this with open arms. Northgate has an excellent bus center (the 41 is a dream to downtown) and i'm right by the express lanes. It only takes about 10 minutes to get downtown in the mornings.

Posted by bobcat | May 28, 2008 4:27 PM

When you said "pop-up image of exisiting zoning" I thought I was going to see something a lot more three-dimensional. I'm disappointed.

Posted by blank12357 | May 28, 2008 4:47 PM

65 and 85 ... now we're talking zoning!

But ... um ... where's the greenspace?

You can't just build ultra-tall buildings and chop down the nearby trees and expect people to want to live there, especially when the view can be blocked ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 28, 2008 5:19 PM

Oh you were saying 100' buildings for low cost housing - I kept thinking you were saying 100 story buildings -

Posted by ouch | May 28, 2008 5:48 PM

This would be fantastic. Hope it goes through. Are they still going to turn that northern park and ride into a park?

Posted by Cale | May 28, 2008 6:56 PM

Will - There have been a lot of amenities added in the Northgate Core in anticipation of this including the Northgate Community Center and Library and the new Northgate Urban Center Park that will be on the 3+ acres site that is currently the park and ride north of Target. Also, there is a wonderful park in the center of the new Thornton Place development that will open next year.

Posted by Renee | May 28, 2008 9:25 PM

Oh ... feet.

85 feet.

Um ... too short.

We call that sprawl ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 28, 2008 11:46 PM

Once again:

High-rises =/= urban density. They are also expensive and use ridiculous amounts of steel.

Oh, and high-rises combined with incentives for affordable housing?

Usually turns out to be a fucking social nightmare.

Why don't you go ask the French how Towers in the Park have been working out for them?

Posted by k | May 29, 2008 4:16 AM

The question that never seems to be answered is what is affordable housing? Condos that you get to plunge into irresponsible debt of $300K - $500K to get into? Or will it be limited to low income residents who have to wait 6 months to 18 months just to get the chance to move in?

Why isn't there a push for quality rental properties that us middle income people can afford to get into?

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | May 29, 2008 7:17 AM

85 feet is not a highrise. This is hardly news. Im pretty sure Nordstrom in the mall is taller than that.

Posted by JesseJB | May 29, 2008 8:35 AM

NE 115th St is the first cut-through street for cars and trucks trying to avoid the traffic on Northgateway. The city has already determined that this stretch of RESIDENTIAL street gets as much traffic and as many speeders as an arterial road. By the end of this summer there will be around 10 children living here and about a dozen others on 7th, 8th, and 9th Aves NE. There is a deaf man living here. There are numerous pedestrians, both adults and children who walk along this street to and from bus stops.

There is no safe place for pedestrians to walk with present traffic levels. Winter ice on the sloped edge of the street and muddy shoulders created by steady rain force pedestrians to walk dangerously close to the passing vehicles. Bicycles face the same problems as well.

If the city allows for more residetial construction in the Northgate area then the traffic load on 115th will increase and the residents here will be in even greater danger. One city official told me several years ago that the city would be inclined to put in sidewalks if a pedestrian was injured or killed by a car. I really hope that they were not serious.

In order to adequately protect its citizens, the city must take on the resposibilty of providing basic infrastructure like sidewalks. If the city expects to get increased tax revenue from the planned development and increased property values then it must invest in improvments in the adjacent areas as well.

I honestly like my neighbors and don't want to see any of them, or anyone in my own family get hurt or worse.

Posted by Dan Stearn | June 1, 2008 11:16 PM

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