Belltown News



Mushroom farms. A composting laboratory for Bill Gates. And sewage storage in the heart of the city. All ideas for what to do with Seattle’s Battery Street Tunnel instead of simply closing it up and filling it in.

“It could be a laboratory for the Gates Foundation to finally work out their composting commode idea …” said Buster Simpson at the city council’s Sustainability and Finance Committee meeting Thursday. “I beg to differ with the engineering assessments that this cannot be secured and stabilized … Looks like we have to go to the governor, right? To convince him that if he wants to be president, this would be a great opportunity for him.”

The Battery Street Tunnel is slated to be filled in once the new Highway 99 tunnel opens later this year. The old tunnel has provided a route under Belltown — and has had a bladder control problem — since 1965.

Battery Street Tunnel

When the new tunnel was designed, it was agreed that the Washington State Department of Transportation would decommission the Battery Street Tunnel. The Seattle council is now considering a bill which allows the mayor to negotiate responsibilities for that job. It’s the latest in a series of agreements between the city and the state.

KIRO Radio Traffic Reporter Chris Sullivan says that the plan for the structure was cemented years ago.

“The tunnel is going to be filled in,” Sullivan says. “That’s the plan WSDOT has had. It’s part of the deal to complete the 99 tunnel project. It has an obligation to fill it in. WSDOT says the tunnel would need major updates and improvements to be used for anything else.”

The current plan is to hire a contractor to fill in the tunnel in the spring of 2018. Work will take 18-24 months. A parcel of land at the south end of the tunnel is being considered for new open space.

A group called Recharge the Battery has sprung up, however, to change WSDOT’s plan. Members spoke at the  Thursday meeting to promote other ideas. Councilmember Mike O’Brien noted that while he thinks good ideas have come from the community, halting the tunnel plan would have financial impacts for the city. The committee recommended moving the bill to the full council.

Seattle’s stinky problem

The most cited community suggestion is to use the tunnel for storm water overflow. Steven Fry with the 2030 District agrees with Recharge the Battery.

“We believe the Battery Street Tunnel is an invaluable asset to the continued sustainability of Belltown by adding storm water management capacity, providing a testing ground for new methods of wastewater treatment, or some other use determined after careful analysis,” Fry told the committee.

It’s not a new idea. Seattle bored another tunnel under Ballard, Fremont, and Wallingford to provide sewage / storm water storage. Another tunnel was constructed underneath the canal near Fremont.

When the city was designed more than 100 years ago, planners flushed sewage from homes and storm water into the same pipes. But as more streets were built and as heavy rain storms increased, those pipes have overflowed more often. Overflows push sewage into Puget SoundLake Union, and Lake Washington.Seattle and King County were fined for how often pipes overflow into natural waters.

The problem is expected to get worse as the region’s population continues to boom.

Syndicated from

By David Kroman

As Seattle races to increase its affordable housing stock, the City has a seismic retrofitting problem affecting nearly 2,000 apartments for low-income renters — that could cost as much as $80 million to fix. The city now faces an uncomfortable question: Should scarce dollars go towards making the existing housing safer at the potential expense of building new housing?

By cross-referencing the city’s list of unreinforced masonry buildings with its portfolio of affordable housing, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections has found as many as 39 buildings containing 1,873 affordable apartments that could be unsafe in an earthquake.

Estimating a retrofitting cost of $45 per square foot to bring them up to safety standards, the Office of Housing warned then Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan during her transition that the city could need as much as $79 million to upgrade the buildings.

The city has set aside funding for the preservation of existing affordable housing. But it has not earmarked anywhere close to the amount needed to fully upgrade the buildings, which leaves a large number of low-income residents vulnerable.

Unlike statewide efforts in earthquake-prone California and Oregon to upgrade all buildings, Seattle and Washington have done little to address this issue. In a council meeting last October, city officials concluded more than 1,100 buildings need seismic upgrades, which could cost as much as $1 billion. The Seattle Times reported that as many as 33,000 people live and work in unsafe buildings every day, including as many as 2,000 people living in affordable housing.

To determine the list of affordable housing units in unreinforced masonry buildings, senior structural engineer Nancy Devine of the Department of Construction and Inspections used permit records as well as on-site inspections and Google street views.

She came up with 39 buildings across Seattle with varying levels of retrofit. She sorted them into two categories: high-risk and medium-risk in the event of an earthquake. Buildings land in either category based on how much, if any, retrofitting has been done, the building’s location and the number of potential victims in case of a catastrophic quake. Two buildings could have the same level of existing seismic upgrades but its location in Pioneer Square — where the geology is less stable  — or its use as a preschool would elevate the building to “high-risk.”

Some buildings already have upgrades so the cost to fully retrofit them varies from as little as $5 per square foot up to $65. To average it out, Devine used the city’s standard average of $45 to come up with the $79 million total.

“That’s truly a ballpark, just to start the conversation,” she said.

The city’s affordable housing providers, which receive funding from Seattle as well as a number of other sources, function on tight budgets and cannot raise rents. Shouldering the full cost of seismically upgrading their buildings at current funding levels would be impossible, they say.

“This could be a $14 million issue,” says Brad Lange, senior director of Asset Management and Acquisitions for Capitol Hill Housing. The housing provider, which owns and manages nearly 50 buildings in the Seattle-area, was notified it had ten buildings that needed upgrades. “We don’t have $14 million lying around to pay for this. We’re already operating on a very thin margin.”

The City Council has revisited the issue of mandating seismic upgrades for decades, including as early as last August. As reported by The Times, City Hall is unlikely to push a mandate until 2019, at the earliest. Lange says his organization is committed to providing safe housing to its residents, but mandating upgrades would be difficult without additional government support. “If government agencies mandate repair and owners are unable to make those repairs, there’s no option but to demolish the building,” he says. That could leave more people without homes.

His colleague at Capitol Hill Housing, Dylan Locati, echoed the point. “To think about adding on this other mandate for preservation, there’s got to be another source of funding.”

But recent battles for more housing dollars have not come easy. In August 2016, voters approved an affordable housing levy to raise $290 million over 7 years, or just over $40 million a year. But only $6 million per year is reserved for operation and maintenance costs; the majority of the total is earmarked to build or purchase new affordable housing.

The City Council also went through a protracted fight over whether to use bonds — essentially its credit card — to raise more money in the short term for affordable housing. It ended up pushing forward $25 million, which will mostly go toward building new units.

The council, during last fall’s budget season, engaged in a bitter fight over a proposed business tax to raise an additional $25 million for affordable housing. The tax proposal failed but efforts to revive it continue.

And the City Council recently signed off on Durkan’s proposal to sell publicly-owned land parcels property to recoup $11 million for affordable housing.

Lange understands the politics of all of this. The city “wants to say they’re building new units to address the affordability crisis,” he says. “But the city has a huge portfolio of properties they’re already investors in.”

Capitol Hill Housing is hiring engineers to get a better understanding of how much work needs to be done on each of its buildings. In addition to the 10 on the city’s list, it’s inspecting an additional six.

Locati emphasizes that any solution will likely take state and federal funds, as well as city dollars. But all three levels have moved slowly. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Syndicated from, featured photo source Matt McKnight/Crosscut.

Gather up your squad and head down to the market on Friday, March 23rd for a fabulous, fun event that brings together a diverse selection of over 70 local vendors to delight you with tastes of their delectable products. And their vendor list is still growing!

Arcade Lights is a wonderful opportunity to sample a selection of delicious drinks, foods and sweet treats, from a wide array of local, small-batch, and artisan vendors. Arcade Lights is always a great time and a wonderfully festive event, where you can enjoy something local and tasty, try something new and have a blast, under the Arcade Lights!

Year after year, Arcade Lights brings new comers and local favorites together to showcase their products and have you wanting more, and this year looks to be no exception. Where else will you find Elleno’s Greek Yogurt, Etta’s, Swede Hill Distilling, Fremont Brewing, Poquitos, Nutty Squirrel Gelato, Schilling Cider and many more local loves all at the same place? Only in Seattle, and only at Arcade Lights.  Be sure to check out a full list of vendors and brace yourself for taste bud nirvana!


2018 brings with it a couple new and exciting additions to Arcade Lights. Explore the brand new MarketFront expansion and be sure to check out the new and improved Night Market at Arcade Lights! On top of the already incredible 70+ artisanal food and drink vendors, some the Market’s own artisan crafters will be getting in on the fun! Night Market vendors will be there to show off their unique, hand-made goods and crafts, all available for sale. Come for the food and drinks, stay for the cool, locally made stuff!

This year’s event is sponsored by Seattle MetDRY Sparkling, DEI Creative, American Lamb and Edelman. As always, proceeds go to benefit the Pike Place Market Foundation which helps to maintain our beloved Pike Place Market and keep the community thriving.



Grab your tickets before they’re gone, and get ready for fun under the Arcade Lights!

Arcade Lights at Pike Place Market, 7:00 pm, Friday, March 23rd


General Admission – $75
Tickets include tastes of as many of the hand-crafted savory and sweet bites as your heart desires – while supplies last – and include five tokens for tastes of beer, cider, non-alcoholic drinks such as root beer and sodas and wine. Tasting glass included. Additional tokens will be available for purchase.

Premium Entry – $90
Limited Quantity Available! Premium Entry into Arcade Lights 30-minutes before the General Admission crowd takes over the Arcade! Includes 5 drink tokens, unlimited food, plus EARLY ENTRY at 6:30PM.

VIP with Early Entry – $150
VIP guests have exclusive access to the VIP Lounge on the *NEW* MarketFront, which includes seating, music, and sweeping views of Elliott Bay and the Seattle Skyline with exclusive food and beverage tastings from elite vendors. VIP Guests receive 5 drink tokens and unlimited food, and can enter the VIP Lounge at 6:00PM to begin celebrating before entering the Main Arcade at 6:30PM with Premium Entry. VIP guests can use the VIP Lounge at their luxury anytime throughout the night.

Arcade Lights is a 21 and over only event, so please plan accordingly.

For more information, visit the Pike Place Market website.

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, there’s no better time to celebrate the beauty and depth of the Irish culture, and Seattle Center’s Festal is gearing up to do just that!

Head to Seattle Center on Saturday, March 17th and Sunday, March 18th and find a serious taste of the Emerald Isle right here in the heart of in the Emerald City. Festal’s Irish Festival will bring to life a multifaceted, in-depth adventure through Ireland, its history and traditions, no passport necessary.

Enjoy a fun and fascinating exploration of Irish cultural heritage, past and present, through visual arts, live performance, games, activities, and of course, food! Explore the market place featuring Irish handicrafts, live Irish music and that famous and oh-so-impressive Irish step dancing.

Do you have the luck of the Irish? Find out by tracing your own roots in geology workshops (yes! That’s at the festival!), and learn a bit of the Celtic language while you’re at it. The festival also promises Irish movies and short films, cultural exhibits and live demonstrations and maybe even a few Irish celebrities!


Festal is a series of multi-cultural events presented by and at the Seattle Center each year. Now in its 21st year, Festal continues to shine a light on the beauty and majesty of cultures across the globe by showcasing their rich and complex traditions, histories, art, music, dance, food and much more. Festal’s Irish Festival is presented in partnership with the Irish Heritage Club of Seattle.


Whether you’re looking to learn more about your own heritage, wanting to learn more about Ireland and its culture in general, or you’re simply tired of leprechauns and green beer and looking for a more authentic experience, Festal’s Irish Festival is sure to be a fun and fabulous way to spend your St. Patty’s Day weekend.

Seattle Center Festál
Irish Festival
March 17-18, 2018
Armory Main Level

Angie’s Umbrella in Belltown.   Photos:  Alethea Myers

Ever wonder about that big, red umbrella on the small traffic island where Elliott and Western Avenues merge at Lenora Street? Standing 30 feet tall, this kinetic sculpture’s brushed aluminum red “fabric” is blown inside-out in a perpetual storm, turning like a weather vane in the wind, and named Angie’s Umbrella.

Why is it here? Angie’s Umbrella is one of a series of public artworks that mark the border where Pike Place Market ends and Belltown begins. A Seattle Arts commission process selected the public artist for this project.

Who created it, and what are they doing now? Jim Pridgeon was chosen as the artist by a neighborhood jury, the former Denny Hill Association, and they liked his upturned umbrella idea. Pridgeon then worked with artist Benson Shaw to co-design the final idea and bring it to fruition, which took roughly 2+ years.

  • Jim Pridgeon, in addition to being an artist, has worked for over 40 years in the UW Medicine Neurological Surgery department. Jim has worked as a research administrator, summer neuroscience program manager, grant writer, communications writer, scientific papers co-author related to research, and co-taught a class on “Art and the Brain” with a neuroscientist. He has also created museum-based installations locally and nationally, and says of his co-collaborator on different art projects, “Benson [Shaw] has been absolutely critical to the success of many of those works.”
  • Benson Shaw, a full-time public artist then and now, creates works for neighborhoods and local organizations (city, county, state, transit). He is often the mover and shaker who brings the necessary pieces, vendors, and people of a project together. Besides co-designing this Belltown project with Pridgeon, Benson also managed the fabrication and installation of Angie’s Umbrella. On his own projects and with other artists, he provides project management, planning, design, procurement, CAD services, fabrication and installation. Benson is also integral in historic preservation, such as replacing Ballard’s historic sidewalk street names.

Who was Angie, and why is it dedicated to her? The plaque embedded in the sidewalk northwest of the sculpture states, “in honor of Angie Pridgeon, optimist”.  Jim Pridgeon’s mom, Angilee Frankie Pridgeon, had a positive outlook on life and was 86 years old then. In her life, she showed true grit: being born on a ranch in Oklahoma without the aid of a doctor, herding cattle, surviving a tornado that tore off their roof, supporting her parents for over a year due to health issues after losing their ranch during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression, and lived through personal losses during World War II. She became a pilot in 1944. While working on the umbrella project, Jim Pridgeon regularly flew down to San Diego to take his mom to her doctor appointments. In spite of the cancer she was experiencing, Angie went out of her way to introduce herself and engage with everyone in the waiting room, he said.

In addition to a nod to our local windy days, like Angie herself, the sculpture could also signify resilience and optimism, in spite of rainy weather. As Jim Pridgeon recently put it, “She always made the best of things and, for her, a blown-out umbrella would have been both very funny and a great story to tell.”

The sidewalk plaque near Angie’s Umbrella.  In addition to those listed, Cristalla Condominiums was also a sponsor and Murray Franklyn provided a major grant.