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When is a 'village commons' not a village commons?

1/8 Mile Walkshed to Village Commons

The City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) says that “University Playground” (at NE 50th Street and 9th Ave.) satisfies the 20-year Comprehensive Plan’s goal for a “village commons”.  In so declaring in their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) produced for DPD’s proposed upzone of many blocks around the light rail station at Brooklyn and NE 43rd, the City is essentially saying that there is no further need to plan for a central public open space for the up zone or the light rail station!  Incredible!!

Let’s recognize reality...  University Playground is just that.  A playground!  It is a nice place to take the dog for a walk, or the family for a picnic, or play tennis or softball, or watch your child enjoy the play equipment.  It is a space that enhances the mostly single-family residential area nearby.  It is in no way a “village commons” in the sense of a public urban village commons.  It is also located far away from the main pedestrian core and heartbeat of the U-District and the light rail station now under construction.  So remote is this playground space that many people using the business core of the U-District would probably not even know that it existed!

The functions for a viable and vibrant Urban Village Commons, or central public square and park, that we of University District Advocates (UDA) would like to see are far different from a playfield.  We would like to see a public square of a size appropriate to accommodate and include such activities as: farmers‘ markets, art shows and exhibits, dance programs, lunch-time musical performances, small concerts, special event celebrations, product demonstrations, sidewalk cafe dining, etc. etc. or to just enjoy having coffee and watching the hubbub of typical work day goings-on.

All of these types of activities will help provide a focus to the U-District and a resultant identity that currently it sorely lacks!  In addition to the above functions and by being located above or directly adjacent to the light rail station, the central public square will also serve as a good “surge space” to receive and accommodate the anticipated 12,000 commuters per day that will be coming and going from the Brooklyn Station.

It should also be noted that the Parks Plan of 2006-2007 identified the need for a large central public open space and this need was also very recently identified as the top priority of the U-District participants in the Public Space Forums facilitated by John Owen of Makers Architecture and Milenko Matanovic of Pomegranate Center.

Please help us in convincing the Seattle City Council, both those currently serving as well as those running for office, that the U-District needs a sizable central public square at or directly adjacent to the light rail station at Brooklyn and NE 43rd.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us to have a hand in forever changing the public face and growth equation for the University District.  Make your voice be heard for a more exciting and livable U-District!  

- John Bennett, Architect, AIA

Urban Village Commons


RobertD Jun 27, 2015
This plan is not a plan. This isn't even a proposal. I work and live in the UDistrict where I've been a resident for over 20 years. I am a home owner in the neighborhood where the University Playground is located, and I don't agree that " It is a space that enhances the mostly single-family residential area nearby." On any day, you'll find young people (students, mothers with children... my children), spending time lounging, reading, and simply passing the day. There's a note of condescension here... students, families, and small businesses are the soul of the UDistrict. Speaking to my fellow UDistrict neighbors, and that's over 20 "families," we aren't in favor of a village commons... especially when it's proposed in a way that implies consensus, agreement, and support from the neighborhood.
Joyce Jun 27, 2015
"the City is essentially saying that there is no further need to plan for a central public open space for the up zone or the light rail station" Light rail construction has essentially destroyed my small business. Yes, I am interested in remaining a business, and I know the small business on my block want the same. Light rail is good for the public, but costly. A village commons (unclear in definition, costs, support, sponsorship, tax implications, etc...). Like other residents along the Ave, I'm working to control the crime, drug sales, and help those who clearly don't have a place to live. If there is to be any additional planning, it would be good to help those in need: the homeless in our neighborhood
Cheryl Jun 27, 2015
This is going up and down the avenue and is insulting. Who speaks for people of the area and does not know them. Rumors of commercial building sales and business removal have been strong and there is no consideration of those who are trying to make the area a better place. This kind of communication and how its done is sloppy and inconsiderate. There needs to be more than a back of the envelope plans before there is talk of shutting down businesses. Removing existing buildings and those who rent spaces. What is wrong with the current farmer's market? The University's lovely park-like grounds? The charm of existing cafes (Allegro, Solstice, Starbucks)? The concerts at Kane? We don't need this, we can't afford this, we won't support this.
Ben Jun 27, 2015
I just found out about this from one of my employees. Apparently, there are those few who are behind this telling people in the area that this is going to happen. --Light rail construction has been painful --The construction costs in this city are out of control --The DPD is not our enemy How this is being messaged and how it is being presented has significant flaws. I agree with Robertd, this is not a plan.
Patch Jun 27, 2015
Uh, there is no plan. It is an attack on Ave Rats. Gentrification. Hands off.
R66 Jun 27, 2015
Won't be buying mags at Bulldog anymore. Not cool.
Windlace Jun 28, 2015
I think this is very confusing and don't understand what the ask is. The parklet is a deck with some plants , so not a park. The thing in this blog is a HUGE park with no real purpose but to have a HUGE park/village/commons/whatever. Proposals are usually clear and come with data/estimates/projections/impacts/budget. My friends are freaking out about proposals for the city to buy up existing buildings and kick out people who live there
East West Jun 29, 2015
There are going to be some changes to the Ave and that's in the public record. The people behind this Village Commons are going about it the wrong way. You don't tell business owners that their businesses will be going away soon because of a planned Village Commons unless it's approved and funded. I know 3 business owners up and down the Ave and can tell you that there is a representative of this unofficial proposal telling them: buildings are for sale, plans to increase new building heights are in plan, and that it's a good time to move location because existing structures will be torn down. This kind of dishonesty indicates this is not a going concern. Those reading, I wouldn't take this seriously, it's not how this things are done. Thanks, Varun
E_L Jun 29, 2015
costs to high. why now because tax is high & will get larger. please stop this talk. thank you
Jun 29, 2015
and why new park? UW is one big park and beautiful. Visitors can eat food and drink coffee on UW lawns.
Benton Jul 10, 2015
Jumping on this thread, some things to think about: --walk the Ave and see sad humanity all over, they need help --pocket parks and parklets are 5-10 minute experiences, but inexpensive, I'd be suspect of a multi-million $$ park in an area that will always be in transition --the advocates for this park are clearly anti-small business --I'm not the only one who's buying my news, magazines, and coffee anywhere other than Bulldog News
Jul 30, 2015
Questionable idea, the attention, funds, and promotion should be to attend to the homeless on the Ave. It's becoming the primary problem to solve in the University District. The decision to bulldoze residences/businesses — which, you might recall, we need more of in the city — in favor of a park (where many homeless would probably end up sleeping again) hasn’t been a super-popular decision with activists and residents of the area. “It’s a really stupid use of the space,” one neighbor ion my street. “We already have parks here.” If spend: mental health svcs, really housing for the homeless, job training. Jean Godden is TREMENDOUSLY out of touch with the areas constituents. She's going to lose more than my vote this round.
Madison Aug 2, 2015
Could someone explain to me why this parklet is supposed to be my parklet. I live in the district and I work in the district. I have friends in the district. I went to school at the UW. I AM PART OF THE UW COMMUNITY. And, I don't like the parklet. It's a deck in an parking space. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE COMMUNITY. It's a couple of people's little project that I should not and will not be guilted into liking and told not wanting to support it means I'm not supporting my community.
Anon Aug 5, 2015
Coming up to speed on this. Not favoring the message and plan. How come voice of proposal is not voice of neighbors. My new restaurant I am just starting now. News that it will be removed is distressing. Please do not build
Paul Aug 6, 2015