I’ve lived in Seattle for a long time now — almost achieving native status after my 18 years. And during that time, nothing has struck me in the city as much as the total transformation of the neighborhood of South Lake Union — an amazing phenomenon that has truly accelerated in the past few years now that Amazon.com has arrived in the old industrial zone. (Ballard’s transformation, where I’ve lived for most of my time in Seattle, ranks a close second).

As Amazon and other companies continue to expand their footprints in the city, it’s sometimes good to step back and reflect. That’s why I enjoyed watching Eric Becker’s new documentary film: Placemaking. Though just a short seven minutes, the film puts the transformation of the South Lake Union neighborhood in perspective through the words of architects and urban planners, noting the importance of density and human interaction.

“Seattle has the opportunity to create a Pearl District. To create the Meat Packing District in New York,” says architect Kyle Gaffney of SKB in the film. “We have that opportunity right here in South Lake Union. And if resistance to change and resistance to density — if that drives — then I can see that neighborhood, certainly not thriving and, in my mind, just a wasted opportunity.”

Many of the comments in the documentary are opinions I’ve heard shared by Amazon.com’s architecture firm, which is proposing a massive redevelopment in Seattle’s Denny Triangle neighborhood, one that’s been labeled the biggest in the downtown’s history.

Personally, I like many of the architectural and design changes taking place in our city (SAM’s Sculpture Garden; Pioneer Square; the waterfront tunnel; etc.). This city is going to look completely different in 10 years. What do you think?

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Placemaking & Seattle from eric becker on Vimeo.

Previously on GeekWire: Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn: We are the city of the future

[Editor’s note: The film will be shown next Tuesday at the Seattle Architecture Foundation’s Pocket Parks event.]

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  • Guest

    I think I speak for everyone in Seattle when I say that parking lots, car dealerships, and derelict warehouses are integral to our culture. Uprooting them in the course of creating more office space is unacceptable, and I call upon our civic leaders to stop taking handouts from developers and deliver more of what I and my fellow citizens want.

    • boop

      Agree! When I commented on an article about an Amazon building replacing the Denny triangle Toyota dealership some clueless wonder responded car dealerships belonged in the suburbs. Really?? As Johnny Carson used to say “I did not know that.”

      • Guest

        Car dealerships foster a sense of community and togetherness, particularly Toyota dealerships, where owners frequently gather and await life-saving recall repairs on their vehicles.

      • Guest

        yes it is important that I as a belltown worker and resident have easy, walking distance access to a Toyota dealership for the once-a-decade possibility I would like to purchase a Corolla, as opposed to a building that can house 1000 workers or perhaps a school.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tiffany98122 Tiffany V

      Personally, I like the derelict warehouses. The rest I can do without though.

  • chapala21

    Pioneer Square may have been an example of civic betterment at one time but not anymore. The waterfront tunnel will only hasten the death of Downtown Seattle. SLU may succeed as a neighborhood but it will do so only if there is intelligent design to the buildings. As yet I don’t quite see that brilliance that will ignite SLU. The pearl district and the meat packing district in NYC are mainly renovation projects spiced with new development. SLU on the other hand looks and feels like a complete transformation with an emphasis on new construction. Frequently new developments take decades to achieve enough moss between the concrete cracks to add character and subtlety. The dye has been cast, only time will tell.

  • WatchingUsTooMuchAlready

    Upon my first visit to Seattle in the mid 80’s, I was struck by the sense of place already well established there. I had just begun meditation and when I sat down on a park bench on a beautiful sunny day, I felt I was in a kind of energy center if you will. I was not and still am not an expert on such matters as energy in a place but I certainly felt it that day and have never since experienced it anywhere else save San Francisco. I understand that there are other places where an energy or sense of place can be found such as Sedona Arizona but that first experience of place left a big imprint on me and I hope to visit again soon.

  • guestss

    their conversations focus so much on how can “we” create a space for “them” to interact in a public sphere, generating place, or placemaking from the top down that in antithetical to the goal of place. Yes its important to make a space more accesible for the public to use and get to and from, making geared toward conviviality but its also important to understand the way technology and a hi-performance culture have growingly made that one of the last places where you can get away from it all. I think their direction is problematic, additive, and singular.

  • tryingtocalmdown

    Since we are just a couple days removed from the election, how about a “regulation/nanny state free zone” within the boundaries of Seattle where restaurants could open without the rigamarole they have to go through now, able to offer less than min.wage as is done in most other places, have a pot smoking area on the premises but a requirement for “full disclosure” of these things. The businesses in this zone would not be assessed B&O tax that located there but the annual business license to operate in this limited area would be substantial. parking rates in this zone would be lower overall or determined by the business owners in the zone. strip clubs would not have to abide by the “4 foot rule”.
    Essentially it would be a libertarian’s paradise. It would be interesting to see what the demand for operating in this area would be and if businesses in this zone would fare compared to other areas. Not sure what area of the city would be best for it.
    Yeah, I know it’s a pipe dream but it would be great to have a commercial area that was exempt from the rules and regs that so many types of businesses have to deal with. If it failed, well, nice experiment. But if it succeeded and was not a drain on city resources (police, fire, etc.) it would be a new way of attracting businesses and commerce.

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