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Seattle Municipal Civic Center Master Plan
June 1999

Back To Table of Contents :: On To Section 7: The Master Plan

Section 6: Concept Development

Open Space Configurations

Concept A

Illustration7 - Concept A

This concept is centered and symmetrical. The new Municipal Courthouse is assumed to be symmetrical, which as it turns out, isnt. The Municipal Courthouse forms the eastern terminus to the Civic Center. The City Hall block is planned with two flanking buildings on Cherry and James Streets with a center public open space stepping down the hill and a plaza in the center of the block. The public space on this block, while open to the sky, is of limited size, and would generally be shaded. The flanking buildings would be need to be built as a second step.

The Public Safety Block includes a major open park space on the eastern portion of the block off of Fourth Avenue and a building on the western half. Stairs and a hill climb would be developed in the interior of the blocks, extending from the transit/ rail tunnel up the hill to the courthouse and possibly the garage to the east and to a bridge to the Key Tower. The southern side of Cherry Street would be improved for pedestrians and a connection could be made from the Public Safety block to and through the King County Court House and the City Hall Park to the south.

Concept B

Illustration 8 - Concept B

This concept concentrates the public open space on both sides of Fourth Avenue and places the new City Hall at the eastern flank of the Municipal Building block on Fifth Avenue. In this location, the new City Hall blocks the Municipal Court House, and prevents it from becoming an integral part of the Civic Center. The public open space is bisected by Fourth Avenue.

On the Public Safety Block, the western end of the Civic Center and the open space is enclosed by a building fronting on Third Avenue. A hill climb would be developed along Cherry street extending from the Sound Transit tunnel to the Municipal Court House, in conjunction with an improved pedestrian walkway.

The open space would receive sunlight from the south. Generally this concept does not "celebrate" the topography. The implication is that the public space would be largely level at the Fourth Avenue elevation, and elevation changes would be taken up in the two main buildings at the top and bottom on 5th and 3rd avenues. These two buildings would afford views to the west for half of the tenants in each building. This concept does not develop an urban edge along Cherry responsive to the historic buildings on the north side.

Concept C

Illustration 9 - Concept C

This concept concentrates the public open space on the southern portion of both blocks extending from Fifth Avenue west to a building on Third Avenue at the western end. The Municipal Court House forms the eastern end of the Center, clearly recognized as a contributing part of the Seattle Municipal Civic Center. The open space terraces down the hill over nearly two blocks, emphasizing and celebrating the topography characteristic of Seattle and placed on the south with the City Hall on the north on Cherry street and a private or public building on the north side of the Public Safety site. The open space will receive sunlight from the south as will the facades of the flanking buildings to the north. The buildings will be afforded oblique views toward the water from both flanking facades while strengthening the urban edge and relation to historic buildings on Cherry Street. The buildings on Cherry also mediate or make a transition from the larger Columbia and Key Towers to the public open space.

A hill climb is located at the northern side of the open space at the edge of the buildings, extending from the Sound Transit tunnel to the Municipal Court House.

Alternative Design Concepts

Schematic concepts were developed during the initial step of the master planning work, in order to study options for configuring the buildings and open space. After considering three initial concepts, a fourth scheme evolved with the intent of combining some of the best features of the original three concepts.

Concept 1

Illustration 10 - Concept 1

The open space in this concept is concentrated in the center of the block between Fourth and Fifth Avenues to include a terraced park, plazas and a hillclimb. The location of the open space would necessitate most of it being implemented in a second step following the removal of the existing Municipal Building. The open space would connect to a public reception hall at the Fourth Avenue level. The Public Safety block to the west would include a central commercial, enclosed galleria with a hill climb connecting at the western end to the Sound Transit tunnel entry on Third Avenue.

The new City Hall, 12 to 13 stories high, would front on Fifth Avenue between Cherry and James Streets with main entrances on Fifth Avenue and from the open space. The main level lobby and reception on Fifth would be transparent, opening directly on to the open space to the west and in essence acting and functioning as an extension of the open space directly into the lobby of the City Hall. A lower level could extend under Fifth Avenue to the new Municipal Court building. The City Hall would be in the shape of a "U", enveloping the open space on three sides. The main building bulk would be on Fifth Avenue and two lower wings, two to three stories high, would be on Cherry and James with terraced, landscaped roofs. Community and customer services, public reception and commercial uses would be located in these lower wings, accessible from the streets as well from the public open space. Parking, service and drop-off would be provided in the space under the City. Additional parking could be provided on the Public Safety block below ground as well.

In addition to the galleria, the Public Safety block would include development of two new buildings which could be private office/commercial or additional government institutional uses, or a combination of both.

Concept 2

Illustration 11 - Concept 2

In the second concept, the open space is concentrated on the southern portion of the existing City Hall block and a portion of the Public Safety block in order to optimize exposure to southern sunlight. The open space is substantially larger than in Concept 1. A large level plaza fronts on the east side of Fourth Avenue and extends across the street to the west to an additional level plaza with trees. The plaza on the City Hall site would include a reception hall at thelevel of the street and plaza. Approximately mid-block between Fourth and Fifth Avenues a terraced area forms an amphitheater as well as a stairway.

Another level plaza would be located at the top, on the level of Fifth Avenue. A hill climb would run along the edge of the buildings enclosing the open space. Substantial tree planting and landscaping is shown at the southern perimeter on James, and across the street in front of the King County Administration building.

The new City Hall would be sited on the northeast corner of the block, approximately 13 stories high, with its main entrance on Fifth Avenue. The new City Hall would have exposure to both the open space and Cherry Street, with entries from both. The configuration of buildings and open space in this concept integrate the Municipal Courthouse building into the Civic Center. Parking and service would be accommodated in a way similar to Concept 1. Tunnels linking under Fifth Avenue to the Municipal Courthouse and under Cherry to the Columbia Center would be possible. This latter connection could afford access to an existing tunnel between the Columbia Center and the City owned Key Tower. The new City Hall should provide a major entrance on Fifth, facilitating pedestrian access to and from Key Tower. Direct access from Cherry and the public open space will also be provided.

The northwestern portion of the block, developed a second step after the removal of the existing City Hall could be literally an extension to, and expansion of the new City Hall. The extension could alternatively be a private/commercial development, other governmental space, or a community center and community meeting spaces in conjunction with the street level public reception space. This step could be similar in height to the City Hall, or, as illustrated, lower in height, but 10 to 13 stories above Fourth avenue. Materials and detailing should be similar to the new City Hall.

The Public Safety block includes a substantial building on the northern portion which could be private commercial/ office, government or institutional use. The built portion of the site could be sold, or leased for private development. The southern part of the block includes an extension of public open space as described previously, a public hillclimb connecting to the Sound Transit tunnel and an additional building on the southwestern corner of the site which could be private commercial/office, other government or institutional use. Ideally, however, this building in the open space would be an indoor "living room"for the community, such as a reading room. A connection from the site to the King County Court House should also beconsidered.

Concept 3

Illustration 12 - Concept 3

Open space in Concept 3 is concentrated on the southern portion of the site in a similar manner to the previous scheme. Conceptually, the open space extends through the entire two blocks, from Fifth Avenue down the hill to Third Avenue. However, a substantial public gathering/ wintergarden pavilion would be sited in the open space between Third and Fourth Avenues. A public hill climb would be included on the northern edge of the open space at the adjacent to the buildings. Both blocks would include level plazas, terraces, hardscape and gardens, with an amphitheater on the block between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Landscape buffering and screening would be included on the southern edge of the site along James, but access from both James and Cherry to the open space would be afforded.

The new City Hall is sited similar to Concept 2, forming the northern edge of the public open space, but with one significant difference. The City Hall would be extended along Fifth Avenue as a three story structure, open to reception on the main level, with two floors of City Council offices above and the City Council chambers anchoring the southern end at the corner of Fifth Avenue and James. The public open space extends from the west into the entrance/reception area of the City Hall at the Fifth Avenue level, and may include a lower level connection under Fifth Avenue to the Municipal Courthouse. This bridging wing would be similar in height to the lower floors of the Courthouse, establishing a relationship across Fifth Avenue. This wing will be transparent at the main level and low enough in mass to allow the courthouse to remain as part of the formation at the eastern edge of the Civic Center space.

The northwestern corner of the City Hall site will include, as part of a second step, an addition to the City Hall similar to Concept 2. The Public Safety block will include a private commercial office or government building on the northern edge of the open space, on Cherry Street, with open space and the public gathering/ wintergarden pavilion previously described, and a hill climb linking the Civic Center to the Sound Transit tunnel.

Concept 4 / Preferred Alternative

Illustration 13 - Concept 4

This concept combines the preferred qualities of the previous concepts in order to achieve the best sense of a Civic Center and sense of place with the potential of being truly representative of the Citys center of government, establishing a sense of civic identity while reinforcing the ceremonial nature of many public functions.

The public open space, like Concept 3, extends from Fifth Avenue to Third Avenue facing south, with buildings along Cherry Street forming the northern edge of the space. The space is entirely open, without the public gathering/wintergarden pavilion in the open space on the Public Safety block. This function is integrated into the street level of the building proposed on the northwest corner of the City Hall site at Fourth and Cherry as proposed in Concept 2. It is recommended that the public open space be substantial, to have a presence in the built-up urban fabric of downtown, and includes all of the activities anticipated for public gatherings and celebrations, an amphitheater for performances and speeches, room for receptions, plazas, gardens, water and places to sit comfortably alone, with a few friends, to eat lunch, or drink coffee. The open space is conceived to include relatively large level plazas at the elevation of Fourth Avenue rising to the east through an amphitheater to a belvedere, with the mezzanine and lobby of the new City Hall culminating on Fifth Avenue. The plaza on the west side of Fourth Avenue cascades down to Third and continues down to the mezzanine of the Sound Transit tunnel, transforming as it moves from the plaza to terraced gardens and water. The southern portion of the space will include cascading gardens and water, following the slope of James Street and providing a terminus at the western end of the open space at Third Avenue. The gardens will include intimate areas with seating. Two food service pavilions may be included off the plazas in the gardens near Fourth Avenue.

The new City Hall is similar to Concept 3, with the bulk of City Hall concentrated in the northeast corner of the city hall site, 12 to 13 stories high. A three story structure runs south across the site along Fifth Avenue, housing the City Council chambers, offices, entrance and reception and a portion of customer services on the Fifth Avenue level at the northeast corner. The Mayors offices may be located on the Fourth floor of the City Hall, opening on to the roof terraces of the three story structure.

Access to City Hall will be provided through a connection between Cherry Street and the belevedere of the public open space. A public hill climb assist should be developed on the southern face of the buildings on both blocks along the edge of the open space.

A second step on the City Hall site will include additional open space and a building on the north edge housing a public reception space at Fourth Avenue and a City information area, along with retail space and possibly a community center with public meeting spaces.

The Public Safety site will include, in addition to a substantial portion of the public plazas and gardens, a building on the north which could house private offices, institutional uses or government space. The level of the building on the plaza and Fourth Avenue should include retail space, as should the lower level on Fifth Avenue. Private uses for this building could be on property purchased or leased from the City, but the public open space portion of the site should remain under City ownership.

Parking and service will be provided under the new City Hall site within the footprint of the existing parking, with access from Cherry, including a drop-off area. Parking will also be provided under the Public Safety block development.

Back To Table of Contents :: On To Section 7: The Master Plan