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Seattle Municipal Civic Center Master Plan
June 1999

Back To Table of Contents :: On To Section 9: Implementation Strategies

Section 8: Design Guidelines

Illustration 36 - Open Space Configuration Studies

Open Space

Intent and Functions

The public open space is arguably the most important element of the Civic Center, as an unenclosed living space, or front porch, welcoming all of Seattles citizens and visitors. Its character should represent the spirit of the city; its activities should reflect the involvement of a wide range of people in the heart of governance, and its maintenance should represent a level of care and commitment to the city as a whole.

The open space should be civic in size, scale, definition and demeanor, with the topography of the site expressed as a core value. The open space should include a garden that is inspired by the characteristics of the Pacific Northwest. Plazas should be shaped to encourage a multiplicity of events and activities. These areas need to be sufficiently large to allow for large public gatherings and public debate, but also need to be attractive areas for individuals and small groups on a day-to-day basis. The open space should be designed to invite and encourage pedestrian circulation, and small scale food service should be available to encourage use of the gardens for lunches.

Character of Open Space

Attitude of Natural vs. Man-made

The open space should incorporate references to the natural environment that is a fundamental value of the region. However, it should be clear that the landscape is in an urban, man-made environment, and landscape should not attempt to recreate an isolated piece of the natural environment.

Formal vs. Informal

The open space should have within it a variety of characters and places. A more formal area for public gathering is appropriate adjacent to the building. Informal and intimate spaces should be incorporated into the garden areas.

Four Season Usage

Design and materials should maximize the usage of the open space during all times of the year. Good drainage and non-slip materials should ensure safe and pleasant walking conditions in the rain, and sheltered areas should be offered for those waiting for the bus. The hillclimb assisted route should be weather-protected. The changing of the seasons should be visible in plant materials, ensuring greenery in the winter months, and changing colors in both permanent plantings and perennial plantings.

Relationship to Topography

The prominent topography of Seattles downtown is almost unique. The Civic Center site is one of the steeper areas of the downtown, with a grade change of over seventy feet between Third and Fifth Avenues. The design of the open space should use the topography to its advantage, emphasizing views and perspectives, while also making it as easy as possible for pedestrians traveling uphill. The slope should be used to create amphitheater style seating on a grand stairway, and the topography should be used to emphasize the hierarchy of uses within the building by placing the symbolic functions at a visual high point.

Size and Configuration

Sizing is based on generous spaces for the variety of activities essential to the Civic Center, and based on a well proportioned relationship of built and open areas. These activities include hard surface areas for public gathering, performances, speakers and demonstrations. Other activities in the open space are more informal, intimate spaces for conversation, outdoor lunches, or private thoughtful time. The space needs to be large enough to accommodate sizeable groups participating in the public, civic life of the city, and of a size to represent a heart of the city.

The open space should be of a size and configuration that maximizes available light and sunshine. It is primarily for this reason that the open space has been located on the south side of the site.

The configuration should allow the character of the site to be revealed in the topography. Partly for this reason, the open space was configured in an east-west direction. Other schemes that captured the open space in flat plazas within the site, or used the buildings to resolve the slope did not take advantage of the potential drama of the slope.

The configuration of the open space needs to relate to the program of the building and interconnect the functions of the outdoor and indoor areas. The assembly areas should be accessible to the adjacent indoor spaces, and openable during warm weather. Outdoor and indoor connections also need to be configured with integrated handicap accessibility.

Materials, Plantings and Furnishings

The materials for the open space should be chosen in conjunction with the materials selected for the buildings. They should evoke a sense of permanence, and be sufficiently durable in order to withstand many years of heavy public use. In the assembly areas and along travel routes, paving materials should be slip-resistant when wet and should be detailed to drain well.

Plant materials should be reflective of the region, and should include a mix of deciduous and evergreen materials. Provisions should be made for display of seasonal color. Plants should be ample in size at the time of planting, especially those chosen for their ability to screen undesirable views across James Street.

Furnishings also need to be selected to be compatible with the character and materials of the building and its furnishings. They will need to be durable, without being overly institutional in nature. Furnishings will include seating, tables, trash receptacles and light standards.

Water features are encouraged in order to highlight the slope, to provide a focal point and to mask noise. Consideration should be given to a counterpoint to the water feature that provides a sense of warmth, dryness and protection during damp weather, for example the fireplace in the Grand Central Arcade in Pioneer Square.


Lighting needs to be incorporated into the Civic Center to highlight both buildings and open space, and to create a safe environment during evening hours. While overall lighting levels need to be sufficient for the perception of safety in all portions of the space, lighting should be used to highlight landscape features and promote wayfinding.

The Center and surrounding streets should include cobra lights on the sidewalks (existing), pedestrian light standards, lighting in the landscape, on stairs, etc., highlighting textures and for reasons of safety, special lighting, events and holidays, and lighting of the building facade to create illuminated walls to the outdoor space.


Art should be integral with the open space, and coordination with artists should begin as early as possible in the process. Artwork should be in scale with the space, and civic in nature, and conveying some meaning or interpretation of "Seattle", our community and citizens.


The open space should be made easily accessible to major centers of population, and made attractive as a pedestrian link through weatherproof connections and hillclimb assists. The Sound Transit station needs to be well integrated into the site, with clear orientation and direction at the surface level.

It is essential that he space be actively programmed and managed in order to provide ongoing public activities, life and energy. The programming at the Seattle Center could serve as an example of the frequency and variety of events. An ongoing series of programs and activities attractive to a wide spectrum of the population needs to be scheduled for the spaces and well publicized. Program elements in the Civic Center should draw people to the site during and beyond work hours.

The comfort level of the outdoor spaces is critical to its use. Comfort includes environmental factors such as temperature, wind, moisture and noise, and other subtle factors including materials used for seating, and which direction seating faces. Outdoor spaces should be oriented for maximum light and sun, and allow for public events and performances. Seating and tables are encouraged, with food services available. Outdoor and indoor spaces and activities should be related and linked. Kiosks and seating areas for commercial activity, exhibits, information should be integrated with landscape into the southern edge of the space off of James Street.


The maintenance of the space reflects the amount of concern that the community has for the Civic Center. The space should not be designed to minimize maintenance; instead, the care of the space should be highly visible. Showcasing flowering plants that are on a changed on a regular basis is one way in which the care of the space is made visible. The presence of maintenance workers also helps with the perception of the space as cared for and safe.


Lighting, the presence of staff, and good design will all contribute to the safety of the Civic Center. The ability to close portions of open space during certain times or special events may be considered, but not if it detracts from the overall feel of welcome and openness of the Civic Center.

The most important factor in the safety on the site is the presence of people and activities. While the design of the space needs to accommodate and encourage use of the facilities, there is an important on-going requirement for adequate staff and funding to support and publicize a variety of programs on a regular basis. The design of the space and connections to it must also emphasize bringing people into and through the Civic Center. Strong pedestrian connections is essential to localized centers of population such as the transit station and the high rise buildings to the north.

Design Components

Assembly Areas

Public gathering places are envisioned on both sides of Fourth Avenue. These assembly spaces are relatively flat, with hard surface, and they relate both to the buildings on the north side and the planted areas to the south. They form a foreground to City Hall, with a grand stair that also functions as seating for the assembly areas. These two spaces may differ somewhat in character due to the differences in the two buildings they adjoin. The design of the assembly space adjacent to City Hall should be driven by its use as an outdoor "room" for the various functions of City Hall. Each assembly space should be large enough to comfortably accommodate civic scale events.

Cascading Gardens

The cascading gardens provide a green counterpoint to the hard surfaces of the assembly spaces. In addition, they mediate the slope between the flatter gathering spaces and the grade of the sidewalk along James Street. The cascading gardens should take advantage of the drama of the slope in their design, providing smaller intimate spaces within a broad sweep of green along the hill. One or two routes through the gardens in each block should be considered as links to the sidewalk.


The amphitheater is created by using the grade change to create seating for performances and events. The design of the amphitheater space should take into account sight lines, height for seating, orientation to sun and wind, acoustics, and the visual backdrop for performers and speakers. Steps will be integrated into the amphitheater leading between the assembly area and the entry level of City Hall.


The elevation change on the site also allows for particular places to enjoy the views of the Civic Center. A promontory is shown at the west end of the assembly area on the Public Safety site, looking out over the cascading gardens near the transit tunnel. Conversely, the promontory could serve as a point of interest looking up the hill from Third Avenue. The promontory is located along the through connection from Cherry Street.


This element creates a terrace above the City Hall assembly space, connected to the through connection to Cherry Street and as a threshold to the City Hall entry. The terrace would be an overlook for the gathering space below, and part of the passageway from Cherry Street to the Civic Center and the gardens. The belvedere terrace should be deep enough to serve as a forecourt to the City Council wing.


The non-civic functions such as the food service are housed in smaller, separate pavilions adjacent to the gardens. Their form and materials may have an element of informality, or whimsy, that would not be appropriate for the other structures of the Civic Center, but relate to the garden and terrace areas.

Transit Connections

The transit tunnel will be an important point of entry for the Civic Center. Because its mezzanine level is substantially below street level, it presents an opportunity to further reinforce the drama of the grade change over the site. The section illustrates the potential to create a steep cascade that continues the water and plantings of the Civic Center into the underground level of the tunnel.

The Civic Center design should include clear wayfinding from the exit of the tunnel at the street level. The view of the Civic Center at this point should be understandable to a person emerging from the tunnel who is unfamiliar with the area. In addition, signage should be located at the tunnel exit identifying the major destinations within the Civic Center and in the surrounding neighborhood. Signage should also help direct people from the upper levels of the site to transit stops.

Buses will continue to play an important role on the street level on Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues. The areas where people wait for the buses should be ample and comfortable places in all kinds of weather and after dark.

Passage Ways to Cherry and James Streets

Two clear connections through the buildings are included from Cherry Street. These are envisioned as double height spaces serving both as visual and physical connections from the north into the assembly spaces and gardens. These will be level, accessible routes with connections into the building and the adjacent spaces.

The gardens should have one or two through routes from James into the assembly spaces on each block. It may be desirable to have these links run through to the Cherry Street connections.

Sidewalk Improvements on Site

The Civic Center should encourage use of the sidewalks as well as the new routes being created. Sidewalks along Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenue should be a minimum of 15 feet wide, and wider where bus stops or drop offs are located. Standard concrete sidewalks with scored two foot squares would be adequate rather than a strongly differentiated sidewalk setting the Civic Center apart from the fabric of the city. Some subtle differentiation may be considered.

Street trees are included on all three blocks of the Civic Center, to be coordinated with City standards.

Related Off-Site Improvements

The City is encouraged to work with King County in coordinating improvements to James Street, Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue. Screening of the north side of the King County Administration Building should be pursued, and coordination should occur between the City and the County in regard to anticipated changes at the County Courthouse. The Civic Center and improvements to the County properties could work synergistically and create a better governmental center than either entity could create alone. Employees and patrons of the County buildings should be encouraged to use and enliven the open space of the Civic Center, and links to City Hall Park should be explored.

On Fifth Avenue, consider taking cues from the L.I.D. improvements further north. The surface connection on Fifth Avenue most important as a link between the Civic Center and Key Tower.

The open space on the Civic Center site should be designed to fit into a larger context of the surrounding neighborhood. Connections to Pioneer Square, to First Hill and to portions of the downtown to the north and south should be considered, in terms of landscape materials and treatments and in terms of visual connections and vistas. Perceptual links to First Hill and to Pioneer Square are particularly encouraged.


Within the framework of the master plan guidelines are numerous potential configurations for the design of the Civic Center. The diagrams on the following page illustrate four variations for the open space that all fall within the design guidelines.

Illustration 36 - Open Space Configuration Studies

Building Character

Intent and Functions

The intent of the Civic Center buildings is to provide good, functional work space for government with excellent access for all citizens. The building form should be readable in terms of hierarchy of functions; it should be recognizable and imageable as the heart of civic governance, while fitting well into its urban context.

Functions included in the Civic Center include the Mayors Office, the City Council offices and Chamber, some offices supportive of the Mayor and Council, and key customer services. Community services and non-profit organizations are encouraged on the City Hall block as well. The Municipal Court building east of Fifth Avenue will contain the City courts in one half of the building and Police administrative functions in the other half. The new building on the Public Safety Building site has not been resolved, but will most likely have retail at the base and either public or private sector office space above.

Size and Configuration

The buildings are located along Cherry Street to provide an edge and a backdrop for the open space, to continue the urban feel of Cherry and relate in scale to the historic buildings. The most symbolic element of the Civic Center, the Council Chamber area, runs north-south along Fifth Avenue as a culmination of the composition. This three story structure will be open to reception on the main level, with two floors of City Council offices above and the City Council chamber anchoring the southern end at the corner of Fifth Avenue and James. This bridging wing should be similar in height and modulation 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 a part of the formation at the eastern edge of the Civic Center precinct.

The Municipal Courthouse footprint by necessity takes up nearly the entire half-block site.

The City Hall building will include between 171,000 and 230,000 gross square feet of space on the current Municipal Building block. This amount of space will be built east of the existing Municipal Building on the plaza and parking garage portion of the block. A second step will bring the new City Hall building out to the corner of Fourth and Cherry.


Where buildings are along the street edges, the intent is to maintain an urban character to the streetscape. Along Cherry Street, the buildings should be on or close to the property line. Along Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues, the sidewalks should be spacious, but the buildings still need to strongly define the street edge. Setbacks should not exceed twenty feet.

Orientation and Views

The buildings are oriented east to west, which allows oblique views toward the water from both sides of the long sides of the building. The long facades face north and south, affording the best opportunity for solar access and control. Vistas from the sidewalks and other pedestrian areas should be encouraged toward the water and Pioneer Square.


Building footprints on the Municipal Building block should run east-west, with a width of about 90 feet. The footprint for the first step of the City Hall building should fit within the footprint in the northeast corner of the block so that the existing Municipal Building can remain operational during construction of the new City Hall.

The building footprint on the Public Safety Building site should run east-west similar to and continuing the Municipal Building block, also with a width of about 90 feet. The building footprint should run the full length of the block along Cherry Street.

The building footprint for the new Municipal Courthouse will utilize almost the entire half block, with at least enough setback along Fifth Avenue to accommodate people waiting for buses.

Scale and Massing

The buildings along Cherry will be similar in scale to the nearby Alaska Building and Dexter Horton. These buildings also will mediate or provide a transition in scale between the Columbia and Key Tower and the Civic Center open space.


The intent of building heights is to create a consistent, related edge along Cherry Street. On the Municipal Courthouse site, the dual function of the building is visible in the height of the two portions of the building. The higher portion, containing the courts, is on the south side in order to leave room between it and the high-rise buildings north of Cherry.

The height of the symbolic portion of the City Hall should relate to the cornice height on the facades of the Municipal Courts and the buildings along Cherry Street.

The buildings on Cherry Street should have the same height, near elevation 288'. This would result in a ten story building at the Municipal Courthouse, approximately a fourteen or fifteen story building along Fourth Avenue, and a roughly seventeen story building on 3rd Avenue. The southern portion of the Municipal Courthouse site, which contains the courts, will be the tallest element of the Civic Center, at or near elevation 475'.


The program for the Municipal Building block and the Public Safety Building block does not utilize allowable FAR. Transfer of FAR may be considered.


The architecture should be civic in scale, in choice of materials and detailing. It should respond to the topography and to the context of the historic buildings on Cherry.


The buildings should reflect a strong connection to the ground at the base. The base should express entrances, and support the street activities which will differ from level to level. Permanent canopies over entries should be considered, and colonnades will be integral to the base along primary pedestrian routes.


The top of the City Council Chamber building should be a distinctive form. The block of buildings along Cherry may have a top cornice line that ties them together compositionally.

Intermediate Cornice Lines

The use of an intermediate cornice line will help visually relate the buildings of the Civic Center to one another. It could highlight the interplay between the slope of the ground and the perpendicular floors of the buildings. The height and the materials of the intermediate cornice lines should be consistent between the Municipal Justice Center, the Civic Center and the building on the PSB site.


The building facades should be sympathetic to the historic buildings in regard to the richness of texture, patterning, rhythm and scale, without strict adherence to historic motifs.


In the portion of the City Hall building at Fourth and Cherry, the building should be sufficiently transparent to feel the presence of the plaza beyond.


Materials should be chosen for durability, and construction details should ensure protection from weathering (i.e. at cornices).


The exterior materials should come from within the region, and the design and colors should reflect the local climate and light conditions.


Design character should be contemporary while respecting qualities found in historic neighbors regarding the honest expression of materials, structure, craft and multiple layers and scales. Recognize the public nature and the monumentality of the buildings, and avoid limited personal expression.


The materials selected for the Civic Center buildings should reflect a sense of quality and permanence. Stone is recommended as a base material, and should be of sufficient dimension to read as more permanent than a thin veneer. The use of terra cotta should be considered because of its history of use in Seattle and the predominance of its use along Cherry. The use of wood on the interior is suggested for its importance in the region and its ability to impart a sense of warmth.


The Civic Center should have multiple entries, and Civic Center should have entries from both Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue. These multiple entries need to be resolved at a single, clear place of arrival. The address of City Hall should be off of Fifth Avenue. A semi-private entry dedicated to social service functions may be located on Cherry Street. Other points of entry may include entries to specific activities (such as public services or community meeting spaces), and internal public space off of Cherry Street and the hill climb assist.

Access to service and parking beneath buildings will likely by from Cherry Street.

Internal Organization

The placement of cores and lobbies need to support easy access and wayfinding for all citizens. Their location will also need to accommodate the building in Step One as well as in its final form after Step Two construction. The elevator core will serve both the taller east-west building and the wing housing the City Council.

Step One

The phasing strategy arises out of the need to retain the existing Municipal Building during the construction of the new City Hall building. The required square footage for the new City Hall, some 171,000 to 230,000 gross square feet, will be built on the east side of the block so that employees in the Municipal Building will require only one move into the new facility. The west end of Step One will be a wall that will become part of a "gasket" to later construction.

Step Two

The second step completes the City Hall building, bringing it west to the corner of 4th and Cherry. The program for this building may include non-profit agencies, community center functions such as public meeting rooms, and arts other community service organizations. Step II is intended to have the same cornice height as Step One.

Response to Context/Other Buildings

Relationship to Historic Buildings

The buildings along Cherry Street should be sympathetic in scale and massing to the historic buildings nearby, including the Arctic Building, the Alaska Building and the Dexter Horton Building.

Relationship of City Hall to Planned Municipal Courthouse

The symbolic portion of City Hall, while lowest in building height, is unique in its scale and form. Its height should relate to facade elements in the new Courthouse and the new east-west buildings. The massing of the new Courthouse should form a backdrop for the symbolic portion of City Hall, rather than distracting from the predominance of the City Hall.

Relationship of City Hall to Key Tower

The Civic Center should concentrate on creating clear and pleasant pedestrian connections at multiple levels. At the street level, consider landscape and paving improvements that can create a visual continuity extending to Key Tower. Additional tree planting and widening of sidewalks on Fifth Avenue in front of Key Tower and improvements at the upper plaza level and mezzanine will create a sense of public space and should be considered.

City Hall and Key Tower are assumed to have consistent pedestrian traffic during business hours. Pedestrian access is very important between these two buildings and should be improved at street level to the extent possible. The most common pedestrian route is north across the west side of 5th then east on the north side of intersection. This route should be emphasized with elements such as paving materials, plantings, signage and lighting. The architecture of the City Hall should include a colonnade or arcade that would help direct pedestrians and provide weather protection.

Relationship of Municipal Courthouse to Key Tower

Pedestrian traffic between these two buildings will be fairly limited. The prosecutors have the only strong presence in both buildings. Consequently, a bridge or tunnel connection is presumed to be a low priority given the cost of creating the connection.

Relationship of Civic Center Buildings to James Street and County Buildings

The Civic Center should create opportunities for a positive relationship between the City and County functions. If the PSB site is public or cultural, the connection to the County Courthouse is even more important. James Street should have an edge treatment of some kind, and improvements to the facade of the King County Administration Building should be encouraged. The buildings to the south on James should be screened so that the edge of the space is green, and attention is focused within the open space. The north side of the King County Courthouse should have an entry to the open space and Sound Transit, and street level activities should be encouraged.

Three County buildings are on the south side of James Street - the County Jail east of 5th Avenue, the Administration Building between 4th and 5th, and the County Courthouse between 3rd and 4th. In one sense, these buildings, together with the Civic Center, combine to form a governmental center. The architectural character of the County buildings, however, does not contribute to the environment of the Civic Center. However, there is potential for some improvement including new, large scale landscaping along the north edge of the Administration Building, and a planted area in the north inset of the County Courthouse as part of its upcoming renovation. Retail use at street level should be encouraged in the Countys plan for the Courthouse, along with streetscape improvements to 3rd and 4th Avenues to help link City Hall Park and the new Civic Center open space.

Relationship to Streets & Plazas [activities/amenities]

Relationship of City Hall to Cherry Street

There should be multiple entries to City Hall from Cherry Street. At the 5th Avenue and Cherry intersection, there should be a clearly identified entry or route to an entry. Mid-block, there may be a dedicated entry to a social service program area on the interior of the building. An identifiable entry or route to an entry should also occur at the intersection of 4th and Cherry.

Retail at Base

Commercial uses should be located in at least a portion of the street level within the Civic Center. Commercial uses are most appropriate along the street level at Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue, and along the plaza level on the Public Safety Building block.


An arcade along Fifth Avenue will provide cover for pedestrians, and help link City Hall and Key Tower. A colonnade along the south edge of the buildings will create a weather-protected place for hillclimb assist, and help tie the buildings together compositionally.


Art should be included in the building program, and integrated as early as possible into the design process. Art work should be located in the public spaces, and should enhance the civic scale of the public spaces.


Building lighting should support the use of the Civic Center during evening hours, with sufficient illumination for the perception of a safe environment after dark. Lighting should also be used to highlight the character of the building and accentuate architectural elements. Specifically, the City Council Chamber space should be lit as a "beacon" visible from Third Avenue.

Graphics, Signing, Identification

Identify the Civic Center precinct, and include orientation maps which also shows nearby activities such as the library, County Buildings, transit, and Pioneer Square. Less permanent signage, concentrated at kiosks, should identify current activities and events.


ADA access is through elevators within the buildings because of the steep topography on both blocks. People will be able to enter at the low level of the building and take the elevator to either the intermediate plaza level or continue on and exit at the level of the higher street.

The outdoor amphitheater and gathering spaces will be accessible from Fourth Avenue. Access to the community center meeting spaces and reception hall will be directly off of the assembly spaces, but elevators will be required to upper level activities. Access to social services will most likely by elevator.


Provide street trees and other amenities along both James and Cherry, strengthening links to Pioneer Square and City Hall Park. Along Fourth and Fifth Avenues, link into the existing streetscape improvements, reaching toward the library along Fourth and toward the Fifth Avenue L.I.D. improvements.

A connection would be desirable to City Hall Park, especially if the PSB site is a public or cultural use. At a minimum, the City should encourage the County to include street level commercial uses at the King County Courthouse.

Hill Climb Assist

A series of escalators open to the air but weather protected. Level areas between escalator runs link to floors of adjacent building (City Hall or PSB Site building) and to north - south linkages from Cherry Street into the public open space.

Sidewalk Improvements @ Access Routes along Right of Way

Sidewalks should be similar to others in the downtown (2 square foot concrete scoring) or similar to public open space in civic center. Portions of sidewalk where adjacent to open space and linking across street could be treated as a piece.

Street Network

Vehicular traffic arriving from Interstate 5 will continue to arrive primarily from James, and return to the freeway via Cherry, due to the configuration of the ramps.

The expectation is that the most of the pedestrian traffic would be coming from the primary activity centers of downtown - Pioneer Square to the west and the office core to the north. There is a large population of nearby employment in the highrises along 5th. Heavy pedestrian traffic is expected from the light rail station at 3rd Avenue. Bus stops and vehicular drop offs on site should be integrated into the design. The Civic Center should invite pedestrians into and across the precinct.

Connections to First Hill should be considered in the streetscape improvements. The residential population of First Hill is likely to increase, and a better pedestrian route under the freeway would strengthen the link to downtown.

Bus Stops & Drop-offs

The most likely scenario for transit in the future is that bus traffic will increase, with 3rd carrying primarily City routes, with 2nd and 4th as a couplet for suburban routes. The bus routes on 5th Avenue are also heavily used, and require space for people while they wait. The Civic Center could benefit from the activity generated by people arriving and waiting for buses. Generous hardscape should be available for people waiting for the bus on the east side of Fourth Avenue and on the east side of Fifth Avenue.

Drop-offs will be necessary for citizen access and for VIPs. The intent is to have drop off areas on the west side of Fifth Avenue and a below grade port cochere in the parking area. The day care will need priority in a drop off area either on street or in the parking area. The Justice Center will need to accommodate drop offs for prisoners in a safe and separated route.

Sound Transit

The Sound Transit station is considered to be an important element in the Civic Center plan. There should be clear way finding from the stations arrival point at the street, both to the Civic Center and to other nearby areas, such as Pioneer Square. The station needs to be easily visible and identifiable from surface level.

The master plan also recommends that the route down into the train level be integrated into the Civic Center open space, potentially enlarging the opening connecting the tunnel on the mezzanine level, and incorporating cascading water that is part of the open space water feature.

Midblock Crossings

The hillclimb assist will be located on the south side of the buildings, adjacent to the open space. There will be a pedestrian desire line from the assembly spaces on either side of Fourth Avenue, and a mid-block crossing should be considered, possibly with a paving pattern or material on Fourth Avenue denoting the pedestrian crossing.

On Cherry Street, there will be a pedestrian desire line from the south side of the Columbia Tower to the Civic Center through passage. Pedestrian safety should be considered at this natural crossing point.


The Civic Center should include a modest amount of parking beneath City Hall, located within the envelope of the excavation for the existing parking. This parking would serve the building itself with city vehicles, some employee parking, ADA accessible parking, and drop-off from cars. Short term visitors parking should be a priority so that citizens can easily use the customer service functions. A port cochere below ground should be considered, along with street level drop-off. Ideally, ingress and egress would be off of Cherry Street. Types of parking that must be accommodated include fleet vehicles, a small amount of employee parking, ADA accessible parking, and a generous amount of short term visitor parking. Short term visitor parking should be emphasized in order to provide good citizen access.

A larger reservoir of parking should be below the PSB site, again using the area already excavated for existing parking. Access should be off of James Street, with egress to Cherry. These two blocks of the Civic Center are not envisioned as parking for the Municipal Courts Building. No above grade parking should be allowed.

Inclusion of parking for buildings that the City may sell is a possibility under the Public Safety Building site, if it improves the overall economics of the sale.


Sustainability should be clearly visible in the design of the Civic Center and celebrated as a core value to the community. Sustainable design principles should be an integral part of shaping the architecture, of designing the open space, of selecting materials, of designing mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, of incorporating art work, and of formulating operating policies. Sustainability should be a criteria in budget decisions, emphasizing long term benefit over short term capital outlay. The following are goals for including sustainable principles into the Civic Center design and operation:

Design Integration

Sustainability should be integrated into all steps of the design process, using a whole systems approach which balances social, economic, and environmental factors. Sustainability should be incorporated into the earliest design discussions with a sustainable design charrette to kick-off the project to insure that all design and construction team members are familiar with sustainability concepts and basic sustainable building practice. The charrette can be utilized as a group process to define and refine sustainable design goals and priorities to aid in the design optimization process. Throughout the sustainable design process, collaborative, multi-disciplinary design teams should explore opportunities for to design integratively and serve multiple functions with individual design elements.

Sustainable design should incorporate Life Cycle Cost Analysis into budget projections. Life Cycle Cost Analysis defines the projected useful life of a project and looks at the net present value of design options as investments. The goal is to achieve the highest environmental performance possible at the least cost. In addition, the design team should conduct building performance modeling in order to investigate the interrelationships of economic and environmental performance of various building systems. Performance modeling should define the boundaries of differing design scenarios to investigate trade-offs and optimize performance. In order to measure design sustainability by national standards, well-established, credible sustainable design rating systems such as LEED should be used.

Reinforce Natural Systems

The design should respond to local climatic and ecological context by incorporating solar patterns, wind patterns, hydrology and geology into design features, interpretive signage and philosophy. A regional design palette should be used for both plants and other materials. The site should be developed using ecological design principles to mimic natural systems function. Increase the benefits of vegetation by maximizing planted areas both indoors and out.

Conserve Energy Resources

Design strategies for the Civic Center should increase energy efficiency by maximizing with solar access and harvesting of natural site resources such as daylight and geothermal heat. Building energy usage should reduce electricity consumption, eliminate unnecessary demand, and emphasize equipment efficiency and energy efficient control strategies. In addition, use of alternate energy resources should be explored wherever possible. The design of the Civic Center should help promote use of public transit over private automobiles through parking strategies, and create incentives for bicycling and walking access to basic services.

Manage Material Resources

The Civic Center should be designed for adaptability and minimize material use with efficient space planning, engineered materials, and modular design. Design should be low maintenance and specify durable materials. Crime and graffiti preventing design should be considered. Sustainable materials that minimize environmental impact as well as re-used, salvaged materials and recycled content materials should be used. In addition, use materials with minimal packaging waste that is recyclable, and materials that are easily recycled once their useful life has ended. Waste reduction and recycling should be encouraged by recycling construction demolition and waste with a jobsite waste management plan, and with provision of easy access recycling stations and pick-up areas.

Protect Environmental Quality

The design of the Civic Center should aim to reduce pollutant sources in both interior and exterior environments. This will particularly affect design of mechanical systems and the choice of interior materials, finishes, and adhesives. Ozone-depleting chemicals in mechanical equipment and insulation should be avoided. The health of building occupants and construction workers/installers/maintenance staff should be protected.

Protect Water Resources

Designers should consider the feasibility of harvesting on-site flows by reclaiming graywater, roof runoff and groundwater. Natural water flows should be maintained by minimizing erosion and encouraging stormwater infiltration. Potable water use should be reduced by appropriately sizing systems and using water efficient technologies. Water quality should be protected by avoiding use of toxic materials and utilizing Integrated Pest Management.

Service Access

Minimize size and intrusion on Cherry Street sidewalk. Service docks, trash containers and storage should be internal.

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