Historic Alley Reactivation in Seattle's Chinatown International District
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HISTORIC ALLEY REACTIVATION IN SEATTLE’S CHINATOWN INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT by Ching Chan, 2015, 55 pgs. Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Professor Daniel B. Abramson Alley reactivation – to activate underutilized alleys by bringing people, businesses, residences, and positive activities back into these right of ways – has been building up momentum in Seattle’s urban centers since 2007. More recently, the City has been progressive in gradually adopting programs and streamlined permitting processes for street vendors, sidewalk cafes, and parklets – all of which are programs that help activate streets and public spaces and enhance the pedestrian experience. A handful of alleys in Seattle have launched their reactivation campaign in recent years, including Canton Alley project. This is a good time for the City to evaluate its current regulations around the city’s alley network and reimagine the potential of alleys as vibrant public spaces. This thesis is a documentation of the Canton Alley project development, a grassroots effort to reactivate a historic alley in Seattle’s Chinatown International District through physical improvements. This historic alley reactivation project is a case study that examines the challenges and opportunities of Seattle’s urban alleys and a community’s quest to revert the current utilitarian uses of the alley to its historic community-centric uses. What are the current parameters around alleys through Seattle Department of Transportation? What resources are accessible to grassroots community groups? What are the roles that local authorities could play to help facilitate and encourage reactivation of alley spaces in Seattle’s urban centers? The purpose of this thesis is to provide an understanding and context of the public processes to reactivate an alley rich in history and culture from conception to preconstruction stage, lending first hand experience in working with a multi-ethnic community, the Seattle Department of Transportation, and local partners. It discusses challenges faced by Chinatown Historic Alley Partnership as well the incremental successes of the project. The significance of this research and alley reactivation project is organizing and working with the Chinatown International District community to find common ground, collaborate, take ownership of the underutilized public space, and fully develop the project amidst the challenges of securing funding and navigating the Seattle Department of Transportation’s system. A list of recommendations was developed, from the results and lessons learned from these processes, for community groups interested in reactivating their neighborhood alleys.
- Urban planning