Community Post

James Court as Woonerf?

Last  Monday night the Parks and Green Space Levy Opportunity Fund Committee took public testimony about projects from neighborhood groups competing for Opportunity Fund dollars.  A project in the 12th Avenue neighborhood is one of about fifteen (out of more than eighty applicants) that’s received preliminary recommendation for funding.  This is cause for optimism, but the Committee will continue to consider the choices before it makes its final recommendation in December.

The neighborhood proposal for James Ct. has received one of the highest rankings by the Parks Department staff applying the Parks and Green Space Levy Opportunity Fund criteria.  However, the Opportunity Fund Committee, which will make the final recommendation, will take many factors into consideration.  It’s important for our neighborhood to make sure that the Committee continues to understand the value of the James Ct. woonerf project.
If the final recommendation includes the woonerf, there’ll be funding to develop James Court., a one-block street from 12th Avenue to 13th Avenue just south of E. Cherry Street, into a place that will enhance and expand the small city park being developed to the south of  James Court. 
The City recognizes that the 12th Avenue “urban village” had one of the fastest growth rates in the City after the adoption of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan.  Also we’re a neighborhood seriously “underserved” by city parks.  (The only park in the 12th Avenue urban village is Horiuchi Park.)  But, because land in our neighborhood is zoned for lowrise or midrise development, acquiring land for a new park is expensive.  By developing the public right-of-way in James Court as a woonerf, it would be possible to provide a needed public space without having to come up with the cost of acquiring land.
The criteria for Parks and Green Space Levy Opportunity Fund give preference to projects that “demonstrate new and creative methods to meet the community’s needs for parks, green spaces and green infrastructure.”  The James Court woonerf does that. 
As of yet, there’s no detailed design for the woonerf.  If the Opportunity Fund dollars are approved, design for a street that will enhance and complement the adjacent park will begin.  Instead of pavement, and use by vehicles only, there will be a permeable surface, and landscaping and other features to encourage use by people not in cars. (However, the street will not be vacated and vehicles will still be able to use the street in its altered form.)  Also, as the Seneca Group completes the construction of the mixed-use building on the north side of James Court., that developer will pay for enhanced landscaping and storm water management systems on the portion of its property that faces James Court.  With the contribution and cooperation of the private developer it will be possible to develop a woonerf with much greater impact than would be possible with City Parks funding only.
(For a longer explanation of “woonerf” you may consult — what else? —  “Woonerf” is a Dutch word that has come to be used for this kind of idea in Seattle and other places in the U.S.  What is envisioned for James Court  might be closer to the wikipedia definition of what is called in Britain, “home zone”.)
There is hope that the new park and adjacent woonerf can become an outdoor gathering place that is the community focal point the 12th Avenue neighborhood lacks. And, for the future, there’s a thought that asnearby Barclay Court and Remington Court are developed there can be a similar treatment of those streets to create three unique street environments that will be a signature of the neighborhood. This could be particularly important as King County moves forward in its development of the Juvenile Court site south of Remington Court. (This could happen soon if the sales tax-increase measure on this November’s ballot is approved.)
An important criterion for the Parks and Green Space Levy Opportunity Fund is a demonstrated high degree of neighborhood involvement and support .   If you are able to send to the Parks Department a short (or long) message stating your support, with a few reasons why, that would be most helpful.
E-mails regarding the Opportunity Fund can be send to the Parks Department in care of  [email protected] 


For more information on the Parks and Green Space Levy Opportunity Fund:
To read more about the adjacent park that is in the process of being designed:  and  (The park, as opposed to the woonerf, is funded and construction will commence some time in 2011.  The Opportunity Fund application that’s being considered by the Opportunity Fund Committee at this time is only for the development of the woonerf in the street.)

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