Picture Perfect Queen Anne (PPQA) presented its final draft plan last week for revitalizing the Queen Anne Avenue streetscape between Galer and McGraw streets. The proposals still need some tweaking before rough cost estimates can be determined, according to the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF) Partnership, the architectural company hired to formulate a plan.
Still, the proposals are ambitious, and they will be pricey if all of them are completed, conceded PPQA chairwoman Kathy King. But the ideas could also run afoul of property rights in some cases, and community sentiment in others.
David Grant from ZGF said the proposals were the result of workshops and surveys of neighborhood residents and local business people. "It was a pretty resounding message," he said of the idea that Queen Anne Avenue is like a village center. A village center is small, serves just the neigh-borhood and is pedestrian-oriented, Grant said, "It has a finer grain, finer texture."
That's opposed to a "Main Street" concept, which calls for a larger scale of development that is oriented to vehicles and serves a bigger population than a village center, he said.
The village center approach also allows for richer social interaction among residents and local businesses than a Main Street approach, Grant added. "It really makes Queen Anne Avenue the heart of the community."
The ZGF proposal calls for a degree of continuity in each block. That can be accomplished with the use of fluted streetlights that are 12 feet tall and have hooks that can be used to hang flowerpots, he said. "We've heard how important vegetation is on the avenue."
Also proposed are benches with cast-iron frames and slats made of recycled plastic. "It's actually quite durable," Grant said of the plastic. He added that single bicycle racks that double as places to tie up dogs could be installed along the street.
However, the bike-rack idea was dropped by evening's end after the crowd heard a story of a woman who locked her bike up on an existing rack on the avenue and couldn't get to it because someone had tied a territorial dog to the same rack afterward.
Also proposed in the plan was installing a band of water-permeable concrete between the gutter and the sidewalk along the avenue. Rainwater would end up in the ground instead of the storm drains, something that would help street trees, Grant said.
Also called for is planting mostly red maple trees along the street, and using standardized trash and recycling cans. The plan envisions angle parking on the avenue, and it should remain free. "We've heard strong interest in not having metered parking on the avenue," he said.
While continuity is important, so are elements that differentiate parts of the street. The intersection at Galer Street is an example. "Galer is the way a lot of people arrive on the avenue," Grant said.
The plan calls for building a stair-climb park to the sides of the stairway to the east of the Galer intersection, as well as installing landscaped curb bulbs and kiosks where pedestrians could read about neighborhood happenings.
Curb bulbs and landscaping should also be included at the intersection at McGraw, he said. "It's the other part of the bookend of Queen Anne Avenue."
Crockett Street is also an important intersection because it leads to a school and a community swimming pool, Grant said. That intersection should also have curb bulbs and a kiosk, he added.
"Boston is another key street," said Grant, who added that the restaurants east of the avenue give the street a lively feel. But the little-used parking lot on Boston near the Safeway is a problem, according to the proposed plan, which shows a four-story building there.
Denying that the proposals are taking a wag-the-dog approach, Grant said the plan is not meant to tell property owners what to do with their own property.
But including a drawing of a building on the Boston Street parking lot drew a heated objection from Queen Anne Community Council board member Sharon LeVine.
"Please don't put that in the report," she said. Using her own wag-the-dog approach, LeVine insisted that a community process is needed to determine what the best use of the property should be.
Grant said that public art would be an important component of improving the streetscape as well. He said examples would be wall murals, bus-stop art, sculptures and elaborate tree grates. "I really like the idea of artist-designed kiosks," Grant added.
The proposals are also meant to enhance community connections. "The community is a social place," he said. "In the case of Queen Anne Avenue, it's the heart of the neighborhood."
The plan includes marking all crosswalks. But Grant also suggested that goal could be helped by cleaning up the sidewalks, moving newspaper boxes onto side streets just off the avenue and encouraging merchants to use outside tables with umbrellas that fit through the middle of them.
In addition, Grant said that sidewalks buckled by tree roots should be repaired on the street by shaving the roots and patching the concrete. The Seattle Department of Transportation will pay for immediate needs in that area, but SDOT will do only so much, he said. "We can't rely on the transportation department for everything."
Keeping the avenue clean is also part of the proposal, and one member of the audience wondered whether is would be possible to make businesses sign a covenant that requires them to clean up in front of their stores.
"That's a hard thing to enforce, but we've heard a lot about that concern," Grant said. It might be necessary, he added, to bite the bullet and hire someone to keep the area clean the way business owners did in Pioneer Square.
Echoing King's comment, Grant said, "A few of the things we're talking about are very expensive." He added that it could take a decade to do all the things in the proposal.
"There is no roadmap," King said later. She also said the goal of PPQA is to land some city grants and possibly get cash from foundations. "I'm sure we'll be interested in private donors," King added.
However, it seems unlikely that money could be raised by setting up a Local Improvement District, according to King. "At this point, that has not been an idea that's been enthusiastically welcomed."
Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at email@example.com or 461-1309.