Two big proposals for Harbor Ave

Harbor Avenue around the northeastern edge of the WS peninsula will be in for big changes if either or both of two ambitious ideas presented at last night’s Alki Community Council meeting become reality. It was emphasized that the two plans are not officially linked — but they have undeniable “synergy.” They involve land adjacent to, and east of, what many describe as West Seattle’s “secret gem,” Jack Block Park.


First: The Pier 1/2 concept for a new Water Taxi dock. It’s an unofficial proposal but may be gaining steam, since most would agree the Water Taxi can’t stay at Seacrest forever (among other things, the parking crunch is just too ridiculous). Pier 1/2 is Port of Seattle property adjacent to Jack Block Park. Much more on this and the other proposal, after the click …

West Seattle architect Vlad Oustimovitch outlined the Pier 1/2 “concept” to the ACC, explaining there would be room for 500 cars to park, not just enhancing its potential as a Water Taxi site, but also as someplace where Alki weekend overflow parking could go, with shuttle buses taking visitors to the beach.

Rough estimates are that it might cost as little as $2 million to transform into the Water Taxi’s new home. Not coincidentally, that’s about how much James Bush from King County Councilmember Dow Constantine’s office says is available for the project right now; Bush also told the ACC that an informal feasibility review will be under way in the next 6 weeks or so.

The crowd had lots of questions, which, as they were cautioned, are somewhat premature, since this is just a concept that’s being floated before any sort of official proposal is made. But on the surface, it appears to have lots of potential, including, as described at the meeting, increased JB Park usage by people going to and from the Water Taxi.

Key points of the concept could include:
*a floating dock that could accommodate two passenger ferries
*a new vehicle entrance at Harbor/Florida for both the park and the Water Taxi terminal
*hopes that increased park usage would support a cafe and maybe even bicycle rental

Meeting attendees asked who they could contact to express support for the concept. Bush didn’t have a clear answer for that one, but suggested Port of Seattle leadership as well as King County leadership (Executive’s office, etc., since the Water Taxi is run by Metro, aka the county), even the City of Seattle. We’ll keep watch on this.

Now, right next to all that, could be project #2 — one that the Jack Block Park namesake himself showed up last night to help promote. The Port has to decide the future of a 24-acre industrial parcel south of Harbor/Florida known as the “CEM site” — will it hold boat storage, or a development featuring “workforce” housing and “urban amenities”? Block and an architect team from Mithun showed huge drawings of what that development might look like. (We have a message out to Mithun asking if we can get copies to share with you; no word back yet.)

The drawings were beautiful and utopian, of course, as such things usually are; the concept included a gradual transition from the Harbor Ave/Admiral downslope greenbelt to this development, and even included water features that have something to do with “zero discharge” and storm-water management. The housing units would be owned, not rented, though the land itself would remain under Port ownership, under a longterm lease; the project presenters said the length of the lease would determine how many units there would be.

We’re still working to find out the next step in decisionmaking for this project vs. its reported rival. More to come!

8 Replies to "Two big proposals for Harbor Ave"

  • Jo July 20, 2007 (5:57 pm)

    Wow, exciting things going on.
    Nice, concise reporting, WSB.

  • Amy July 20, 2007 (8:57 pm)

    I enjoyed listening to both presentations last night and appreciate the work put into them. I agree that both have lots of potential. There was a little skepticism afterwards about how you can have both affordable (“workforce”) AND waterfront housing… but, they said they are working with an affordable housing expert, so we’ll see!

  • The House July 20, 2007 (10:32 pm)

    Although I agree that the Water Taxi needs a new home, I would hate to see the Jack Block park tainted by it. It truly is one of West Seattle’s hidden gems and has some of the best views of the city.

  • D July 21, 2007 (12:22 am)

    How full does Harbor Ave around Seacrest park get in the mornings? Is a parking lot 500 strong really necessary?

  • Texas July 21, 2007 (1:00 am)

    Boat storage would be a more appropriate use for that property. By allowing housing, the port would be creating a constituency that would object to the train noise, the lights, the commotion of port operations going on day and night. What’s driving this project isn’t magnanimous public service, but profit. There’s a lot of money to be made, and the question to be asked is: who profits? The community is being asked to absorb a lot of density, when it has already absorbed more than its share with the row of condos on Harbor Avenue and the single-family houses being gutted for common-wall townhouses one after the other. I don’t know any other area of Seattle with similar density abutting industrial land.

  • deliboy July 21, 2007 (12:48 pm)

    I like the sound of this a lot. I love Jack Block park, and I know some people are having a bit of an isolationist reaction to doing work nearby it (another example of the infamous “just leave it like it is” Seattle political impulse), but I like the idea of it becoming part of a portal for more passenger ferry traffic.

    I’d like to imagine a more commuter oriented bike rental, maybe even a bikeshare program like in Paris or New York ( but I’m afraid they have another novelty “bike” rental in mind, to further clog up the Alki bike path.

    The development sounds like it could have potential if executed well. If they mixed the housing and “urban amenities” right, it could produce a nice little shopping district, á la the Morgan, Alaska, and Admiral Junctions, which I think would add a lot to the beach area, especially since the closure of the grocery store down there. Heck, between easy pedestrian access to Downtown via the Water Taxi, convenient shops, and (theoretically) affordable housing, I could imagine a thriving little community with a very uniquely Seattle character.

  • mrwillow July 21, 2007 (10:08 pm)

    D – Right now 500 parking spaces is a bit of an overkill. But, if things go as hoped,( not really to realistic), and ASSUMING, our City leaders have any idea of what they want, and how to get there, it will be adequate.

    deliboy – About 6-8 years ago, the Port wanted to turn that property into Condos. NOT affordable at all.
    However, the City, as much as I hate them, said OK, but you will have to leave the street level as “retail” business, as our zoning Regs require.

    Port said “no way”. Enter the new “working affordable”, or whatever. You are living in dreamland if you ever think the Port will make that affordable.

    Witness the Lora Lakes Apartments controversy (debacle). If they don’t have any concern for those apartments, you better not bank on low rents in prime city view, waterfront apartments.

    AND, they are not developvers, just a Govermental agency that doesn’t give a s**t for anyone.

    Have a wonderful evening, and dream of affordable housing you will never see.

  • TeaLady July 23, 2007 (9:54 am)

    I use the water taxi frequently and the parking on harbor ave gets very full very fast. If I mis the 7:30 boat though, it is almost impossible to park, especially after boating season begins. If there were more available parking, it would open up a truly viable commuting option for more West Seattleites. That, or run more comprehensive shuttle routes through West Seattle so we don’t have to park down there in the first place!

Sorry, comment time is over.