…to make a bus connection, eat your lunch, or just people watch!
This morning, with the sun shining brightly, the happy music of the Spruce Street School Marimba Band playing, and over 100 people excitedly milling about, SDOT celebrated the completion of the McGraw Square Improvements Project. The square is located in the heart of Seattle on Westlake Avenue at Stewart Street/Fifth Avenue and Olive Way. Constructed by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the new plaza makes it easier to travel around downtown, and enhances connections from the South Lake Union Streetcar to other transit options like buses and Link Light rail. The plaza supports the city of Seattle’s goal of making Westlake, along with King Street Station and Colman Dock, one of three transportation hubs serving downtown. In addition to improving multi-modal connections at the Westlake Hub, the project creates a new pedestrian plaza at the downtown terminus of the Seattle Streetcar SLU line.
The original McGraw Square was one of the smallest parks in Seattle’s park system designed by the famed Olmstead Brothers. The new and enlarged square fully embodies the values of the Walk Bike Ride initiative including a number of sustainability and place making improvements. The project creates a community event space featuring trees and natural drainage, artistic pedestrian-scaled lighting, architectural seating, and salvaged and recycled materials, while preserving this historic site.
Mayor Michael McGinn and City Council Transportation Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen were on hand for the opening ceremony along with other dignitaries including the descendants of John Harte McGraw, for whom the site is named. The celebration included the unveiling of a statue of McGraw who served as the chief of Seattle’s tiny police force in the 1870’s, was elected King County Sheriff for three terms, and went on to become the second Governor of Washington State. Of his many achievements, McGraw was instrumental in securing funding for the Lake Washington Ship Canal Project and the purchase of the tract of land where the University of Washington’s Administrative Building, later called Denny Hall, was built.
In building the plaza, SDOT permanently closed Westlake between Olive Way and Stewart Street where traffic volumes were low. The closure reduces pressure on the Fifth Avenue and Olive Way intersection. The project cost approximately $900,000 and is being funded via a transit mobility grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation. For more information, please visit SDOT’s McGraw Square website. Details about John H McGraw’s fascinating life can be found here.