Here's a letter I wrote to the developer. I'm told that early input can make a real difference in the final shape and quality of the development, so I figured I'd take a few minutes and write down some thoughts. You may not agree with all of them (I know some of us in the hood are particularly upset about the parking and height questions), but I hope it at least gets a conversation going.
What are your ideas?
I'm a Columbia City neighbor (I actually live on Hudson St.), and I've been hearing a lot of buzz, some quite critical, about your Hudson St. development at the old plastics factory. As you probably know, there's even some talk of "fighting" the project as a whole.
On the other hand, I've also been listening to what people have been saying they want, and most of it makes at least some sense to me, so (since we're still early in the process) I thought I'd share it with you and your colleagues, since I would really like to see a good project go in there. I represent no group and am speaking for no one but myself, but I think there's a win, win, win here.
1) height: most people want the buildings to be lower. I don't think that's as important as some of the other aspects. How high is not as important to me as how well-designed (though a little sensitivity to the shadows the building casts on the building district might not be inappropriate). People are reacting, I think, to what they fear will be a huge looming block of poorly-built condos that won't add to the neighborhood, just overshadow it and make it feel more crowded.
2) parking: some people seem to want more parking, and that's where I most disagree. I'd like less. In fact, I'd be really glad if you emphasized car-sharing to the residents, built extra bike racks and volunteered to chip in on a fund (perhaps with Sound Transit??) for a neighborhood shuttle bus to the light rail station. I would love to see our neighborhood become more transit- and pedestrian-oriented. I don't think I'm alone.
3) greening the building: I have no idea what your plans are here, so I don't know what people are reacting to, but it seems that people think the project ought to be more green-building focused. This might be a place where you could make some gains in public perception, by embracing some of the more cutting-edge, yet often long-run cost-effective, green building strategies. Is there a LEED rating that would cover this project?
A green roof and green walls in particular could be a bold statement, increasing, effectively, the green space in the neighborhood, and helping to deal with stormwater (a problem in the Valley)… I think lots of greenery might help soften such a large development.
4) People seem to think that Hitt's Creek is somehow involved. I'm not sure, but they mention daylighting the creek. That seems difficult to plan in, to me, but it also seems like a cool idea. But I honestly am poorly informed on this question. Perhaps an opportunity to reach out?
5) Historic district. There seem to be questions here. I don't know fully what they are.
6) Street orientation. This seems to be the big worry. People seem very concerned that the development is somehow going to have "it's back to the neighborhood" (actually words I heard someone use). Given that there's a project underway to link Columbia City and Hillman City (done by the Pomegranate Center (?) ), and lots of work being done to make sure the neighborhood is more walkable, perhaps you could not only join in on that process but take extra bold steps at street level to encourage walkability, including wide sidewalks, awnings, street trees, and more outside dining for summer-time. Some good public art wouldn't hurt, I'd bet, or a plan for adding to the vitality of BeatWalk.
I think lots of people will welcome this project if it's well-designed, if it's green, and most of all, if it makes our little downtown feel more welcoming and alive.
Well, I hope this input is helpful. You guys have done great projects elsewhere. I really would love to see you do as well for our neighborhood.