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McGraw Square Park Reopened

February 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Downtown (MLS Area 701), Featured

mcgraw fullAs you enter the newly renovated McGraw Square, the first question you may ask yourself is, “They spent $900,000 on cement?” But there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.

One of the smallest parks in Seattle, you’ll find McGraw Square downtown at the intersections of Fifth Ave, Stewart St and Westlake Ave.  Its newly completed plaza makes it easier to travel around downtown while enhancing connections from the South Lake Union Streetcar to other mass transit options. It 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.   

Streetcar Station on McGraw Square

Streetcar Station on McGraw Square

 We first blogged about the new construction in September 2010, so we were excited to see how everything turned out. We were there on a cold Friday morning, but there was a nice-sized crowd waiting for the streetcar, and others either crossing the plaza or posing for photos by the statue.  McGraw Square boasts some great city-watching:   from pedestrians crossing the plaza or waiting for the streetcar, to traffic zipping along its three adjoining streets, to the monorail cars rushing overhead.   It would also be a good place to see a few food and beverage carts (we could have used some coffee for warmth), and the broad expanse of plaza has great potential as an entertainment venue.   

The LED insets set up a spectacular light show at night. Note also the recycled granite pavers.

The LED insets set up a spectacular light show at night. Note also the recycled granite pavers.

SDOT’s plans for the new McGraw Square contained:

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 trees for the plaza plus large specimen trees to anchor Westlake Ave terminus; and

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

A people-watching bench

A people-watching bench

Along with perks for pedestrians and mass transit, it also simplifies a complicated five-way intersection (source of a good number of traffic accidents) by creating a left-turn only lane from Stewart St to Fifth Ave, and closing Westlake Ave between Olive Way and Stewart St.

The McGraw project is also part of the City’s larger strategy to make Westlake one of three transportation “hubs” serving downtown (with King Street Station and Colman Dock).  It  was funded by a transit mobility grant from the Washington State DOT, who will work with the City on a comprehensive operating/programming strategy.  McGraw Square was named for John H. McGraw, Washington’s second state governor, and you can read more about his remarkable life by hitting this link.

The Grand Opening of Lake Union Park



How long does it take to turn garbage into gold? The answer is 20 years.

And that’s really true. Back in 1990, serious attention was turned towards 12 acres of prime Lake Union property filled with contaminated soil and degraded seawall. It also contained tons of garbage, creosote piles, concrete and asphalt debris. A great deal of vision, paired with a groundswell of community support, would be needed in order to polish this polluted land into a true Seattle jewel.

And 20 years later, what a jewel it is!  Those 12 acres of land is now Lake Union Park, a world-class waterfront park on the south shores of Lake Union. It will have something for everyone. Environmentalists will marvel at the restored shoreline and the returned habitat of turtles, salmon, heron and native plants. History enthusiasts will enjoy the History Trail throughout the park. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the trails for walking, jogging and biking. There’s also a pedestrian bridge, waterfront boardwalk, terraced steps at the lake’s edge. There is a beach for hand-launched boats and a model boat pond. A place to have a picnic?  There’s a tree grove with tables and benches. Things for kids to do?  There’s a 300-foot long interactive fountain, a great lawn and sculpted landforms to play with. The park has a streetcar stop for commuting convenience.


 The pre-dedication festivities kick off on Friday evening, September 24th with a lavish dinner dance. The “Green Tie Gala.” will introduce civic, business and philanthropic leaders to the beauty of Lake Union Park. On Saturday, September 25th, the real party kicks in from sunrise to sunset (7 a.m. – 7 p.m.) and you’re invited!  The community-wide celebration will begin with sunrise yoga and a family Fun Run. The ribbon-cutting ceremony starts at 11:30 a.m. Live music, a fitness field, parade of Seattle mascots, maritime activities, History Trail guided tours, kayak and paddle board demonstrations, and ample food and drink will set the stage for a great day in the park. All activities are free of charge.

Seattle Parks Foundation is a private nonprofit organization working to improve, expand, and create parks and green spaces, building a more vibrant community. Founded in 2001 to bring new resources to Seattle’s park system, Seattle Parks Foundation has completed 30 park projects and secured more than $29 million for parks and green spaces in Seattle. Lake Union Park was specifically chosen as its first major project because of its central location, a need for green space in the downtown area, plus the project’s amazing partnerships with The Center for Wooden Boats, Museum of History and Industry, The United Indians of all Tribes Foundation, and the City of Seattle.

Lake Union Park is located at 860 Terry Avenue. For more information, please visit their website. Come to the park, and come to it often!

A Garden in the Middle of Downtown

September 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured

Imagine a typical walk downtown passing building upon building, cars roaring by…  when all of a sudden, you come upon a huge wave of greenery and dazzling mirrors with the sounds of water raining through glass, welcoming you to an oasis of nature and light.

Sheraton_Garden_Walk_GGN for stroupe news

Courtesy of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

Your oasis is scheduled to appear in the spring of 2011.

The Sheraton Seattle Hotel , already an award winner in green-inspired hospitality, is literally turning greener.  They are hard at work transforming their 7th Avenue walkway into a $2 million “Garden Walk”. The plans are for this currently blank wall to sport a thick carpet of lush, climbing vines. Large-scale mirrors, set to reflect the historic façade of the Eagles Temple Building and the Washington State Convention Center across the street, will also be positioned to show movement and color, creating the illusion of a constantly changing space.

And just when you think that’s enough, it gets better.  Anchoring the corner of 7th Avenue and Union Street will be a 27-foot kinetic water feature.  Celebrated glass artist Ginny Ruffner’s sculpture, “An Urban Garden”, plans to blend in harmoniously with Garden Walk while also creating a “wow” factor as you enter downtown Seattle from I-5.

The Garden Walk is being designed by award-winning Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, landscape architects whose work can be found locally, across the country, and worldwide.  Current Seattle projects also include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, as well as the University of Washington School of Medicine. GGN was gracious in spending a little time with us, and they also provided the artist’s rendering you see here.

The Sheraton Seattle is located at 1400 Sixth Avenue at Union Street, within walking distance of Union Square. In 2009, it earned the Good Earthkeeping Award in the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s “Large Property” category, and is considered to be one of the top ten green hotels in the country by Mother Nature Network.

We’ll keep you posted as the Garden Walk progresses.

Belltown Park Boulevard Proposed

June 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Belltown, Featured

parkThere’s been quite a bit of talk recently over developing the first park boulevard for Seattle along Bell Street in Belltown between 1st and 5th Avenues, coupled with  mixed opinions on what it would do for the area.  An article in the Seattle Times shows a lot of comments which of course express concern for crime potential.  Some Belltown residents (and those from surrounding areas) feel that increasing the area into a much larger park will increase drug activity and allow for more homeless people to find shelter.

And, turning the area into a park would transfer the jurisdiction of the area from the Transportation Department to the Parks Department.  As a result, center-city coordinator  with the Department of Planning and Development Gary Johnson said the area would get a “much higher level of maintenance.”   Additionally, property values would be expected to increase since studies have shown parks generally have a positive affect on values.

The Times article also mentioned a valid concern from an employee at Mama’s Kitchen who expressed concern for potentially losing business since parking would become more scarce.  However, making a more walkable area could bring more Belltown residents out of their homes and out exploring a little more.

Money is also a concern but when looking into the concept further, it really won’t cost anything since the estimated cost is under 2% of an already $146 million parks levy approved by voters last year.

Time will tell if the boulevard becomes reality.

South Lake Union Park Grand Opening April 30th

April 1, 2008 by  
Filed under South Lake Union

Phase 1 of the new park will be open to the public at the end of the month. Sponsors are promising a free salmon bake, live music, boat rides and more. The opening will allow you to walk across the new pedestrian bridge to the 1.6 acres of green space along with the terraced steps overlooking the lake. To learn more, visit the Seattle Parks Foundation and we’ll hope to see you there!