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Urban planning in the Emerald City

Urban planning in the Emerald City

The population of Seattle in 2010 was 608,660, up from 563,375 in 2000, and it’s still growing. According to the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, that number could increase by 70,000 over the next 20 years. Lawrence W. Cheek’s article in The Seattle Times, “Small-scale solutions to Seattle’s huge urban-housing needs,” highlights the demand for more city housing.

How do developers meet housing needs in densely populated areas? Small-scale solutions are one focal point for Seattle architects and builders. Bill Parks, a longtime developer, works to create multi-residential housing options that offer a real sense of community. His current Ballard project at 24th Avenue and 65th Street is a five-story apartment complex that feels neighborly. “Its three buildings will surround a courtyard with a fountain, and the public — the larger neighborhood — won’t be locked out of the courtyard, at least not during the day. It’s a modest and cautious gesture toward openness, but in a rapidly densifying Seattle it stakes out a principle that’s increasingly rare.”

As Seattle developers and architects work to keep pace with population growth, they might take some cues from the successful strategies used by other big cities. Brent Toderian, President of Toderian UrbanWorks in Vancouver, Canada, suggests three necessary components for density done well in

  1. Multi-modal transportation
  2. High architectural standards
  3. Amenities that support public life
Vancouver, one of the most densely populated cities in North America after New York City and San Francisco, is considered a very livable metropolitan area. The city’s urban planning has focused on high-rise residential and mixed-use development rather than urban sprawl. As a result, the city has been able to maintain both a large population and lots of open space, and these priorities certainly resonate with those who reside in and around the Emerald City.