SeaTac’s Tukwila International Boulevard Station, located at the center of SeaTac’s South 154th Street station area. Image by Sean Marshall via Flickr.
SeaTac, WA, is a new, exceptionally diverse city adjacent to both Seattle and Tacoma (as its name suggests) and home to the region’s international airport. So what’s it lacking? Transit-oriented development and neighborhoods that will lure new residents to take advantage of what SeaTac has to offer. Deputy Mayor and City Councilmember Mia Gregerson supports using smart growth strategies to achieve both.
Gregerson is a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, a nonpartisan group of municipal officials who share a passion for building great towns, cities, and communities. Gregerson, who has served as a member of SeaTac’s City Council since 2008 and is also the city’s Deputy Mayor, says that that a main challenge for SeaTac is that its convenient location and new road infrastructure have not been enough to create a compelling sense of place in the young city.
Deputy Mayor Mia Gregerson. Photo via the City of SeaTac, WA.
“To me, we don’t have neighborhoods in SeaTac, we don’t have a city center, we don’t have a downtown,” says Gregerson. “People are just trying to get through my city as fast as they can, and I dream about our city becoming a destination.”
What SeaTac does have is regional transit connections through the Seattle area Link Light Rail line, and Gregerson sees transit as an opportunity for placemaking. Two stations, including one serving the airport directly, are already in use and an extension to the southern part of SeaTac will be completed in 2016.
“We are so lucky to have these three light rail stations,” Gregerson says. “But if you look at the development around the stations, you’ll see no change. It’s very much surface parking.”
The City is focused on creating walkable areas at each of the light rail stations with a mix of housing options that will be “attractive and inviting places” both for residents and visitors. Gregerson is particularly involved in working to implement the South 154th Street Station Area Action Plan, which calls for a transformation of the several parking lots surrounding the Tukwila International Boulevard Station on South 154th Street into a mixed-use, walkable neighborhood with public spaces that reflect SeaTac’s diversity.
This transformation will happen through zoning changes, the creation of more pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and intersections and restrictions that ensure parking facilities are in keeping with the new neighborhood character. The City has already begun to implement zoning changes around that station that will allow for higher densities and new commercial development.
Gregerson’s advice to other local leaders working on introducing smart growth to their community is to monitor the balance among the interests of business, the public and government when working on an ambitious project that involves all three. “When these voices are in harmony,” she says, “everything you do will continue to progress.”