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McGraw Square Renovation Underway

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The McGraw Square renovations officially began on September 24. One of the smallest parks in Seattle, it is located near the Westin Hotel at the intersection of Fifth Avenue, Stewart Street and Westlake Avenue. This project permanently closes Westlake Ave between Olive Way and Stewart St to create a transit, bicycle, and pedestrian-friendly plaza at the current terminus of the Seattle Streetcar South Lake Union line.

The goals of the new, centrally-located plaza are to make walking and biking through north downtown safer and more comfortable, while improving the transfer abilities of the Seattle Streetcar, Monorail, light rail tunnel, and major bus routes. The project also seeks to better connect the South Lake Union and Denny Triangle neighborhoods to the existing retail core, offering a “sense of place” to help orient new housing and promote economic development.

Just follow the numbers. The McGraw Square Transit Mall renovations include:

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1. A second streetcar platform to improve rider access to/from the new plaza

2. Integrated transit shelter/covered bicycle parking for up to 10 bikes

3. Landscaped rain garden to infiltrate majority of stormwater and reduce runoff entering the sewer system

4. Illuminated seat walls with signage, to act as gateway for Westlake Hub

5. ADA access, lighting, and seating improvements near the historic McGraw statue

6. Inlaid, energy efficient (LED) light tiles as part of a comprehensive dynamic, colored lighting scheme

7. Salvaged granite pavers for detailing, taken from overstock of original Westlake Park installation

8. New street trees to replace (two-for-one) those being removed near McGraw statue; new large specimen trees to anchor Westlake Ave terminus

9. Oversized curb ramp, utility connections to facilitate mobile food vending and plaza programming

SDOT is also considering converting 6th Ave between Virginia St and Westlake Ave to a two-way operation (and to relocate the charter bus zone), with the Westlake Ave to Stewart St approach reduced to a single southbound lane. The Seattle Streetcar and buses running along 5th Ave remain in full service during construction.

McGraw Square is named after John Harte McGraw. This grocer from Maine was a Seattle police chief, harbor master, fire warden, King County sheriff, and Washington State governor from 1893-97. The designer of McGraw Square and its completion date are unknown, but it was influenced by the famous park plan that John Charles Olmsted of the Olmsted Brothers firm in Brookline, Massachusetts drew up for Seattle in 1903. Their vision of the Seattle park system was to celebrate, showcase and protect Pacific Northwest landscapes while providing residents and tourists with park access and recreation.  

The McGraw project is also part of the City’s larger Center City Strategy to make Westlake one of three transportation “hubs” serving downtown (with King Street Station and Colman Dock). Construction of the plaza project is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving 2010.

Cristalla’s Green Wall is Changing Color (while staying Green)

September 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Cristalla

As you walk past the south end of the Cristalla, you can’t help but notice a big green wall with soft brown panels creeping up from below.  These are the final steps in constructing a permanent south wall for the building, now underway through CDK Construction Services.

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At the time the Cristalla was finished, the south wall was sheltered by an adjoining building set to become the 2015 Second Avenue project. That building was razed during the downtown condo boom, with construction permits filed and things going nicely in 2008 (it was even scheduled to open in 2010). However, like most projects later that year, the recession hit and everything stopped. This left the Cristalla with a now- exposed south wall.  Resulting weather damage finally caused management to repair damages and work on a permanent fix. Now that the south wall will be permanently protected, the Cristalla will no longer have to worry about major maintenance problems or structural concerns—which will also bring a sigh of relief to potential buyers and their lenders.

The green part of the wall is a rain screen manufactured by Knight Wall Systems. Rain screens are exterior infrastructures which sit away from an outside wall’s weather-resistant barrier.  They create a cavity allowing moisture to pass through and away from the building. The resulting airflow between the rain screen and the wall accelerates residual moisture evaporation. There’s also room for additional insulation, which increases energy efficiency and adds LEED credits to the building.

Another LEED feature is the brown part of the wall. North Clad® composite panels have a recycled content of approximately 30%+ pre and post-consumer recycled content. These lightweight panels reflect energy from the sun, reduce heat absorption and are graffiti-resistant. Aesthetically, it’s beautiful material, creating an illusion of a fabric-covered wall. Noel Foster, CDK project manager, added that they’re very pleased with the results.

The Cristalla South Wall project is well ahead of schedule and should be completed in September. The 2015 Second Avenue project is still in play, but no resumption date has been announced.