Visions of Vibrancy: Seattle

The vibrancy of cities comes in all shapes and sizes. Many believe that what works in internationally known cosmopolitan settings may not be applicable for cities such as Jacksonville, which have struggled with embracing walkability. If we look hard enough, we may realize that this type of view should be challenged. Despite the diversity around the globe, all lively cities, downtowns, and urban cores have something in common: being pedestrian friendly. Today, Metro Jacksonville visits the streets of a Pacific Coast peer: Seattle.

Published April 23, 2015 in Cities -

Seattle is the largest city in both Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America.  Seattle's metropolitan area is home to 3.6 million residents and is the 15th largest in the United States. Currently, it's one of the fast-growing major cities in the country, adding 43,745 residents since 2010.

Tale of the Tape

To help Jaxsons gain a better understanding of the scale of Seattle, here are a few statistics of the city in relation to Jacksonville:


Seattle City Population 2013: 652,405 (City); 3,610,105  (Metro 2014) - (incorporated in 1869)

Jacksonville City Population 2013: 842,583 (City); 1,419,127 (Metro 2014) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Seattle (467,591)

City Land Area

Seattle: 83.87 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2014)

Seattle: +6.73%
Jacksonville: +5.46%

Urban Area Population (2010 census)

Seattle: 3,059,393 (ranked 14 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)

Seattle: 7,774 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2010 to 2013

Seattle: +43,745
Jacksonville: +20,799

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Seattle: Washington State Convention Center (1988) - 205,700 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Tallest Building:

Seattle: Columbia Center - 943 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Who's Downtown Is More Walkable?

Seattle: 98 out of 100, according to 2015
Jacksonville: 72 out of 100, according to 2015

Seattle neighborhoods shown in this article include the Waterfront, West Edge, Retail Core, Pioneer Square, Belltown, and Lake Union. Map courtesy of

Seattle also has a lot in common with Jacksonville, from a historical and economic perspective.  However, a gulf exists when it comes to investing in quality of life for residents in the urban core. Seattle is a city that has succeeded at turning ideas into reality. Take a look!


Sound Transit Link Light Rail is a rapid transit project in the Greater Seattle region, originally approved by a ballot measure in November 1996. Two lines are currently operating as of 2009: Tacoma Link and Central Link. Tacoma Link is a free LRT line running through downtown Tacoma. Central Link is a 13.9-mile LRT line connecting Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with downtown Seattle. A 3.1-mile extension between downtown and the University of Washington, the University Link, a is expected to open in 2016.


The 0.96-mile Seattle Center Monorail connects Seattle Center with downtown's Westlake Center.The monorail, which cost $3.5 million to build, opened on March 24, 1962 for the Century 21 Exposition, a World's Fair held at the current site of Seattle Center. Annual ridership is around two million.

Jacksonville Connection: Jacksonville's JTA Skyway is a 2.5-mile monorail system surving downtown. The JTA Skyway opened in 1989.


Also called "SLU," South Lake Union is a rapidly growing urban neighborhood between downtown and the south tip of Lake Union.


Home to several cycle tracks, shared use paths, protected bicycle lanes and other facilities, Seattle is recognized as one of America's most bike friendly cities.

Jacksonville Connection: Along with Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, Jacksonville has been deemed one of the most dangerous cities in the US for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Lake Union

Lake Union is a 580-acre freshwater lake entirely within the Seattle city limits and a major part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
Lake Union received its present name from Thomas Mercer, who in 1854 correctly predicted that canals would someday join Lake Washington to Puget Sound in a "union of waters." The northern shore of the lake is home to Gas Works Park. Boeing began production on Lake Union in 1916. The lake is also historically known for its floating homes, shipyards, wharfs, and sawmills have also dotted the shore.








The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks is a complex of locks that sits at the west end of Salmon Bay, part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Also, known locally as the Ballard Locks, the complex prevents the mixing of sea water from Puget Sound with fresh water of the lakes along the shipping canal.


Gas Works Park is a 19.1-acre public park on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, located on the north shore of Lake Union. Gas Works park contains remnants of the sole remaining early 20th century coal gasification plant ruins in the country.

Jacksonville Connection: Jacksonville's coal gasification plant was located along Hogans Creek, near the intersection of Main and State Streets. It was one of the few Northbank sites to survive the Great Fire of 1901. Long demolished, several redevelopment projects have faltered in recent years due to contamination concerns from the site's coal gasification days.



With spectacular views of Elliott Bay, Seattle's Waterfront is one of the city's most unforgettable neighborhoods.  Here, visitors can enjoy fresh Pacific Northwest seafood, eclectic souvenir and curio shops, scenic ferry rides, and the Seattle Aquarium. It's a great example of repurposing late 19th century/early 20th century wharves for use in the 21st century.

Jacksonville Connection: The Northbank Riverfront was once lined with wharves, similar to Seattle's waterfront. Considered blight, the majority of wharf structures were demolished and replaced with surface parking lots during the 1950s and 1960s. A portion of those large lots, the courthouse parking lot, recently collapsed into the river. Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate Jacksonville's waterfront?




The Alaskan Way Viaduct is a double-decked elevated section of State Route 99, running along the Elliott Bay waterfront in the industrial district and downtown of Seattle. It was built in phases between 1949 and 1953. Efforts are underway to replace the structure with a tunnel.

Jacksonville Connection: The Hart Bridge Expressway viaduct is Jacksonville's version of Seattle's Alaskan Way. Like the Alaskan Way viaduct, it was built to separate traffic from the city's industrial waterfront. The time is rapidly approaching when Jacksonville will need to seriously consider the future of its aging viaduct.



The Seattle Great Wheel is a giant Ferris wheel at Pier 57. With an overall height of 175', it was the tallest Ferris wheel on the West Coast when it opened on June 29, 2012.

Jacksonville Connection" None. However, there is a much larger observation wheel preparing to open in Orlando.


So this is what you get when you mix recreational cannabis and fermented beverages on the Seattle waterfront....

Victor Steinbrueck Park is a popular place for tourist, the mentally ill, vagrants, alcoholics, and drug addicts. However, at least on Metro Jacksonville's day, everyone from all walks of life seemed to be enjoying a common amenity.....sunshine!

Jacksonville Connection: Jacksonville isn't the only city in the United States that has to deal with vagrants and homelessness. Vagrancy should not be tolerated as an excuse for downtown's revitalization problems.



A major gateway for trade with Asia, Seattle is the 8th largest port in the United States and 9th largest in North America in terms of container handling (

Jacksonville Connection: JAXPORT is the 11th largest port in the United States and 13th largest in North America in terms of container handling.



The Space Needle is an iconic observation tower built for the 1962 World's Fair.

Jacksonville Connection: In 2013, Killashee Investments introduced the idea of building a 1,000' tall observation tower at the Shipyards. According to Killashee, SEAGLASS tower would serve as the city's arrival on the international stage. However, this proposal never gained traction with Jaguars owner Shad Khan rumored as being interested in the property. A few months after their announcement, Killashee moved on to other endeavors.


Elliott Bay Trail (Terminal 91 Bike Path) is a popular 3.4-mile shared use path along the Seattle waterfront.

Jacksonville Connection: The urban Jacksonville waterfront is home to two shared use paths. The Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks.




The SAM Olympic Sculpture Park Pocket Beach.

West Edge/Pike Place Market

West Edge is a four-block wide section of downtown Seattle stretching from Belltown to Pioneer Square. It is home to some of Seattle’s most memorable landmarks, including the Pike Place Market, Seattle Art Museum and Benaroya Hall. Established in 1907, Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the United States.

Jacksonville Connection: The Jacksonville Farmers Market is the state's only public market open seven days a week. Established in 1938, the market attracts 25,000 visitors each week.











RapidRide is a six line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system carrying riders on nearly 53,500 trips per day. The 64-mile system first began service in October 2010.

Jacksonville Connection: The first phase of JTA's First Coast Flyer BRT system is currently under construction in downtown.


The Pronto Cylce Sharing bike share system was launced on October 13, 2014. Bike sharing allows individuals to check out bicycles for short trips. Pronto’s cycle sharing system was launched with 500 bikes and 50 stations in Downtown, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union and the University District.





Retail Core

Downtown Seattle's Retail Core is home to the city's largest concentration of department stores and retail shops. It is also anchored by the Washington State Convention Center.












The Seattle Central Library opened in 2004 and was designed by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus of OMA in a joint venture with LMN Architects and Front Inc. Facade Consultants. In 2007, the building was voted #108 on the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) list of Americans' 150 favorite structures in the U.S.

Jacksonville Connection: Jacksonville's Main Library opened in 2005 and was designed by architect Robert A.M. Stern.



The Washington State Convention Center opened on June 18, 1988. Featuring a 205,700-square foot exhibition hall, the convention center is a multi-level, mixed-use center featuring theatres, retail, dining and hotel space in addition to meeting facilities.

Jacksonville Connection: The Prime Osborn Convention Center is an isolated meeting facility offering 78,500-square feet of exhibition space. Completed in 1986, it struggles because of a lack of complementing uses within a walkable setting.




Belltown is the most densely populated neighborhood in downtown Seattle.
In recent decades it has transformed into a neighborhood of trendy restaurants, boutiques, nightclubs, and residential towers as well as warehouses and art galleries.

Jacksonville Connection: Brooklyn is rapidly becoming Jacksonville's version of Belltown.







Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square is downtown Seattle's oldest area. It is known for its exquisite Victorian and Edwardian Era architecture, classic restaurants, bars and nightlife, extensive furniture, rug and antique shopping, and art galleries. It is also home to CenturyLink Field and Seattle Seahawks and Sounders FC.

Jacksonville Connection: East Bay Street is downtown Jacksonville's oldest section.






Photo tour by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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Metro Jacksonville