No deal: Talks end for Seattle Prep land swap near 520 Roanoke Lid

Image: Montlaker via WSDOT

Neighborhood green space and pedestrian safety advocates were encouraged in June when WSDOT released drawings of a potential park near the future Roanoke Lid that incorporated a little-used and overgrown Seattle Prep property adjacent to 520. The idea was based on a land deal allowing WSDOT to develop a landscaped path connecting Delmar Drive to Boyer Avenue, and Prep to use the freeway “underbridge” area for parking and sports facilities. Despite WSDOT getting community “support of pedestrian connection/Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) path on south side of the [Portage Bay] bridge,” a favorable deal could not be reached as both parties ran into complications.

For Prep, it was decided that parking and sports facilities were uses not well-suited to the under-the-freeway area. For WSDOT, further environmental review would be needed to build a path through the site — work they were not eager to take on. Kerry Pihlstorm, 520 Bridge Replacement Engineering Manager, explained, “WSDOT is also not interested in buying the school’s parcel at this time. If our project impacts Seattle Prep property, it would need additional environmental clearance than what has been cleared through our 2011 Record of Descision. Our goal has been to minimize any significant changes to the environmental clearances we already have in place.”

For the public, it’s a lost opportunity to put a much needed pedestrian connection in a publicly protected green space. So far, the Community Design Process has rarely seen the kind of widespread support that backed this deal. An informal Montlaker poll found 94% were in favor of it.

The plan now defaults to the “Baseline” design, which still provides an ADA path using WSDOT property in the underbridge area. However, these are exactly the kind of dark, loud and potentially dangerous spaces for which freeways are notorious. WSDOT design consultants are hoping the path and a volleyball court can “activate” the space. Will it work? Maybe. But since there is still time to design the area before funds are acquired to build the project — are there other ideas out there for making something of this difficult space?

Here is the updated Baseline plan for the area released at last week’s Community Design Meeting:

Image: WSDOT

6 thoughts on “No deal: Talks end for Seattle Prep land swap near 520 Roanoke Lid

  1. Is there someone at Prep to whom the neighbors can appeal, asking them to rethink this? Even if the swap is not perfect for them, it’s a good way for the school to be a good neighbor to the rest of us…

    • This posting does not completely capture the communications Prep had with the state about the property we own between Delmar and Boyer. We had contacted the state some time ago to let it know that we were exploring possible uses for this property. We asked the state if it had an interest in incorporating this property within its vision for the 520 design as a beautiful pocket park that would include an ADA accessible path between Delmar and Boyer (Portage Bay). This pocket park could also accommodate a spur that would provide a terrific connection for bicycles between capitol hill and the eastside via the 520. Our thought was that these possible uses would be of great benefit to the state, Prep and our neighbors. They would represent a sustainable, responsible use of this undeveloped property, thus providing for the common good as well.
      Simply put, the state did not respond enthusiastically to these possibilities. Further, the discussions never approached the level of a potential deal. At one point the state did include a swap of our property for the mostly useless land under the 520 in one of its drawings. We immediately informed the state that we had no interest in such a swap; the relative values of these properties are not comparable and useless land under a freeway is of no value to us.
      We are disappointed in the state’s most recent vision for the west side of the 520 because its short-sightedness evinces a profound lack of vision. Our property is a significant undeveloped green space that could carry wonderful benefits for the community and support alternative means of transportation through incorporation of the bike spur. However,we are certainly in no position to argue the point with the state and do not plan to do so. We have shared our thoughts; the state has indicated it has no interest in them, which is certainly the prerogative of the state.
      We appreciated the state’s candor and clear communication that it has no interest in our property and the uses we had proposed. Our plan is to now go back to where we were before our informal discussions with the state; we are exploring potential uses for our Delmar property.
      Kent Hickey
      Seattle Preparatory School

  2. Pingback: As 520/Prep property talks break down, attention turns to green space advocacy groups | montlaker

  3. Pingback: As Seattle Prep property talks break down, attention turns to green space advocacy groups | montlaker

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