“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” - Mark Twain
by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
City streets often develop in a piecemeal fashion, sometimes coming to an abrupt stop in places that can make life more difficult for those who walk those roads every day. Nowhere are Seattle’s streets more tangled, truncated, or downright confounding as Yesler Terrace. While most of the neighborhoods surrounding the area enjoy comprehensive grid streets connecting to central thoroughfares, many of the roads around Yesler jut into fields and hillsides, resulting in a series of dead ends that make traveling to and from Yesler Terrace a challenge. To address one such sudden lack of sidewalk, the Seattle Housing Authority proposed a pedestrian hillclimb on 10th Avenue South that would connect South Jackson Street with South Main Street. SHA recently confirmed construction of the hillclimb thanks to a sizable gift from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
Currently, 10th Avenue only covers a few blocks between Horiuchi Park and the Yesler Playfield, forcing drivers and pedestrians to turn on East Fir Street and South Washington Street, respectively. The hillclimb will extend the right-of-way on 10th to create a greater degree of foot traffic between the more residential space of Yesler Terrace and the businesses of the Little Saigon neighborhood.
The gift from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation totals $750,000 to be distributed over three years, beginning in the summer of 2013 when construction of the hillclimb is scheduled to begin. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation is a wing of the JPMorgan Chase bank that funds neighborhood improvement projects in cities where the bank has major operations. JPMorgan Chase came to Seattle in 2009 following the collapse of Washington Mutual, purchasing the assets of WaMu from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for a small fraction of WaMu’s net worth from just a year prior. Today, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation grants hundreds of millions of dollars every year for projects like the 10th Avenue Hillclimb.
The hillclimb will be one of the first elements of the massive Yesler Terrace redevelopment project slated for ongoing work over the next decade. The redevelopment will transform Yesler Terrace from a public housing neighborhood into a mixed-income “urban village” with thousands of low-income housing units, market rate apartments and condominiums, as well as commercial real estate and public spaces. In addition to improved pedestrian paths like the hillclimb, the redeveloped Yesler Terrace will also have access to new mass transit options such as the First Hill Streetcar and the Light Rail tracks both on Broadway and in the International District.
The Seattle Housing Authority and the Yesler Terrace community have been discussing the 10th Avenue Hillclimb since May of 2012. There were five potential designs for the pathway presented by the architecture firm GGLO at the beginning of the process. GGLO has been working closely with the SHA on multiple aspects of the redevelopment project. Two of the hillclimb designs were stairway-only, creating concern for equal accessibility. The three remaining designs mixed stairways with ramps. All of the proposals included community garden space, especially at Horiuchi Park. A final design has yet to be released.
The JPMorgan Chase grant will also cover an exploratory process for a potential development in Little Saigon. In August 2012, the non-profit group Friends of Little Saigon sent a proposal to Seattle City Council concerning the creation of a new building in the neighborhood that would include affordable housing units, subsidized commercial space, and a Vietnamese cultural center. City Council approved the FLS resolution in September. The support of the JPMorgan Chase funds will examine the feasibility of such a project with the help of the City and the SHA.
Money for the overall Yesler Terrace project has been pouring in over the past year. In addition to the JPMorgan Chase Foundation gift and a starting Housing and Urban Development grant of $10 million, the SHA received another $19.73 million via HUD last week for the redevelopment. All of this funding will jumpstart construction in 2013, paving the way for one of the most ambitious construction projects in the history of Seattle while crews are literally paving new pedestrian paths on 10th Avenue South.