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A space-strapped city gets an unusual opportunity: A brand-new neighborhood

Published on October 10, 2019

View of Interbay and Downtown Seattle From Ella Bailey Park, 2015.
View of Interbay and Downtown Seattle From Ella Bailey Park, 2015. Image Credit: Joe Wolf. CC BY-ND 2.0

As apartment high-rises and office skyscrapers have filled and reshaped Seattle, there’s one long, thin strip of relatively untouched land that stands in sharp contrast to all the development around it.

The 25-acre plot of land next to the Queen Anne neighborhood and near the shore of Elliott Bay—surrounded by a golf course, rail yard, and chain stores—has been used by the Washington Army National Guard for more than 80 years. But it appears Seattle’s persistent traffic problems may have become too much even for the National Guard. In July, the agency announced that it needs to move off the property and find a new home in another part of King County.

In a city experiencing a building boom alongside a housing shortage, where undeveloped space is in high demand, these 25 acres of state-owned land represent an unusual opportunity to build a brand-new neighborhood. And while a variety of interests are jockeying to shape the area’s future, state leaders don’t intend to just sell it off to the highest bidder.

It’s important to understand that this plot of land is far from ideal. For one thing, it’s in a traffic-heavy part of the city, and has no direct access to the highway. It’s also vulnerable to two of Seattle’s largest-looming natural hazards. The low-lying area was once a wetland, prone to both flooding from sea-level rise and liquefaction during an earthquake, said Daniel Abramson, associate professor of urban design and planning at the University of Washington.

“Just because it happens to be land that’s available for development and the city has a hot market for housing, those are all very short-term considerations,” he said. “Over time this area would probably not be a great location, or it would be a location where you’d have to do an awful lot of mitigation to prevent disaster.”

Continue reading at CityLab.

Originally written by Hallie Golden for CityLab.
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