Busy Belltown neighborhood about to see more green

SEATTLE - A vision more than 10 years in the making will finally become a reality for Belltown residents as the city starts construction on the new Bell Street Park Thursday.

The new park, located between First and Fifth Avenues on Bell Street will provide the high-density neighborhood more open space. The plan is to convert one traffic lane and reconfigure parking on Bell Street to build what the city calls a "park-like corridor" through the heart of Belltown.

"We think Bell Street Park is a great way to add park space in an urban environment," said James Sido, with the Downtown Seattle Association. "It's an innovative approach to right-of-way and sidewalk use."

While the Downtown Seattle Association is looking forward to the addition of a park in the neighborhood, Sido said they also know local business owners have some concerns about construction impacts, especially during the busy summer months.

"It's something we will be monitoring and staying in close contact with businesses adjacent to the project," he said.

In an effort to try and limit disruption for residents and nearby business owners, the city will construct the park in phases. The first phase, between First and Second Avenues, will be finished by the end of May.

The Downtown Seattle Association isn't the only organization in support of the new neighborhood open space. The Seattle Police Department sees the park as a way to help deter unwanted activity in the area.

"These types of park spaces attract community residents and are a great benefit to individual neighborhoods," said Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, with SPD. "The more people that show up, the more difficult it is for those who might engage in criminal conduct to do so discretely.

Money to pay for the project came from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy.

The idea behind the project was originally created as part of the 1998 Belltown/Denny Triangle Neighborhood Plan. Several neighborhood groups asked the city to develop the park due to the lack of open space areas in the neighborhood.