Northgate Transit Center

This $15.8 million dollar 12 bus transit station on 4.78 acres with a 300 car park-and-ride lot on First Avenue next to the Northgate Shopping Mall north of Seattle, WA serves as a symbolic focus for a diverse and dispersed community. It features a Teflon coated fiberglass canopy roof stretching across a 255-foot platform island covering smaller, individual ornamental steel shelters marking each bus bay.

Island of light

The need for extended bus service to communities north of Seattle prompted the formation of a public/private joint development project for a transit center in the Northgate neighborhood of North Seattle that serves downtown Seattle, Aurora Village, Ballard, Greenlake, Greenwood, Horizon View, Wallingford, Phinney Ridge, Richmond Beach, Woodinville, and the University District.

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At night when the canopy is illuminated from below, the station can be seen from a mile away.

Sixteen initial alternatives studied nine sites to identify the best relationships between the Northgate shopping mall and concepts for station, bus, future light rail, surface parking, and eventual structured parking improvements.

Four alternatives survived reviews of detailed design and order of magnitude cost estimates. Platform designs varied in bus bay layout and shelter design. The chosen alternative aligned north/south, parallel with the interstate freeway and anticipated a 1,300 car parking garage with upper level connections to a future light rail terminal.

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Concept section with parking structures.

More importantly, the chosen alternative stretched everyone's preconceived ideas of what a platform cover should look like. Comparing costs side by side, the station concept covered by a translucent tensioned fabric looked affordable and too irresistible to pass up.

The overall design organized around a "tree of life" theme proposed by the team's Landscape Architect. The canopy branches across the platform from two central steel "trees" connecting riders with maps, bus status, and trip information.

These centers gather riders from the "trunks" of two parallel pedestrian aisles originating from the "roots" of the adjacent densely landscaped park-and-ride lot. This metaphor gave rise to the artwork inhabiting the site in the form of a variety of cut and shaped cor-ten steel "critters" and terrazzo "critter pools."

Because this project involved more public participation than most projects, it followed a well-disciplined and documented approach to analysis and design. Rather than stamping the site with a cookie cutter region wide transit system overlay, the station became a unique form of art that grew out of work with the Maple Leaf neighborhood.

The station created an inviting and secure transit experience at any hour of day or night despite the overwhelming presence of a large shopping center, a sea of parking, a major freeway and abutting arterials. It proved highly accessible and able to withstand abuse, and it anticipated future structured parking and light rail services.

The contractor began in early 1990 and completed the project on time for the transit center’s grand opening on May 30, 1992. In 2002, King County Metro Transit added 500 parking stalls to the park and ride lot. As anticipated, the County then joined forces with the city of Seattle, Northgate Mall management, the state Department of Transportation, the Maple Leaf Community and Sound Transit to integrate the transit center with a future super-block development that could include a new light rail station, street improvements for buses and pedestrians, a parking structure for park-and-ride use and a mixed use development with housing, cinema, retail, hotel, offices and open space.

Awards

Commendation Award

Portland Daily Journal of Commerce
1992
"We see here a socially-conscious project ... a holding place for commuters who leave their cars to access mass transit.
Here they are offered an amusing and comfortable protected area, a space that addresses and pleases the user, transforming the experience of waiting for a bus into town.
As it mellows with age and use, it'll get better."

Outstanding Example of Excellence in Concrete Construction

Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association
1993

Responsible for

Active from early planning through construction punch-list. Landscape Architect in site planning phase. Lead Architect on schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding and administration phases. Collaborated with Metro engineers, a canopy architect, and specialty engineers. Met with Seattle area fabricators to validate materials, methods and specs prior to construction. Oversaw construction contract conformance through change requests, material submittals, shop drawings and site visits. Hand-drafted architectural drawings.

Meta

Role: Landscape Architect

Setting: ZGF Architects, WSDOT - Urban Design & Planning

Location: Northgate, Washington

Year: 1987 to 1992