Link to Transportation Home Page Link to Transportation Home Page Link to Transportation About Us Page Link to Transportation Contact Us Page
Delivering a first-rate transportation system for Seattle Scott Kubly, Director







Site Index

Westlake Streetcar Plaza/McGraw Square

City Opens New McGraw Square
Reshaped plaza makes it easier to travel around and enjoy downtown

At an early morning ceremony on February 9, 2011, the city of Seattle opened the new McGraw Square plaza.  Constructed by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the new plaza makes it easier to travel around downtown, and enhances connections from the South Lake Union Streetcar to other transit options like buses and Link Light rail.  

The newly reshaped plaza now features:

  • major enhancements to McGraw Square Park, an historic site dedicated to the former governor
  • new trees, landscaping, natural drainage, architectural lighting, and seating
  • a second loading platform for the South Lake Union Streetcar
  • improved pedestrian connections to the retail core and Downtown Transit Tunnel
  • improved safety for all users by simplifying a complicated five-way intersection
  • a left-turn only lane from Stewart Street to Fifth Avenue and lane changes on Westlake Avenue

The new plaza supports the city of Seattle’s goal of making Westlake, along with King Street Station and Colman Dock, one of three transportation hubs serving downtown. It also better connects the South Lake Union and Denny Triangle neighborhoods to the existing retail core while offering a “sense of place” that encourages new residents and businesses in Seattle’s urban core.

To build the pedestrian plaza at the current terminus of the South Lake Union Streetcar, SDOT permanently closed Westlake Ave between Olive Way and Stewart St.  Westlake’s traffic volumes were low and the closure reduces pressure on the Fifth Ave and Olive Way intersection. The project cost approximately $900,000 and has been funded via a transit mobility grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

View photos of the event here

Project Description

This project is currently out to bid for construction. Click here to view technical drawings of the approved final design.

Project Information

Existing Conditions/Project Location

Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, Final Presentation (June 2010)

60% design open house materials, traffic analysis (Feb 2010)

Design Commission Presentation (12-3-09)

Design Alternatives (Fall 2009)

Landmarks Preservation Board - Architectural Review Committee Handout (10-16-09)

Design Commission Presentation - Westlake Hub Strategy (8-6-09)

Project Development and Outreach Summary (in development )

This project will close Westlake Ave between Olive Way and Stewart Street to create a transit, bicycle, and pedestrian-friendly plaza at the current terminus of the Seattle Streetcar South Lake Union line. By closing Westlake Ave to vehicles, the project will also simplify a complicated, five-way intersection and help improve and integrate the historic McGraw Square Park.

To accommodate the loss of a charter bus load zone, SDOT is considering the conversion to two-way operation of 6th Ave between Virginia Street and Westlake Ave. Also as part of the project, the approach of Westlake Ave to Stewart St will be reduced to a single southbound travel lane.

Looking south from Westlake Ave towards the new McGraw Square

The goals of the new, centrally-located plaza are to make walking and biking through north downtown safer and more comfortable, and to improve transfer opportunities between the Seattle Streetcar, Monorail, light rail tunnel, and major bus routes. In response to the growth of the South Lake Union and Denny Triangle neighborhoods, the project is also designed to better connect these areas to the existing retail core and offer a “sense of place” that can help orient new housing and economic development. These project goals are part of the City’s larger Center City Strategy for encouraging thousands of new residents and businesses in the urban core and making Westlake one of three transportation “hubs” serving downtown (the others being King Street Station and Colman Dock).


Key design features of the plaza will include:

  1. A second streetcar platform to improve rider access to/from the new plaza
  2. Integrated transit shelter/covered bicycle parking for up to 10 bikes
  3. Landscaped rain garden to infiltrate majority of stormwater and reduce runoff entering the sewer system
  4. Illuminated seat walls with signage, to act as gateway for Westlake Hub
  5. ADA access, lighting, and seating improvements near the historic McGraw statue
  6. Inlaid, energy efficient (LED) light tiles as part of a comprehensive dynamic, colored lighting scheme
  7. Salvaged granite pavers for detailing, taken from overstock of original Westlake Park installation
  8. New street trees to replace (two-for-one) those being removed near McGraw statue; new large specimen trees to anchor Westlake Ave terminus
  9. Oversized curb ramp, utility connections to facilitate mobile food vending and plaza programming

As part of a larger effort to improve the Westlake Hub, SDOT will maintain the new McGraw Square and continue working with local stakeholders and other City departments on a comprehensive operating/programming strategy.

Project Schedule

  • Project advertisement: Aug 2010
  • Construction activities: Sept – Nov 2010
  • Management and maintenance strategy development: Ongoing

Project Contacts

Project Planners
Darby Watson, Policy & Planning, or (206) 386-4012

Project Manager:
Terry Plumb, Capital Projects, or (206)733-9053

Construction Outreach:
George Frost, Public Outreach Coordinator, or (206) 615-0786




Home | About Us | Contact Us | Site Index | News | FAQs | E-Mail Alerts