Since building the Belltown P-Patch in 1993, Belltown residents have dreamed of expanding the garden north into Vine Street. Others in the Denny Regrade, a densely populated neighborhood dominated by concrete and glass, have yearned to take the city's theoretical concept of "Green Streets" and make them real. During the last four year, a diverse group of Belltown residents, organized as the Growing Vine Street Project and united in civic spirit, have brought the neighborhood together to design and begin the building of a Green Street on Vine. The goal, from the earliest time has been to turn the eight-block length of Vine Street into a street park – a parade of art and nature from Elliott Bay through the heart of the Regrade. A place which brings the calming rhythm of nature to the paved urban environment and provides public access to the waterfront from the neighborhood.
As this project has evolved, benefits to the greater Seattle community have surfaced. Street and property runoff in Downtown Seattle (including Belltown) is currently channeled into combined sewer lines, carrying mixed storm water and raw sewage. These lines operate beyond their capacity during heavy rains, leading to overflows of untreated sewage into Puget Sound, Lake Union, and even buildings. This combining of sewage and storm water also necessitates the processing of relatively clean rainwater at a sewage treatment facility. Besides paying a tremendous on-going processing cost, citizens of Seattle have buried their urban watersheds in ever-larger pipes, losing critical wildlife habitat as well as the joy of witnessing the normal hydrological cycle. King County is on the verge of designating a billion dollars or more for wastewater system upgrades, primarily to avoid these overflows.
One of the principle design features of the Vine Street Project involves capturing the local run-off and allowing the water to follow the course of the natural watershed. Since urban run-off contains a variety of pollutants, some filtering is mandatory before this water is released into local streams, rivers, lakes, and bays. Growing Vine Street proposes storm water treatment through biofiltration, or the science of filtering water-borne pollutants with plants and other organisms. Growing Vine Street thus becomes a test project for urban neighborhoods, demonstrating the double benefit of reclaiming problem storm run-off while also creating a desirable, living greenspace.
The response from local stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive. The committee is currently working with the adjoining building owners, developers, Condominium associations and interested residents to develop a true public-private partnership. City officials responsible for land use, street use, utilities and tax codes will be asked to provide the "public" portion of the equation.
Working with a fine team of urban designers, headed by Don Carlson of Carlson Architects, the Growing Vine Street Steering Committee and the Belltown Community have produced the conceptual design for Vine Street. It is impossible not to be captivated by the creativity and potential of this project. The Design Team has captured a wonderful vision for Vine Street. Our next goal is to make Vine Street grow!
Written by Greg Waddell