Seattle Neighborhood Greenways executive director Gordon Padelford is praising City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw for dusting off plans for a Thomas Green Street, working with community stakeholders to come up with a better concept for bicyclists and pedestrians moving between South Lake Union and Seattle Center.

“Sally Bagshaw’s leadership is just tremendous,” Padelford said. “It’s part of her legacy.”

Thomas Street Redefined was crafted over the summer, after Bagshaw hosted a design charrette to replace a 2013 Thomas Green Street Concept Plan with something that better prioritized pedestrian and bicycle connectivity. Advocates also worked with the councilmember to find opportunities as the State Route 99 Tunnel opened and streets in South Lake Union started getting stitched back together, and are finding opportunities with the monumental changes occurring at Seattle Center.

“Because all of a sudden you’re going to have thousands of people trying to get to the arena, and two out of three nights there’s going to be a big event at that arena,” Padelford said. “It’s an under-realized street, right now. In the South Lake Union side, it’s become this queuing space for parking.”

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways (SNG) was among many groups that comprise the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition and provided insight and support for a new Thomas Street corridor vision.

“It’s pretty different. Times have changed a lot, and the 2013 street concept plan, it was really trying to take advantage of stitching together the streets as part of the North Portal project,” said Susan McLaughlin, SDOT’s Thomas Street concept project lead.

With the 2020 budget set, McLaughlin expects to advance the design for Fifth to Dexter avenues in 2020. Padelford said he's excited for a 36-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle pathway, and a half-block closure at Fifth Avenue North, next to the future Seattle Center skate park, to create a public plaza.

Seattle City Light is tentatively planning to break ground with streetscape improvements on Thomas Street in 2021 as part of its Broad Street Substation Inductor Project, which McLaughlin said will start the sequencing of the 36-foot-wide bicycle and pedestrian promenade at Sixth to Taylor. The promenade will include a 6-foot landscape buffer and a 12-foot shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians. McLaughlin said she expects pedestrians will fill the promenade when sporting events are taking place at Seattle Center.

Thomas Street Redefined also takes into account added space created by not having buses driving there anymore, which allows for reducing motor-vehicle lanes to 18 feet from curb to curb.

Oak View Group anticipates reopening the arena, which is being rebuilt and expanded to the tune of nearly $1 billion, in summer 2021. SDOT hopes to have key portions of Thomas Street Redefined ready by then.

“That certainly is a goal, I will say that,” McLaughlin said. “What we have is a pretty significant and transformative project.”

There will be plenty more outreach taking place in 2020 to better design what amenities will be included at the new public plaza at Fifth and Taylor, with the vision being to create a new “grand entry into Seattle Center” under the Redefined concept plan.

“We’re really excited. The plaza at the end, next to the skate park, is really exciting,” Padelford said. “That will help tie in Thomas Street to the [Seattle Center] campus in a really strong way.”

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways will continue to be involved in helping shape the project, and Padelford encourages anyone wanting to stay in the loop and contribute to reach out at gordon@seattlegreenways.org.

“Thomas was always supposed to be bike and pedestrian,” McLaughlin said, “and Harrison was supposed to be transit and vehicular access to 99.”

Padelford said it’s been great to have Harrison Street open across State Route 99 for the first time in a half century. WSDOT will reopen Thomas at Seventh Avenue North in February.

Improvements to Thomas Street — east of Dexter to Eastlake — will occur in later phases, and be partly accomplished through private partnerships as redevelopment in the corridor continues and neighborhood greenway implementation funds for the Bicycle Master Plan. Padelford said much of that area has already been redeveloped, providing fewer options and less bold visions for its design.

Plans to connect Thomas Street, west of Seattle Center, to the Elliott Bay Trail are still being revised, Padelford said, based on how it will fit into the heart of Uptown.

“The idea of connecting the lake to the bay — Puget Sound to Lake Union — and, in particular, connecting the Seattle Center to Lake Union and South Lake Union, has been around for a long, long time,” Padelford said.

A Lake to Bay Loop — originally called the Potlatch Trail — that would connect Uptown, Belltown, South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle is a vision that has been in the Seattle pipeline for more than 20 years. The Seattle City Council supported the 3.5-mile pedestrian path by way of a 2010 resolution, noting a substantial east-west portion was on Thomas Street.

“People recognize that this is an incredibly important civic corridor and it shouldn’t be just like any other street,” Padelford said.

Bagshaw said the Lake to Bay Loop is a vision as old as her time with the Allied Arts group. The outgoing councilmember said she put $400,000 into the 2020 budget for the Market to MOHAI project, which will create a pedestrian corridor between Pike Place Market and the Museum of History and Industry.

“The elements are all there, and I’m excited to connect them,” Bagshaw said.