Find of the Month

October 2022 - In-city living

bus stop near Westlake, 1975

As part of an effort to spur downtown residential development in the 1970s, Mayor Wes Uhlman created an In-City Living Task Force in conjunction with the Downtown Seattle Development Association. The group was charged with recommending zoning changes that would encourage development of housing in and near the central business district, as well as proposing other actions the City could take on this front.

The mayor had a vision for what downtown Seattle could look like:

The downtown streets of the city I visualize will teem with people around the clock – shoppers, workers, sightseers, and those who stroll for recreation and enjoyment. This throbbing sidewalk activity will discourage street crime and stimulate downtown business activity, in contrast with current trends. Various forms of retail trade, entertainment, and public facilities will fuse into a compact community with flavor and excitement unique to it – the kind of atmosphere which is impossible to find in the sterile suburban shopping center. People here will walk from where they live to the Public Market, the waterfront park, the Seattle Center, and a whole variety of new downtown attractions. And with this development of a central pedestrian community will come a reduction in automobile traffic and its accompanying problems. Ultimately, I see the downtown area blossoming into a gigantic trafficless mall, expanding from the Seattle Center to Pioneer Square and served by free, silent, non-polluting public transportation.

The 1972 groundbreaking of the 26-story Royal Crest Condominiums at Third and Lenora was seen as the first tangible evidence of the task force’s success in creating downtown housing. (Notes for Mayor Uhlman about the ceremony’s schedule included, after introductions and other remarks, “Mayor get in bulldozer and helps drive over or through something.”) The task force continued at least until 1977 and promoted other ideas including a monorail station in the Denny Regrade, extension northward of the “Magic Carpet” transit free-ride area, and a boulevard along Third Avenue.

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