Cutting off Winslow Way is tough sell

"The block was ripe for redevelopment.Situated in the heart of a thriving downtown district, flanked by a popular five-story shopping mall and minor transit hub and surrounded by other high-profile retail outlets, it was a prime location for a posh department store.There was only one catch - the next block was closed to car traffic, forming a pedestrian mall with an adjacent park.Ah, the developer said, but we need drop-off traffic. Reopen the street, or we won't redevelop the block.And, as readers will recall, the Nordstrom family prevailed; Seattle's Pine Street was reopened between Fourth and Fifth, and in went a new flagship location for the hometown department store empire.We thought back to this debate from a few years ago, as several islanders try to rally support (reported elsewhere in this issue) for closing off part of Winslow Way with a goal of improving both commerce and personal interaction. "

  • Wednesday, December 27, 2000 3:00pm
  • News

“The block was ripe for redevelopment.Situated in the heart of a thriving downtown district, flanked by a popular five-story shopping mall and minor transit hub and surrounded by other high-profile retail outlets, it was a prime location for a posh department store.There was only one catch – the next block was closed to car traffic, forming a pedestrian mall with an adjacent park.Ah, the developer said, but we need drop-off traffic. Reopen the street, or we won’t redevelop the block.And, as readers will recall, the Nordstrom family prevailed; Seattle’s Pine Street was reopened between Fourth and Fifth, and in went a new flagship location for the hometown department store empire.We thought back to this debate from a few years ago, as several islanders try to rally support (reported elsewhere in this issue) for closing off part of Winslow Way with a goal of improving both commerce and personal interaction. We’re not sure about the interaction part. By our observation, most outdoor gambols in these parts are seasonal by necessity; even the best conversations go south when it’s raining sideways. But for the sake of argument, we’ll suggest a few things that would have to fall into place first, if the Winslow Way mall would have any chance of success:* Linking Wyatt Way with the highway. No closure of Winslow Way, even a short stretch, could succeed without new routes to the ferry terminal – and we’re not talking about Ericksen Avenue. Most sensible from a traffic standpoint (if perhaps not an environmental one) would be a new span across the ravine, making the highway a straight shot for south-end traffic heading to the highway and ferry hub. And that involves bringing in the state, and finding money.* Construction of Town Square or some other parking facility. As envisioned, the proposal would eliminate dozens of parking spaces in front of some of downtown Winslow’s key retailers and service providers – including restaurants, the hardware store and two popular banks. This, in a core generally lamented for its lack of parking. Losing those spaces without a nearby structure of some sort would drive even more shoppers off-island.* Hell freezes over. Alright, that may be a little extreme. But look at some merchants’ and motorists’ reaction to traffic calming on Madison Avenue – and that only involved putting some new curves in the roadway. Think white pylons got a poor reception? Try barricades.This is not to suggest that pedestrian enhancements are a poor idea. To the contrary, the proposed redevelopment of the Lundgren station and Doogals corners should further enhance the mixed-use, village-like atmosphere of the downtown core. And with Winslow Way reconstruction now pushed back until 2004, there’s plenty of time to make sure the design includes wider sidewalks, pavilion areas, and more of the excellent crosswalk islands that have been added to the street over the past decade.As we see it, different commercial districts have different characters; we suspect the closed-street notion would play better on Front Street in Poulsbo, a quaint but generally useless little strip of bakeries and gift shops targeted at tourists and day-trippers. The absence of vehicle traffic would hardly be noticed, as folks do their real shopping – for groceries, hardware and other goods of substance – elsewhere.But on Winslow Way, which continues to thrive as a vital, vibrant, full-service Main Street, drop-off traffic is still key.So don’t sell us, sell the merchants. Good luck. “

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