Last week a guest speaker in our “Affordable Housing” class told us about the upcoming Roosevelt Light Rail Station that is currently under construction. This station will be located along the west side of 12th Ave NE between NE 65th and NE 67th streets in the Roosevelt neighborhood and will include a plaza with seating, public art and bike parking. The expected completion of the station will be in late 2019. On the site of the upcoming station used to be a QFC store that got demolished in 2012 and moved to the University Village afterwards. Thus, the Roosevelt neighborhood lost a supplier of groceries. In several meetings of the neighborhood board, residents expressed their regret of this loss and the wish for a nearby supplier of daily goods. You could discuss now whether a light rail station or a grocery store adds more value to a neighborhood but in fact both of them don’t exclude each other. I looked at Seattle’s various link rail stations and found out that their dimensions are usually quite large and they are foremost a place where trains arrive and depart and passengers board and alight. One story buildings with elevators, escalators and stairs to the basement. “Of course”, you might think now, “they are light rail stations.”
But what if we look at those buildings from another perspective. Buildings that are frequented by thousands of passengers every day and usually located in the center of neighborhoods, easy accessible by bike, car or walking. Sounds like the wish list of a shopping center developer, right? Wouldn’t it be convenient to grab a croissant for breakfast on the way to work or to buy the newspaper and a coffee to go before entering the train commuting to work. Grabbing a “take away pizza” after a long workday on the way home from the station to your apartment.
As you can see, there are many ways how both passengers and retailers could benefit from retail spaces in light rail stations. However, the city of Seattle barely includes such in its plans for the construction of new stations. By doing so the city not only misses potential future rent income, but also the opportunity to enrich the neighborhoods with local supply of daily goods. The stores I am talking about are not meant to replace the stores like QFC or Fred Meyer, where you do your weekly grocery shopping which usually requires a car to transport the goods. It’s more the smaller scale stores like Trader Joe’s, Bartell Drugs, Starbucks, Subway, amazon pack stations, kiosks etc. that could complement the daily demand of the neighborhood’s residents.
I saw retail and metro stations matching in many cities, in countries all over the world. It happens in London, Hong Kong, Copenhagen, Minsk, Berlin and Paris. Providing retail spaces would benefit the retailers, the city, attracts customers and hence can elevate the use of the light rail.