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Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 11, 2009 at 4:29 PM

Pedestrian-friendly municipal code

Virginia Mason project keeps pedestrians in mind

A Seattle Times guest column [“Major institutions should not be immune from Seattle’s pedestrian-friendly municipal code,” seattletimes.com, Opinion, June 5] used the Virginia Mason hospital addition at the corner of Boren Avenue and Seneca Street as an example of a project that disregards pedestrian concerns. We would like to respond to this column and provide some additional information.

First and foremost, Virginia Mason has been and continues to be committed to public dialogue and communications throughout the building of the addition. Like all major institutions (hospitals and universities), our planning process is different from developers who are not subject to the Seattle Major Institutions Land Use Code.

We are required to create a Major Institution Master Plan, which guides our development plans, involves the city’s Department of Planning and Development and Department of Neighborhoods and is subject to years of public review and comment, including review by a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) appointed by the City Council.

In our experience, the public outreach required for major institutions is anything but token. As a result of our public outreach, citizens, including CAC members, worked diligently with us to achieve lower building heights, broader setbacks and, ultimately, a building more respectful of our neighborhood context.

The result of this process was an attractive building that reflects community input and features several pedestrian amenities, including wider sidewalks, new pedestrian lighting, new street trees and landscaping and a weather-protection canopy for pedestrians along Boren and Seneca.

Although the exterior walls now coming out of the ground are unfinished concrete, they are not the final exterior, as we have mentioned in our weekly construction bulletins that go out to hundreds of neighbors and interested community members. These concrete walls will be covered later with the attractive facades you can see represented on our Web site, at virginiamason.org.

Virginia Mason, like other major institutions, is required to involve the public in our planning, and we do so gladly because the result is a better building for the hospital and the community.

— Sarah Patterson, Virginia Mason Medical Center executive vice president and COO

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