There’s been a lot of dreaming around the potential of the Battery Street Tunnel—soon to be decommissioned and turned into a tomb for rubble from the soon-to-be-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct. A community effort last year called Recharge the Battery imagined repurposing the tunnel for everything from a mushroom farm to a bikeway.
Unfortunately, its fate is pretty much sealed. But local architecture firm the Miller Hull Partnership is still imagining a prettier, more people-first outcome—while still acknowledging it likely won’t become reality—and taking that sensibility to the whole of downtown.
“The Right Way: Taking Back Seattle’s Right of Ways” lays out a tree-lined dream for pedestrian corridors through downtown, one that flips a design that evolved from an automobile-first strategy into something created from the Pacific Northwest’s biodiversity, full of greenbelts, salmon runs, and pollinating plants.
Currently, the vision affects two major ravines: a Battery Street stretch that includes the tunnel, and another cascading down University Street, filtering stormwater from Denny Park and Freeway Park down to Elliott Bay. Heavily landscaped streets provide connective tissue for the downtown network.
Battery Street’s future is imagined as a tree-lined creek and trail network, bringing down the current ceiling support beams and latticing them into vertical supports interlaced with tall trees. Pedestrian walkways float above water collection infrastructure, creating a multi-purpose public commons that also helps combat the effects of a car-heavy reality.
For University Street, the vision is similar: a ravine flows from Freeway Park down to the waterfront, providing a pathway for humans, birds, and fish. The water not only provides a thoroughfare for aquatic creatures, but helps mask traffic noise as the rest of the habitat filters the air.
The University corridor has three major parts: a terrace pond running down from the park and a creek stretching through the center of the ravine past Rainier Tower, finishing in a waterfall past the Hammering Man and down the Harbor Steps.
While the ship has largely sailed on making the Battery Street stretch a reality—a spokesperson for Miller Hull called it “more of an ideas project”—and the University Street ravine is a pretty big dream, it’s an expansive take on a vision of shared streets.
“The greatest potential of the right of way lies in the fact that we all have ownership of this space and that we can redefine the priorities of the current city,” finishes a statement from Miller Hull. “Our public ways must function and perform in multiple ways.”