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First Look: Hing Hay Park

Posted February 26th, 2014 by

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Over the last several months, we’ve been collaborating with Kongjian Yu and his Beijing-based firm, Turenscape, on the design of an expanded Hing Hay Park in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. Last night, the final conceptual design was shared with the public, which you can see here. Over the coming months, we’ll be developing the design and securing permits for construction in late 2014.

What if John Charles Olmsted Came to Seattle Today?

Posted February 11th, 2014 by

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The City of Seattle teamed with Pecha Kucha Seattle to present Big Ideas: Seattle 2035. Our own Brice Maryman presented a hypothetical scenario: What if John Charles Olmsted Came to Seattle Today. Enjoy his presentation (starting at 21:27) by clicking here to pop out the video here.

You can also hear an excerpt of Brice’s presentation on KUOW here.

Sustainable Stormwater and Streetscapes

Posted February 11th, 2014 by

Winslow Way: Green Stormwater infrastructure

After attending the Transportation Research Board‘s Annual Meeting, SvR’s Nathan Polanski was asked to write up a piece for the ASLA’s blog: The Field.

Enjoy Stormwater Infrastructure and Streetscapes.

Join SvR Tonight at Pecha Kucha for Big Ideas

Posted January 30th, 2014 by

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Our own Brice Maryman will be presenting tonight at Pecha Kucha Seattle, Volume 50: Big Ideas. Come join us.

Winslow Way Wins WSDOT/FHWA Award of Excellence

Posted December 16th, 2013 by

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This past week the City of Bainbridge Island was presented an Award of Excellence for the Winslow Way street reconstruction project. The project was selected 2013 Best City Project by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington division of the Federal Highways Administration. The award was presented by Kathleen Davis, WSDOT’s Director of the Highways and Local Programs office, who said the project stood out for its innovation and sustainable design. SvR’s design for the street incorporated green stormwater infrastructure systems including stormwater planters, bioretention swales, and Silva Cells and emphasized community values by providing wider sidewalks, gathering areas, bike facilities and site amenities to support overall accessibility. The reconstructed street has once again made Winslow Way a valued community destination at the center of Bainbridge Island.

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2013′s Gifts for Civil Engineers and Landscape Architects

Posted December 13th, 2013 by

Building on last year’s list of gift suggestions, we’re rounding up a list of our staff’s gifts recommendations for the landscape architect or civil engineer in your life.

Seed Bombs and Slingshot

Have you ever wanted to green up a vacant lot, but didn’t feel like having a run in with those pesky folks from law enforcement? Greenaid has you covered with 10 seed bombs and a wooden slingshot. (Unfamiliar with seed bombing? Learn more at Guerrilla Gardening.) At just under $15, it would make a great stocking stuffer.

On Looking

Ever since reading about Maria Popova’s piece in Brain Pickings, walking on the sidewalk has been a coded step-and-slide. That’s how Alexandra Horowitz describes the subtle human dance of how people walk in the city, and we’re excited to read her new book, On Looking.

Lumigrid

Yes it’s cold. Yes, it’s dark. And yes, it’s wet. But our bike racks are still pretty full every day thanks to several committed year-round cyclists in the office. That’s why we’re loving the Lumigrid, a bike light that projects a grid of lines. Why a grid? Well, in addition to lighting the way and provide more visibility to other road uses, the even grid helps to reveal the topography of the path in front of you. No more abrupt potholes? Yes please.

Learning about Livable Streets
Two friends wrote books this year about transforming our streets and making them safe, more livable and more environmentally friendly. The long-time director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, Barbara McCann, released Completing Our Streets, and our own Dave Rodgers, working with lead authors Lesley Bain and Barbara Gray, released Living Streets. They’d be great to give as a set.

 

Maps

Spatial.ly put out their own list of gifts for map lovers. There are some great ideas, but the text-maps of various US cities from Axis Maps is a stand out.

BYOBL

Ever wanted to install a separated bike lane somewhere? Copenhagenize now has the Flow that provides a snap-together, vertically separated bike lane for tactical urbanist interventions.

Holiday Urbanism

Two other friends also penned books about the urban environment this year. Pick up a copy of Seattleite Chuck Wolfe’s Urbanism without Effort or pre-order Kaid Benfield’s People Habitat.

Propellers

Finally, a true toy–under the guise of filming fly-throughs of our projects–a quadcopter. Remember, we’re telling our kids it’s for work only.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

For One Hospital, Investing in Livable Streets is Good Business and Good Health

Posted November 1st, 2013 by

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The 39th Avenue NE Greenway (Image via SvR)

To say 39th Avenue NE was nondescript is romanticizing the past. Handsome, quiet, livable, yes, but unremarkable too. Unless, of course, you are Paulo Nunes-Ueno, Director of Sustainability and Transportation at Seattle Children’s Hospital, who saw the street’s unbounded potential.

Map of 39th Avenue NE Greenway (Image via SDOT)

39th Avenue NE was the street he was looking for: an under-valued ribbon of asphalt that connects important neighborhood destinations–elementary schools, middle schools, restaurants, grocery stores, banks and churches, parks and libraries–all on a low-volume street. Best of all, the street ended at the Puget Sound region’s bicycling backbone: the Burke-Gilman Trail. It was a street rife with potential, ready to morph from a typical residential street into one of the Seattle’s first neighborhood greenways.

The story behind it, and Seattle Children’s Hospital’s other community projects, is an important case study for how health care organizations are intervening in the built environment. It offers a powerful, replicable model for healthcare organizations to directly affect public health by intervening in the built environment and mitigate development in a positive way for their communities.


Born of a Shapeless Roving Anxiety

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Looking to 39th Avenue NE from the Burke-Gilman Trail. (Image via SvR)

The story of 39th Avenue NE’s transformation begins in 2006. Seattle Children’s Hospital, which is ranked as one of the top 10 pediatric hospitals in the country, decided to embark on a long-range master planning process to understand how its facility needs would grow in the coming decades.

This was a change from how they had done expansion planning. Rather than numerous, consecutive, medium-sized projects, this effort necessarily yielded a larger, more comprehensive look at the hospital’s campus needs to keep pace with the growing demands and scope of pediatric healthcare. What they found was that the growth “was stark in terms of the size and number of trips that it was going to generate,” remembers Nunes-Ueno.

Upon sharing these initial findings, the hospital noticed a “shapeless roving anxiety” developing in the community about the hospital’s expansion plans. This is the point in most stories where collaboration ends and a distrustful, adversarial relationship begins.

But something remarkable happened instead. Rather than hunker down, the hospital undertook a strategy of active, engaged listening. And by listening, they learned something profound. “It’s not,” according to Nunes-Ueno, “that the community didn’t want the neighborhood to change, it’s that they wanted it to get better.” The hospital was ready to be the change agent to make improvements happen.

From the hospital’s culture of triple-bottom line thinking (“we want to be good neighbors, we want to be good stewards of the environment–and that includes health–and we also want to be prudent with our dollars,” says Nunes-Ueno), they began to work with the community to consider new possibilities. Eventually, Nunes-Ueno asked, “what if [the hospital] created a fund specifically devoted toward making it safer and more attractive, more fun, easier to understand, for people to get to the places they wanted to get to in their neighborhood by walking, biking or by transit?”

Paulo Nunes-Ueno, Director of Sustainability and Transportation at Seattle Children's Hospital

Paulo Nunes-Ueno, Director of Sustainability and Transportation at Seattle Children’s Hospital. (Image via SvR)

The community was intrigued.

Thus the Livable Streets Initiative was born: a $4 million investment in the neighborhood to improve the environment, to make it safer, more attractive and easier for people to walk, bike or take transit.”

But how to spend those funds? Once again, Children’s reached out to the community through a series of design charrettes and conversations. For Sand Point Way, the main arterial running by the hospital, Children’s quickly agreed to improve traffic timing and install dynamic message boards. However, understanding how to improve the residential streets presented a different challenge.

The stability that attracts families to residential neighborhoods proved an impediment for the community’s collective imagination. What kinds of improvements would have a light enough touch, yet still meet the community’s goals? Children’s turned to an expert: YouTube.

“To give people a sense of what’s possible, we showed some of the videos that came out from StreetFilms. There was that guy who did research a long time ago about livability of streets: Appleyard. We showed a great video about his work, about the amount of traffic on your street having an impact on the amount of social connections that you have not only on your street but in the world.”

“We established three themes: saying let’s look for opportunities to connect the parks and schools to the Burke-Gilman Trail on residential streets through the idea of greenways. Let’s look for opportunities to create safer crossings of Sand Point Way. Let’s improve the connections to the Burke-Gilman Trail. The trail is this amazing thing–a bicycle pedestrian super highway–but the interchanges were never built so it doesn’t create as valuable of a system as it could.”

The Children's Hospital Livable Streets charrette was held at the University of Washington.

The Children’s Hospital Livable Streets charrette was held at the University of Washington. (image via SvR)

Kids were invited to design their own livable streets.

Kids were invited to design their own livable streets. (image via SvR)

“Then we asked folks who came to the charrette, ‘If you’re thinking about these three themes and where you live and the places you like to go, what are the projects you’d like to see?’ We collected all of those projects and put them all on a map and in a database. With the help of the city, we ranked them on a variety of criteria and took the top ten and asked for the city to do project development on each of them.”

“This year we are hopefully going to complete seven of these projects,” Nunes-Ueno proudly reports.

A Purple Unicorn?

How replicable is the Children’s Livable Streets Initiative for peer institutions? In some ways, says Nunes-Ueno, it is a “purple unicorn.” He could make the argument that there were unique circumstances, core values and political contexts that made the project successful in ways that it would not be for other communities.

Then he pauses and reassesses. “When organizations take to heart that they’re nestled in a community and that their success needs to happen with the community–not in spite of the community–then these initiatives not only make sense but they become inevitable.”

“If you’re giving away free parking to your employees because it helps you to avoid a difficult conversation about how people get work and the impact that has on your neighbors, those choices are really masking a faulty business strategy. It seems like an avoidance that [CEOs] wouldn’t do in other parts of their business: avoiding having a difficult conversation by making a multi-million dollar investment in a car warehouse.”

“I think that the question for other institutions that are having big developments is that the development doesn’t happen in a separate sphere than the community they are developing in. Thinking about the impacts of the development on the community will help them in the long run.”

The Path Ahead

The new frontage of Children's includes a separated shared-use path and is well-served by transit.

The new frontage of Children’s includes a separated shared-use path and is well-served by transit.

Children’s commitment to healthy, safe transportation has recently taken on new forms. In July, the hospital became the first large donor to the Seattle region’s new Puget Sound Bike Share, which hopes to launch next year.

Now Paulo is thinking about how to make Children’s a “mobility hub” with all manner of sustainable transportation options. On the horizon is a tighter marriage between the hospital’s mission, employee care and transportation.

“We have an employee clinic at the hospital called Vera Whole Health. They do a lot of things one of which is to serve primary care for our employees. But they also have all of this coaching and encouragement for lifestyle change, for nutrition and exercise. My vision is that we’d have a bicycle shop attached to that clinic, and one of the drugs we provide most often is a bicycle.”

“That would be awesome.”

Weekly Watching: StreetFilms and Strong Towns

Posted October 25th, 2013 by

With both Clarence Eckerson Jr. of StreetFilms and Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns visiting Seattle this week–and because we’re working on a sizeable, original-reporting post for next week–we thought we’d take the opportunity to showcase some of our favorite videos from each organization. Enjoy watching them this weekend, and please add any of your favorites to the comments.

Two Must Watch TED Talks about Urbanism

Posted October 18th, 2013 by

Green Seattle Day: November 2

Posted October 16th, 2013 by

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You are cordially invited to join the 8th Annual Green Seattle Day – November 2nd from 10 am to 2 pm. Green Seattle Day is a meaningful way to connect with nature and create a healthy and vibrant community by planting native trees and shrubs in a park near you. This is the biggest annual celebration of Seattle’s forested parks, the committed neighbors who care for them, and the kick-off event for the 2013-2014 restoration planting season.  All tools and supplies are provided. We welcome you to roll up your sleeves and have fun in the forest.

The event takes place in 17 parks city-wide.  The Mayor is confirmed to kick off the day at the West Duwamish Greenbelt, this year’s central hub site hosted by Nature Consortium, Forterra and Seattle Parks.  Let us know if you would like to come to the hub site at West Duwamish Greenbelt or if you would like to join one of the other Parks listed below.
To RSVP or get more information contact Joanna Nelson de Flores at jnelson@forterra.org.

1.      West Duwamish Greenbelt (Hub site w/ Nature Consortium, Forterra, and Parks)

2.      Golden Gardens (EarthCorps)

3.      Westcrest (Forterra)

4.      Leschi NA

5.      Magnuson

6.      Cheasty Mt. View

7.      East Duwamish GB

8.      Lewis Park

9.      Discovery Park

10.   Seward Park (Friends of the Cedar River Watershed)

11.   SW Queen Anne GB

12.   John C Little

13.   St. Marks GB

14.   Burke Gilman Trail

15.   North Beach /Carkeek (let stewards decide)

16.   Rainier Beach Wetland (Seattle Tilth)

17.   Thornton Creek (site TBD -EarthCorps)