Much community focus regarding urban form and architecture has (correctly) been on the Sound Transit parcels at the intersection of Broadway and John. There are, however, many other sites on the Hill that, collectively, deserve our attention. No inside information here, just observations of what I call Under Utilized Parcels: those that are either vacant, have surface parking, or whose current building clearly falls short of the site's zoning, potential use, or architectural role. Clearly, vacant lots and surface parking our easy to see as being in need of development; building out a site to its zoning and architectural potentials, however, is a qualifiable designation. Allowable maximum building height (per zoning) is by no means meant as an absolute metric by which to judge urban form, as Hill treasures such as the Loveless Building are not realizing their zoning limits but, nonetheless, add incomparable architectural quality to our neighborhood. Additionally, certain developers understand that maximizing height (and therefore building area) is not always the preferred action, and go so far as to restore, re-purpose, and rehabilitate buildings (as opposed to tear down to rebuild); or, neither do they do the similar oftentimes deleterious option of plopping three to four stories of graceless new construction on top of a one or two story historic property. The first approach (restore without desecrating) is on view at the newly restored homes for Elliot Bay Books, Melrose Market, and the Piston and Ring buildings.
Back to the Under Utilized Parcels concept; or, more apropos, have a look at the maps linked below. There may be plans for these, or there may not. Some information represented by these maps may even be out of date; however, the number of parcels is striking, and their implication astounding. If the collection of this real estate garnered the same level of scrutiny (or even a fraction there of) as the Sound transit TOD parcels, we could (should!) be having a more meaningful discussion on our hands about the future direction of our neighborhood. Many of these parcels maybe underutilized for many decades to come (fallow, as it were), whilst others certainly have plans in the making.
The scope of the study was limited, and focused on 12th Avenue (long neglected), Pike/Pine, and some of Broadway (but not too far north), basically in the vicinity of our office on 12th Avenue @ Denny. The graphic depictions may be off base to some readers, but I invite comments and opinions.