A City Defining Connection from the Lake to the Bay

The idea of connections between Lake Union and Elliott Bay predates the arrival of Europeans in the Pacific Northwest. Today, this zone just north of Seattle’s downtown contains many of the city’s icons–the north waterfront of Elliott Bay; the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park; Seattle Center’s cluster of cultural venues and the Space Needle; and the burgeoning high-tech neighborhood connecting South Lake Union Park to the Museum of History and Industry.

The institutions and organizations that are building the neighborhood are changing the way we live–the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Amazon headquarters, University of Washington Medicine, and the Allen Institute for Brain Science, among many others. As the area continues to be built out, there has been a growing recognition that the area has not lived up to its potential as a high-quality urban environment that supports creative thinking. A coalition of stakeholders and civic leaders, called the Lake2Bay Coalition, held facilitated brainstorming sessions in 2013, generating a great deal of enthusiasm about how organizations could work together to change the Lake to Bay zone into a thriving model for urban life.

In early 2014, this coalition asked Framework to help them coalesce a vision for the bustling Lake to Bay area. We sat down with the group and discussed strategies and opportunities, helping them to develop a concrete plan. First, the connection from Lake to Bay was identified as a vital link, and boldly envisioned as a “city-defining” route between these iconic urban places. It will not only provide an exciting place in itself, but will become a visible connecting corridor between the Olympic Sculpture Park and Seattle Center, two primary visitor destinations that currently remain disconnected even though they are only a few blocks apart.

Second, a public realm framework plan is being developed, focusing on the streets and parks that form the critical “glue” between activities of daily life in these neighborhoods. Through these steps, we hope to see the powerhouse of Seattle’s economic and creative energy become a center of community activity and quality of life to match its quickly growing importance.

Framework was Project Design Lead and Inventory Research Lead 

Client:
Lake2Bay Coalition
Seattle Parks Foundation
Vulcan Real Estate
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle Center Foundation

Collaborators:
CMG Landscape Architecture
Futurewise
JZ Works

The City of Seattle Design Commission commends the plan’s stewards and partners, its incremental approach and the commitment to this urban asset.

Design Excellence Award 2014, City of Seattle Design Commission

The ambition for the Lake to Bay is high and defining, connecting iconic buildings and spaces from Lake Union to Elliot Bay.

Lake2Bay Coalition, Community Stakeholders & Framework Design Team