Building on the corpse of the Seattle Commons: vision or social engineering?

Via Evergreen Politics, “Talking about Paul Allen“:

“The New York Times has an article on Paul Allen and his impact on Seattle via both his ownership of the Seahawks and his efforts to redesign South Lake Union and promote an entire new bioscience-based economy in that area.’ The writer, Timothy Egan, is of course using the hook of the exciting playoff game here tomorrow to talk about what Allen appears to be up to and the responses of the community to his efforts.’ The article talks about ‘Allen’s vision of a new-century city built around compact urban living and a biotech job engine that some officials suggest could one day rival that of the Boeing Company’.

I’m newly back to Seattle after many years in the Bay Area and I have been puzzled by the animosity that Paul Allen and the South Lake Union complex engenders here. He has already build a very cool sports stadium and a world-class museum.’ I like the idea that someone is planning ahead and seems to be focused on ‘building a new-century neighborhood, with green building principles and tight density, imagining a community of scientists who were never more than a few minutes stroll from their experiments.’”

The line between vision and social engineering is a bit ambiguous, I think, but it’s an important dialogue to have.

Interesting discussion about the south union bay property that Allen got when the Seattle Commons efforts failed because of the agreements made over the use of the money he gave to the project. Realistically, however, cities do the same kind of social engineering through zoning and infrastructure projects. At some level, it’s a vision of an area of Seattle that is in-city warehouses, primarily. There’s good reason to worry about gentrification of low income housing, but it’s a very poorly utilized area, in my experience. Another area that is mostly a wasteland is the area around boeing field, south of Sodo.

I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if Olympia could re-claim the land on which the Port sits. That’s an area with amazing potential. What if Olympia could do what Seattle couldn’t and create an Olympia Commons on the peninsula north of downtown? That would be something.

That sure would de-militarize the port. Although, it would likely move elsewhere and be less visible, and less of a catalyst to discussions about militarization. On some level, NIMBY just doesn’t promise to engender a dialogue, rather it becomes a kind of plausible deniability for those that don’t want to engage in the conversation. Which is better, really?

On some level, I wonder if it’s a mistake to buy west bay from the port. If the port moved to west bay, and the city reclaimed the peninsula, I think that would be better. The port could build a road along the old train track south that runs from west bay and route their trucks under the 4th ave bridge, away from downtown, and connect to I-5 and 101 there instead of via Plum.

I had a dream the other day that the Port moved out and the peninsula was reclaimed. There was a new high-speed ferry dock put in that linked from the city to Seattle. Also, the old rail bridge across the mouth of west bay was rebuilt as a pedestrian walkway to connect west bay to the peninsula. At some point in the dream that rebuilt bridge turned into a light rail that ran out to Evergreen on one end and south down capital in the other direction. I suppose there would also be a strong mass transit system running along the old 99 coming in from the direction of Lacey, linking to a branch that ran up the hill to west olympia.