Urban Renewal

The Bell Street Park Project Proves Sharing the Road Can Be Fun

Between First and Second Avenues, cars and pedestrians mingle. And everyone gets along.

By Josh Feit January 2, 2014 Published in the January 2014 issue of Seattle Met

The driver stuck behind the couple meandering hand-in-hand in the middle of Bell Street doesn’t honk. Instead, he downshifts and enjoys the shambling pace.

With $5 million in 2008 parks levy money, Seattle is building a downtown street mall called Bell Street Park, where cars and pedestrians share the road. And not in the follow-the-rules way with stop signs and crosswalks, but in a school-without-walls way. While the design allows for some parking spots, it’s mainly divided into a circuit board of ped zones along the side of the street that occasionally jut out into a shared ped-and-cars zone, creating eddies where people can gather around food trucks, gardens, and play equipment.

With a dearth of affordable available earth, the city used parks levy cash earmarked for land acquisition to transform this street it already owned. Only the block between First and Second Avenues is open now, but the park—with granite seating upcycled from discarded curbs for people who’ve meandered over after letting cars pass—will extend east to Fifth this spring.

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