Urban Design Framework Plan Unveiled

Approximately 150 people attended the recent Urban Design Framework (UDF) meeting, where the future growth plans for South Lake Union were discussed.  The process was a unique collaboration between the SLUFAN Community Council, Seattle city planners, Lake Union Opportunity Alliance (LUOA) and the Cascade Neighborhood Council (CNC). These groups came together in order to build a shared design and implementation strategy for the future of SLU, while considering sustainable development, community amenities and livability.

During the January 26 meeting, Marshall Foster and Jim Holmes from the Department of Planning and Development presented the design framework, including a recap of previous plans done for SLU; current plans for development opportunities and public amenity priorities; and details about retail, residential and waterfront development.

Dan Foltz, principal at Weber Thompson architects, and co-facilitator of UDF, said that his firm, located at Thomas and Terry, provided nearly 1,000 pro bono hours of planning and consulting services to the UDF because it was the right thing to do for their neighborhood. “I believe that it was a worthy investment that will have big pay-offs for the neighborhood as we look forward,” Foltz said.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting was the Q&A, where questions were raised about how the plan would go forward and how it would be implemented. Concerns were also voiced about building heights, green space, and limitations of the plan.

“As more people take up residence in SLU, the demographics will shift from ‘drive-ins’ who work here to people who actually live here,” said Steven Paget, Chair of the SLUFAN board and participant in the development of the UDF.  He added, “It was evident in attendance and the voices expressed that resident input will carry more weight in the future—appropriately so—and that will affect how things develop in SLU.”

The UDF collaborators, who have been meeting for about nine months, bridged five years of community planning led by SLUFAN and the city.  The UDF expanded the previous plans’ scope by including input from the LUOA and CNC, and addressing issues of livability; and will inform the upcoming Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study. Now principles have been laid out that set a clearer vision for South Lake Union’s future development, including plans to integrate SLU with other neighborhoods, create a network of great streets, develop open spaces and community spaces, create opportunities for families and guide affordable housing.

Lloyd Douglas, President of the Cascade Neighborhood Council and SLUFAN board member, has been representing the voice of the residents.  “Diversity of housing types is important, so we have been looking for all types of people to be involved on the board,” Douglas said.  In regard to the UDF he said that most of the work is done, but additional resident comments will be needed when the draft documents are released.

Foster said that if there is a single take-away from the public meeting, it is that UDF has created an implementation strategy to turn the Parks Department administration building at Denny Park into a community center, which would create a community meeting center for the neighborhood.