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2010 Archive

Unlike Pioneer Square, who resists height increases due to the historic nature of the neighborhood, a recent Seattle Times article looks at South Lake Union and its potential for taller buildings with certain bulk controls and tower spacing. Current residents are concerned, however, that they’ll be “walled in” and others worry that they’ll lose views of the Space Needle, the lake, and even the sun.

As South Lake Union’s biggest landowner, Vulcan is entrenched the process and has been working with residents and neighborhood activists to hear their concerns. Matt Roewe is VIA’s Director of Mixed Use and Major Projects, and is also a member of the Planning Commission. As a resident of Queen Anne, he has been on many committees about South Lake Union’s future, and even sits on the neighborhood’s design-review board.

“Roewe agrees with Vulcan and the city that the current zoning in South Lake Union has led to ‘breadboxes’ — low-level buildings that fill entire blocks. Instead, they propose ‘pencils’ — tall skinny towers that leave room around the bottom for views and public spaces.

Part of the discussion, no doubt, will include exchanging the right to build taller for an agreement to add green space or other community amenities.”

Among the committees that have been working on South Lake Union, Matt participates in the following: Two Way Mercer Stakeholder group, South Lake Union framework charette, South Lake Union height & density study committee, and the Uptown South Lake Union visioning charette stakeholder group.

Back in 2008/2009, …

Join us for our first Seattle Meet-up!

What:Stop by for some free food and network with others interested in architecture, urban planning, and transportation. Come meet local neighborhood bloggers (like the New Pioneer Square and Citywalker) and other great Seattle tweeps (like @hotel_max, @alexgarcia and @jessestrada).

When:Wednesday, Feb 175:30pm – 7:30pm

Where:Pike Brewing Co.1415 1st Ave.Seattle, WA Map

Who:Anyone and Everyone!Meet up hosted by the VIA and Banyan Branch

Are you on Twitter? RSVP here:

Monday News Roundup

Feb 08, 2010

Who takes public transit? (Granville Magazine) Did you know that 61% of Vancouver transit riders do so by choice, not necessity? Check out this and other statistics, including age, gender, employment and household income.

And while you’re checking that out, check out this study by the Mineta Transportation Institute: How to Ease Women’s Fear of Transportation EnvironmentsPortland to get 250ft Vertical Garden (Inhabitat)Our neighbors to the south always seem to be one or two steps ahead of us.

The rise of vertical farms (Scientific American)A nice post about vertical farming

Some lettuce grows in Manhattan (Archidose)A look at the forms that several hypothetical vertical farm proposals are taking

Vectorial Elevation

Be an artist – light up Vancouver’s skies YOUR way! Vectorial Elevation is an interactive artwork that allows participants to transform the sky over Vancouver, Canada.  As suburbs reach limit, people are moving back to the cities (Seattle PI)Desolate inner cities, surrounded by burgeoning suburban growth, were a feature of late 20th Century America. Donovan sees a reversal in the trend. “We’ve reached the limits of suburban development: People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities,” he said. Making city streets into Bicycle Corridors (Planetizen)

This post from GOOD looks at how a street can become a bicycle corridor.

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If you’re on twitter, follow us at @viaarchitecture

We’re having our first Seattle tweetup! Join us and @BanyanBranch @pikebrewing next Wednesday, …

by Matt Roewe, AIA, LEED APVIA’s Director of Mixed use and Major Projects

There has been a lot of discussion and debate lately regarding Mayor McGinn’s proposal to suspend the enforcement of a Seattle ordinance that prevents all-day paid parking near light-rail stations. Citizens are looking at the underutilized areas at these stations and now pressuring the mayor to change this policy. I have been discussing this in house at VIA with our planning and urban design team, as well as with my fellow planning commissioners. The Seattle Planning Commission is writing a letter to City Council and the Mayor with our thoughts on this. Look for that in the next week. Meanwhile, my personal thoughts are summarized here.

Not allowing park and rides in urban station areas is a generally a good policy Parking, especially when it is free and used all day by commuters, tends to become an issue that encourages driving as a habit, and works against good place-making and sustainable living strategies. However, some short term flexibility is worth considering while we dig our way out of this down economy.

The new light rail system needs more ridership supportI have heard that dally train boardings are underperforming expectations. So, until more capacity/density can be established within walking distance (rezoned and built), interim strategies should be explored. Significant responsive development may take 10 to 25 years to come to fruition in some station area locations. Even some station areas …

Monday News Roundup

Feb 01, 2010

Techno Jeep (YouTube) So once we get everyone out of their cars and on to a bus/train/their feet, what do we do with all those cars? We make music!

David Miller’s Legacy (CBC)Here’s an interesting interview with outgoing Toronto Mayor David Miller about his legacy with respect to his transportation initiatives.

Trainspotter’s guide to the future of the world (NY Times)A comparison of the new ultra-high-speed-train service in China, transportation in Europe and Japan, and why America is so far behind.

SF plans ambitious transit center (NY Times)San Francisco has an ambitious plan for a new urban neighborhood with a $4.2 billion public transit hub as the centerpiece of the project.

Three Cool Concepts for Urban Biking: (EcoGeek)The Copenhagen Wheel, YikeBike Mini-farthing, and underground bike storage.

New Commuter Shopping Centre (Global TC)Plans for Canada’s new commuter shopping centre unveiled in New Westminster.

About Active Living Research  (Active Living Research)The latest in best practice and research where public health meets urban design.

Obama to Give High Speed Rail the Go-Ahead (Daily Kos) Advocates are expecting a $2.5-$2.6 billion grant for the country’s first 150+ mph passenger train in Florida. “Not only are these the kind of projects that are long overdue in America, they also offer an opportunity for exactly the kind of messaging on government stimulus projects that the White House should be engaging in every week.”

A Bike-Ped State of the Union: 9.6% of Trips, 1.2% of Federal Funding (Streesblog Capitol Hill)“Overall, the report …

by Patricia Schultz, VIA Architecture

The first thing you see when you go to the 10×10 challenge site is that “you are joining a community of we thinkers around the world who are working to create a better global future.”

The idea of the “10 x10 challenge” is to list 10 commitments publicly on their site that you plan to follow that will make the world a better place. In return, $10 will be donated to Free the Children, an organization that helps create schools and offers clean water to children in under-developed countries.

Here is a list of the most popular commitments for the challenge:

  1. Turn off the lights (22,712)
  2. Drink water from a re-useable water bottle (20,025)
  3. Clean out my closet (16,869)
  4. Hug, hug, hug (16,589)
  5. Re-connect with an old friend (13,655)
  6. Read about a new social issue (11,586)
  7. Give a donation on someone’s behalf (8,864)
  8. Volunteer somewhere new (8,806)
  9. Say thank you — in writing (8,495)
  10. Buy organic products (8,437)

I urge you to take a few minutes to go to their site, take a look at what it’s all about, and list your own 10 commitments that you plan to do.

I’ve already gotten a head start on my #7 commitment: Tell more people about 10×10.

Just Trans It!

Jan 27, 2010

by Naomi Buell, Marketing Coordinator for VIA Architecture

It is shocking to think that the average person is exposed to between 600 to 3,000 advertising messages a day. Whether it be a banner ad on a website, a giant product ad on the side of a bus, or that catchy jingle you can’t get out of your head about Sprott- Shaw Community College…since 1903, we are exposed to advertisements everywhere we go. Some companies are even branding golf holes so that when you take out the flag it reveals a hidden logo in the hole.

So why is it that some of the most important services don’t market themselves?

In an interesting article about LA’s push to market its transit services, the author dispels the notion that money spent on marketing means less money for improvements to the service. Rather, he argues that marketing the service leads to more usage and therefore more efficiency. This is what Clayton Lane, a transport expert for EMBARQ, calls “the virtuous cycle.”


The “virtuous cycle” begins with a marketing campaign that increases awareness of the benefits of transit, or a campaign that aims to dispel the negative images of transit. This usually leads non users to try the service. The increase in demand is met by an increase in supply, which means new routes and more frequent bus or rail services. An increase in the number of …

Monday News Roundup

Jan 25, 2010

High-Speed Trains Return to U.S. Fast Track (Wired)Passenger Rail is becoming a viable option as President Obama calls for heavy investment America’s rail infrastructure. Michael Dukakis has been a long time advocate for mass transit + high speed rail; the post includes an interview on Dukakis’ thoughts on the future of rail in the US.

Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke (Wired)A discussion of the concept of nuclear power without waste or proliferation and the political appeal in the US.

Big City, Small Condos: ‘Micro-lofts’ to come to Vancouver (The Vancouver Sun)Reliance Properties Ltd and ITC Construction are behind new mini market rental suites in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Thirty 270 square foot units will be constructed in a 6-storey heritage building on West Hastings Street.

Axial Mapping (Digital Tectonics) A short post by a Welsh School of Architecture student who is doing Transport Interchange Modeling. The axial model and isovists grids that he mentions were recently outlined by VIA’s Lydia Heard on her city walker blog.

Taking transit saves you LOTS of money! (APTA)APTA study shows how much.

Architect Barbie in 2010? (Daily Dose of Architecture)Go vote! (+ empower young women) New Energy Hubs: Transit-Oriented Development Meets District Energy (WorldChanging)TOD meets District Energy: “This is a vision for a New Energy Hubs, a comprehensive community development model that meshes transit-oriented developments (TODs) with emerging energy technologies. Deploying advanced transportation and energy concepts in one geographically …

We had our first blogger meet up on Wednesday at the Roundhouse Community Centre. This project, which won a Gold Nugget Grand Award and the Lieutenant Governor’s award, was the perfect place to host our Vancouver meet up as we did the architectural design and heritage redevelopment. We had a great time meeting a great group of diverse bloggers — conversations around the room included local transit + planning ideas, the Southeast False Creek neighborhood, US politics, energy districts, the olympics, and even fashion.

The goal of the meetup was not only to learn more about some of our local bloggers, but also to continue the dialogue we started back in June when we produced the Great Urban Debate (Seattle vs. Vancouver). Instead of comparing Seattle vs Vancouver, however, we hope to facilitate conversation between cities in the Pacific Northwest, including Portland. We believe this will enable us to discuss important issues while getting feedback from those that are local, as well as our urban city counterparts.

As we continue our blogger meet ups, we invite any bloggers who attended or who write about Vancouver to join us for the Seattle meet up, scheduled for Wednesday, February 17th (more details coming soon). A big thanks also goes out our social media consultants at Banyan Branch for helping organize and run the event.

 Thanks to …

by Jihad Bitar, VIA Architecture

Recently, I’ve been having some trouble understanding what truly happened in COP15 (Conference of the Parties). Everything I have read or listened to thus far has described a piece of this elephant but nothing has given me any clear explanation of what really happened in Copenhagen. How successful was this expensive environmental party? How did it fail? Even the final accord fell short of what was expected from world leaders.

To make this post short, I’ll use the words of the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer, to outline the issues that Copenhagen was supposed to address:

“The four essentials calling for an international agreement in Copenhagen are:

  1. How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?
  2. How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?
  3. How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?
  4. How is that money going to be managed

If Copenhagen can deliver on those four points I’d be happy,” says Yvo de Boer. [source]

But Mr. de Boer wasn’t made happy because none of those essentials were discussed. Yet strangely, another accord emerged from a last minute meeting held behind closed doors between only 5 out of the 192 countries represented at the conference. …