Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood is a dense urban community home to high rise residential building, major medical institutions, educational, and commercial uses — and a scarcity of public open space. Rising land values and development pressures have made acquiring traditional space for a new park difficult. So, in 2014, the First Hill Improvement Association partnered with three city agencies — SDOT, DPD, and Parks- to explore a concept sweeping the country: repurposing land in the public right of way from pavement (especially awkward public intersections or overly broad streets) into new uses as community gathering areas — pavement parks!

Through the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan, two pilot pavement parks were created on First Hill: one at University Street and 9th Avenue, the other at the intersection of University, Union, and Boylston (UUB). The first of their kind in Seattle, these pavement parks have been embraced by the First Hill community, and function as a public living room for many residents. Particularly at UUB site [pictured above], it’s common to see small gatherings of people sitting, talking, eating, and enjoying themselves outdoors in what had formerly been an unsafe five leg intersection. These spaces accomplish the two fold mission to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety, and to provide community gathering spaces.

Here are the results for the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2015:

  • New York: Queens Boulevard (23%, 407 Votes)
  • Chicago: Washington Street (22%, 382 Votes)
  • Seattle: University, Union, and Boylston Pedestrian Plaza (17%, 294 Votes)
  • Columbus: Summit Street (15%, 264 Votes)
  • Los Angeles: Reseda Boulevard (15%, 258 Votes)
  • Salt Lake City’s Protected Intersection (9%, 157 Votes)
    Total Voters: 1,762

Congratulations to everyone that worked to make this space possible: The First Hill Improvement Association, SDOT, Department of Planning and Development, and Seattle Parks and Recreation.