King Street’s Jackson Plaza Gets a Grand Opening
This morning, June 24, is the grand opening of the new Jackson Plaza at King Street Station, to be attended by Mayor Michael “Mike” McGinn; Linda Gehrke, Deputy Regional Administrator, Region X, Federal Transit Administration; Lorne McConachie, Chair, Pioneer Square Preservation Board; and Leslie Smith, Alliance for Pioneer Square.
The speechifying should begin at about 10:30 a.m., with the festivities lasting until 11:15 a.m. We’re told you can expect to hear the strains of Ballard’s Sedentary Sousa Band.
As for the plaza itself, Seattle Transit Blog says: “The plaza has yet to house any vendors/businesses, so I wouldn’t expect there to be a sudden renewal of vibrancy and activity. There are some fairly unique design elements, however, like an all-gravel floor, which almost gives the appearance of a giant Zen garden.”
One feature of the still-young trees, as you can see, is to almost obscure the King Street Station’s sign from the street. It’s indicative of a slapdash, low-cost approach to the renovation of the frontage of what should be a major transportation hub. I remain concerned about how well the plaza will function:
But when I look at the bird’s-eye-view, the impression I get is that planners are trying to remove Jackson Street (and its unsavory denizens) from view, and create a little urban oasis. It’s the kind of wishful urban planning, disconnected from usage patterns, that people tend to ignore. If you can’t see the café from the street, or there appears to be a sense of remove, passersby will do just that. At night, they will likely speed up to get past by that shady grove of trees.
I asked SDOT in September of 2010 if anyone from the design team cared to explain and illuminate the rationale for the usage of space, but no one, apparently, did (or could). It’s too bad, but looking on the bright side, a gravel lot with a few trees is still reasonably easy to improve upon if it turns out not to be the public attraction that’s hoped.
UPDATE: Here’s the recap of the actual event from the Mayor’s office:
“The investment in historic King Street Station is part of Seattle’s transit future,” said McGinn. “The new plaza connects transit lines and neighborhoods like Pioneer Square and International District/Chinatown. I’d like to thank all of our agency partners and our own Department of Transportation for creating such a great place for the public to enjoy. And the new view of Downtown is amazing.”
King Street Station will feature Amtrak long distance rail, Sound Transit commuter rail and Amtrak intercity coaches, along with access to Sound Transit light rail, Metro buses and the future First Hill Streetcar, all within walking distance of several Seattle neighborhoods.
The new plaza is environmentally sustainable and is a model of partnership with other agencies. The plaza was rebuilt to current seismic codes and has been converted into a pedestrian plaza, increasing public and green space in Pioneer Square. Buried under the plaza, there are 36 geothermal wells supplying heating and cooling to the first floor of King Street Station. Granite was salvaged from an old building foundation to repair the granite balustrade that flanks the plaza and form new seating benches. Finally, the plaza was deconstructed instead of demolished, allowing for 98 percent of material to be recycled. Deconstruction is the systematic removal of materials to maximize recycling as opposed to a non-discriminate, speed oriented demolition.
The construction cost for the phase of the King Street Station Restoration Project that includes the plaza was about $15 million and was financed in partnership with the above agencies and funding sources.
The next major milestone of the King Street Station Restoration Project is in early September with the reopening of the fully rehabilitated grand staircase linking Jackson Plaza to the station’s entrance on S King Street.