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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.

McGraw Square Renovation Underway

rsz_westlaketerminus_perspectiv

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:

rsz_westlakmcgrawsquare_keyfeat

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.