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It’s Not A Parking Lot, It’s A Magical Green Urban Oasis!

2011 April 19
by dan bertolet

< Rendering of proposed parking lot at 751 Marion St; image: Mithun - click to enlarge >

The Daliesque rendering shown above depicts what the Polyclinic proposes to put in the full-block hole in the ground bounded by Marion, Spring, 7th, and 8th on the west edge of First Hill. Pretty dreamy, no? But I guess it was me that was dreaming when I thought Seattle was done building giant, single-use parking lots in the core of the City.

Today the site provides about 220 surface parking stalls. The Polyclinic is moving into the office building at 7th and Madison that has been empty since completed in 2009, and they want more and better parking next door. The plans (big pdf) call for a surface lot flush with grade on the west half of the block, and a multilevel structure on the east half, for a total of 400 stalls.

< Looking north across the 751 Marion lot to the Landes Apartments, right, and the 7th and Madison office bulding, left; photo: Dan Bertolet >

I get it that the new lot will be an improvement over what’s there now; that people will be relying on cars for decades to come; that if you have to put a parking lot somewhere, locating it next to I-5 is a good option; that the lot will enable productive use of the office building; and that the designers have applied innovative solutions. I get all that, but still find it discouraging that this is the best we can manage to do, given our dire need to wean Seattle away from car-dependence.

Because over the long-term, the overall negative impact of dedicating land with such a high location efficiency to the single use of parking will vastly outweigh any short term benefits. As I have described previously, when we invest in more infrastructure for cars, we not only encourage more car use, but we also sabotage mobility by walking, biking, and transit.

No matter how much green lipstick we put on the pig, the parking lot is still a pig (no offense to pigs, which are fine animals). So in the interest of honest representation, what I’d like to see added to that groovy, surreal rendering above is a gigantic, shimmering exhaust pipe hovering in the gray-green sky, belching out tons of CO2 to the heavens above. Any Photoshoppers out there interested in taking a crack at that?


13 Responses leave one →
  1. Yep permalink
    April 19, 2011

    I disagree. Buildings are designed for the now–otherwise they don’t get financing. Market dictates that a medical office building (which will be treating sick people) include enough parking to allow sick people to easily get treated.

    Maybe one day we’ll be talking about adaptive reuse of parking garage structures. But not yet. So in the meantime it’s pretty cool I think what the designers did with a currently super ugly surface parking lot. Remember–if nothing gets financed, then nothing ever will get built and improved upon.

    • Cascadian permalink
      April 19, 2011

      OK, we need parking now. Why surface parking? The developers acknowledge that the parking should be obscured with greenery, so why not add parking that’s obscured by a perimeter of street-level retail? If you need all of those parking spots, why not use rents from the perimeter retail to pay for an underground parking level? There has to be a better solution that works both for current needs and a longer view.

    • Joshua Daniel Franklin permalink
      April 19, 2011

      First, “Medical office” does not necessarily mean sick people would be treated in the building. It could be space for the amazing amounts of medical paperwork, labs, or just administrative offices of a medical organization.

      Second and more importantly though, the problem with parking for sick people isn’t lack of parking, it’s that most of the parking is being taken by perfectly able-bodied commuters. Additionally it’s unfortunately very easy to get a disabled parking permit in Washington state. As SDOT puts it, “The tremendous amount of abuse of these placards limits access to legitimate placard holders and other parkers.”

  2. Dave permalink
    April 19, 2011

    love those clouds.

    sorry I’m too lazy to read the plans, but is there any mention of eventually building on top of the parking structure? will there be any retail in the bldg on the northeast corner of the block?

  3. SethGeiser permalink
    April 19, 2011

    Yeesh, I expect more from the folks at Mithun. I can see giving up on 7th with I-5 lurking there, but it’d be a shame to offer no activation on the other edges, particularly 8th. The pocket parks are a stretch (I’d bet those concrete stumps would be sat on once a year), and the terraced plantings would seriously deter any kind of future infill. There’s just no there there.

    As for graphic honesty, I’d like to see people walking on the other side of the street looking into to the waste of opportunity with disdainful looks on their faces. Then would be a picture of people complaining that there isn’t enough affordable housing stock or usable open space in the downtown area.

  4. Matt the Engineer permalink
    April 20, 2011

    What’s that thing on the left in the rendering? Is that a 9-story parking lot next door? Does this block really need that much parking?

    • michael permalink
      April 20, 2011

      That’s the 7th and Madison Office Building.

      • Matt the Engineer permalink
        April 20, 2011

        Ah, it’s the building in the lower picture. I was a bit turned around. Thanks.

  5. Steve Mooney permalink
    April 23, 2011

    Doesn’t the 7th and Madison building have underground parking, too? I seem to remember them digging for a while there. I doubt the Polyclinic wants gratuitous empty parking spaces, so I suspect they’ve done some estimation of parking needs, but it still all makes me wonder: why does it take so much parking to run a clinic?

  6. Jane Jacobs permalink
    April 23, 2011

    I think you should be more outraged at the parking facilities that have been and are being built at the Metro garage on 6th Ave S. Don’t ask the private facilities to do what the government facilities don’t do.

  7. TLjr permalink
    April 25, 2011

    I’d assume that the Polyclinic’s concern isn’t so much parking for patients–though you can bet that patients will be wheeled out to justify the parking need. Their greater concern is probably parking for doctors and high-priced staffers.

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