Ballard’s greening of an old streetcar line: 14th Ave NW Park Boulevard



You might have heard about the 14th Ave NW Park Boulevard to be constructed in Ballard; it’s been getting significant media coverage lately:

I wanted to tell you a bit more about the design, background, funding, and progress of the park, and the impact it will have to parking in the neighborhood.

Here's a snip from the current schematic. There's a link to the whole thing below.

I also wanted to clarify that this discussion about 14th Avenue NW is unrelated to the package of zoning changes now under discussion in the Council’s Land Use Committee referred to as “regulatory reform” (C.B. 117430). Our 14th NW Park Blvd is a Parks and Green Spaces Levy Project.

The 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy provided $24 million for the acquisition of neighborhood parks in up to 20 identified areas throughout the City. The Ballard Residential Urban Village was included on that list.

What and where is this park?

The project converts two full blocks of 14th Ave. NW to a new park between NW 59th and NW 61st streets with transition lanes to the park from the north and south. A park will replace the gravel parking median and portions of the existing asphalt roadway.

The project lowers the speed limit of 14th Ave. NW from 30 to 25 mph; includes safety improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles on the street; and converts existing stormwater treatment from piped conveyance into on‐site biofiltration swales.

An early conceptual sketch presented to the community.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the schematic for the park (PDF), provided by Mithun, the design company that DPR worked with in the first phase of the project. Parks is now in the process of hiring a design consultant for the second phase of the project, and when that design has been developed, Parks will hold a public meeting.

Why here?

In 2006, DPR performed a Gap Analysis (PDF) to show which parts of the city needed more parks and green space, based on population- and location-based goals, such as providing one acre of urban village open space per 1,000 households.

As an urban village, Ballard is going to continue to attract new residents for whom transportation is a priority, as are jobs and housing. Growth is occurring and will continue to occur, which is why green and open spaces built-in now are so crucial.

How did we get here?

The driving force behind the park is the East Ballard Community Association (EBCA), working in concert with business owners in Ballard. The EBCA started work on the project six years ago, when the Vision and Action plan was funded by a grant from the Department of Neighborhoods Small and Simple Fund.  (Here’s a link to the group, the East Ballard Community Association, how they are thinking about the park, and how to make your voice heard at their regular meetings.)

The community then applied for the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund grant, which is capped at $1.5 million dollars per project. EBCA did a great job with planning a park that would fit into those budget constraints, but when Parks looked into it and applied the lessons they’d learned from working on the Bell Street park downtown, they recreated the project budget to take into account the cost of changing a street scape.

As I’ve been learning while I investigate Greenways, changing an existing street scape is much more expensive than you might anticipate.

Parks made the following changes to the project:

  • Adjusted the size of the roadway modifications around the park from half a block to 2 blocks,
  • Added the cost of demolition and concrete saw cutting,
  • Added the replacement of existing roadway paving,
  • Added the green  storm water infrastructure required by SPU and planting materials for the bioswale,
  • Added the cost of pedestrian lighting.

The final estimated budget for the park when these additions were included was $2.9 million. This was considerably more than the community had guestimated, but since Parks had Levy money earmarked for a park in East Ballard, they drafted legislation to pull that funding out of the 2008 Green Spaces Acquisitions fund and transfer it into Development, and make the park happen.

What about parking?

DPR held two public meetings in January and March of this year. You can find information about those meeting, including agendas and meeting notes, on the Parks Project Page. (The East Ballard Community Association site also has material posted on the meetings.)

Feedback gathered by Parks at these meetings has been accompanied by a fair number of emails, phone calls, and letters from Ballard residents. The main issue on people’s mind has been the park’s impact to parking in the area.

DPR performed a parking study in January, and more recently performed a second parking study as a result of constituent concerns – you can find it here: http://seattle.gov/parks/projects/ballard_hub_uv/. (Click on “Parking Impact Memo.”)

The first parking study showed that there was an average of 417 parking spaces available within a 4-block radius of the park during the study period.

The supplemental parking study showed that there was an average of 384 parking spaces available during the study period.  The reduction in parking spaces was due to construction on the southern side of NW 56th Street between 15th Ave NW and 14th Ave NW.

That means there was an average of 400 open parking spaces available in the study area. 

Of the 400 spaces available in the parking study area (14th Ave. NW from NW 58th St. to NW 54th St., one block west to 15th Ave. NW on all the side streets, and one block east to 11th Ave. NW on all the side streets), 311 will remain available after the park is built.

A total of 89 spaces will be removed.

What’s next?

The Parks and Neighborhoods Committee, which I chair, will review legislation to transfer $2.9 million of Parks and Green Spaces Levy funding from the acquisition category to the development category for the 14th Ave NW Park this summer.

The draft of that legislation is now under review in the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee will consider it at their May 21 meeting.

After review by the City Budget Office and the Law Department, the legislation will come to the Parks and Neighborhoods committee, probably in late June or early July.  I predict this park will bring some inconveniences while it is under construction today, but it will be a much-desired and beloved community amenity tomorrow.

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