Homelessness influencing future Seattle construction design

Sep 20, 2016, 5:18 AM | Updated: 1:16 pm
A drawing of the proposed Judkins Park. (City of Seattle)...
A drawing of the proposed Judkins Park. (City of Seattle)
(City of Seattle)

Judkins Station, a new light rail station already funded for construction, needs approval from Seattle officials, but they have concerns. They’re factoring Seattle’s homeless issue into the design.

The Jimi Hendrix-themed station is expected to be finished in 2023 as part of the already-funded Sound Transit 2 proposal. But when the station was announced, there was some confusion. The idea is to put a light rail station in the middle of I-90, tucked between Rainier Avenue and 23rd Avenue. That unique location lends itself to a design that had the Seattle Light Rail Review Panel discussing some safety issues.

Where Sound Transit wants to put future light rail

Recently, architects from Hewitt and Sound Transit presented the most recent designs (which are said to be almost 90 percent done) to the Seattle Light Rail Review Panel. Michael Jenkins, who oversees the Seattle Light Rail Review Panel, had serious questions about safety.

“Being under that overpass, along Rainier, there are not a lot of eyes along there along the highway,” Jenkins said. “It’s a much harder thing to make sure that safety and security is maintained, obviously that is clearly important to Sound Transit, as the people who will own it.”

The review panel is also examining the safety of pedestrians coming to Rainier Avenue South, where there is another difficult problem to tackle – homeless encampments.

“The city knows there are a number of homeless people who have unfortunately used those spaces under the freeway for a place to live and it’s not a good situation,” Jenkins said. “So we look at how can we deal with real public safety and the things that go on there.”

The Seattle Light Rail Review Panel suggested that architects swap the smooth concrete slope planned along Judkins Station for large boulders, to discourage homeless encampments.

“What the Light Rail Review Panel has encouraged Sound Transit to do is to look for those areas that children, older people, women, or other people who sometimes feel vulnerable in public,” Jenkins said. “How do you make sure the building is designed to take away those spots where people feel unsafe?”

The Seattle Light Rail Review Panel is an independent oversight board made up of Seattle Design Commission, The Seattle Art Commission, and the Seattle Planning Commission.

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Homelessness influencing future Seattle construction design