Roads Not Taken: Reimagining a Different Seattle

In 1851 the City of Seattle could have been a vastly different place if alternative development decisions had been made that took the original inhabitants, nature, and topography into consideration.

September 14, 2016, 2:00 PM PDT

By urbanguy


Seattle

Roman Khomlyak / Shutterstock

Crosscut columnist Knute Berger writes about the development of Seattle from 1851 to the present and how certain development and transportation decisions affected the natural, social, and economic environment.

Berger writes that Seattle "had ambitions to be the new New York, but the retreating ice left us with hills and too little flat land to make a proper port. We needed railroad access, so we filled in the tide flats of what is now SoDo and the Industrial district. We were determined to place grids on a grid-resistant landscape, so we re-graded not just Denny Hill — you know it today as the flats of Belltown, but for years it was simply known as The Regrade....The result, among other things, is a transportation mess that we’ve never built our way out of and aren’t likely to. Think about that when you’re stuck in traffic. Blame the glacier. Blame the founders. Blame the absurdity of their ambition."

Berger suggests that there is something that can be learned from looking back at the development pattern of our urban places. "If those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, I would posit that those who study the might-have-beens can also learn a great deal too. Re-imaging Seattle’s transformation — the roads not taken (or built) — could be a great tool to think about our future more creatively."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 in Crosscut

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