Capitol Hill residents and business owners share ideas and concerns about closing Pike Street and Pine Street for community events with Mackenzie Waller of Framework.
Capitol Hill residents and business owners share ideas and concerns about closing Pike Street and Pine Street for community events with Mackenzie Waller of Framework. ASK

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City officials definitely want to "activate" Capitol Hill's Pike/Pine zone this summer—they're just not yet sure what form it will take.

On Tuesday night, the Seattle Department of Transportation hosted a meeting at V2, the former Value Village building, for a community brainstorming session. There, many residents and neighborhood business owners voiced concerns and suggested improvements they would make based upon their experiment with last year's street closures.

"One of the big challenges of these projects is that people feel very strongly about their neighborhood and that's a good thing," said Mackenzie Waller, a designer with Framework, which is partnering with the city to better design street closures on Pike/Pine.

During the meeting, SDOT and Framework asked participants to write suggestions on PostIt notes and stick them to posters on the wall. Each asked different questions such as "Why not close the street?" and "Why change the street?"

Other posters provided visuals of how the streets could be "activated" and closed off. Attendees could vote on options including closing the street by blocking off only one lane of traffic or closing off chunks of the sidewalk instead.

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Although he thought last year's closures were successful, Andre Briggs, who has lived in the neighborhood for almost four years, suggested closing off 10th Street or 11th Street instead. They're less busy and have fewer cars speeding down the street, he said.

"I want to be able to walk over here and feel safe. [I don't want] to have to step on dog—or human!—poop, and not have to worry about cars driving too fast," he said.

Folks also gave feedback on the best time of day to close the streets. Rather than having events that just catered to late-night crowds cruising for drinks, many people—especially business owners in the area—said they also wanted to see more daytime gatherings and tie street closures into existing events like Capitol Hill Art Walk.

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According to Liz Dunn, who owns Chophouse Row and the buildings housing Pacific Hardware Supply and Boom Noodle, the Seattle Ice Cream Festival, which was in March, is a perfect example of a successful afternoon event. About 6,000 people showed up, which was far more than she expected, she said.

"We got more families than I had ever seen at an event on Capitol Hill," she said. "You could say that they weren't Capitol Hill residents, but I think it's nice to bring families into the city. People came in from all over the place."

Other popular ideas included setting up kid-friendly outdoor games, book and music swaps, and creating a communal dinner table where local restaurants could participate in a meal. According to Seth Geiser of SDOT, the city does have available funding for the closures, but securing it "depends on the scale of the project."

Regardless of what type kind of events Capitol Hill's streets will host this summer, Briggs told Geiser and Henry that he wants all community members, regardless of income, to be brought to the table. According to Briggs, projects like the Pike/Pine closures should be more inclusive and focus more on access for people with disabilities.

Last night's meeting went beyond creating summertime Pike/Pine pedestrian zones, too. Some people wanted to think even bigger.

Community members talked about longer-term changes, including public safety measures like adding additional crosswalks to busy intersections, opening more public bathrooms, and widening sidewalks to prevent overcrowding on weekends. Others focused on cleaning up the area by hanging flower baskets on light poles, creating more green spaces and parklets, and installing more public seating.

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"The biggest challenge is grappling with the complexity of any urban neighborhood. There's all these different communities and businesses that call this place home and identify with this space," said Geiser.

Ultimately, the community's feedback will go back to SDOT and Framework to be reviewed to produce a report, which will be released by early August, Geiser said.