City Of Burien Releases Study On Ways To Improve SW 153rd Corridor

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The City of Burien released a new study Wednesday (Oct. 12) that focuses on finding ways to improve the SW 153rd Street corridor, with hopes of it becoming its “own unique destination.”

The study was created by a 12-person panel of local business owners, residents and artists, as well as members of the BEDP, Parks Department, City Council and other related groups. It outlines enhancements the city says are needed to help the district, with more than 90 small businesses, reach its economic potential.

The city’s goal is to “create a strong, unique identity for SW 153rd Street as a destination corridor in downtown Burien” according to the study.

Here’s more from the study, which can be downloaded as a PDF file here:

SW 153rd … is inconspicuous relative to other areas of downtown, such as SW 152nd Street and 4th Avenue SW, and the City desires to look at ways to support and enhance its economic vitality. Opportunities to give the corridor a stronger identity and clearer wayfinding are important to its economic vitality within downtown. With over 90 businesses located between 1st Avenue S to the east and Ambaum Boulevard SW to the west, the corridor is ready to be discovered as its own unique destination in downtown.

As a preliminary step, the goal of this study was to identify whether there is support from business and property owners for enhancements and to discuss what direction those enhancements should take. This study does not identify actual solutions but is meant to provide the context for enhancements. The next step will be to convene a stakeholder group, along with designers, to develop concepts and a budget.

The initial stakeholder group meetings found a consensus around the need to improve the corridor. As a result of this process, the following design goals were identified for the corridor:

  • Create a unified commercial corridor that supports businesses.
  • Strengthen the business environment by supporting the full range of businesses.
  • Provide clear wayfinding to the corridor at key locations.
  • Provide pedestrian amenities to encourage a more friendly business environment.
  • Provide parking management for both the corridor and downtown.
  • Create a strong, unique identity for the corridor that the businesses can associate with.

Part of the challenge the panel found was that the SW 153rd Street corridor is a very wide, auto-oriented commercial/retail street. In comparison, SW 152nd Street is a narrow, pedestrian-oriented commercial/retail street. The buildings along SW 153rd Street are generally about 180’ apart. Buildings on SW 152nd Street in Olde Burien are 60’ apart – one-thirds closer to each other.

“The SW 153rd street realm is about three times wider than most commercial main streets,” the report reads. “This results in storefronts that are very far from the roadway. This diminishes the presentation and legibility of individual storefronts, with their storefront signs being less clear.”

As anyone who’s driven down SW 153rd can attest, it does seem very wide, which presents a challenge in how to make it more user-friendly without having to re-build it at a huge cost? We here at The B-Town Blog wonder:

“What the heck were our city planners thinking when they designed this street? That we’d all be driving super-wide Cadillacs with really big fins?”

The report concludes with photos of various street-oriented works of art, and is meant as a starting point for further discussion. Here’s some of them:

We recommend you download the PDF here, take time to read it, then come back here and chime in with a Comment – we’re curious to hear your ideas on how you’d improve SW 153rd’s appeal?

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18 Responses to “City Of Burien Releases Study On Ways To Improve SW 153rd Corridor”
  1. Shannon Richards says:

    This is an exciting idea and the report puts words to real issues and challenges. Among the design ideas I was hoping to see an example of another retail area that faced similar challenges and has been transformed. Is anyone aware of other towns, cities, neighborhoods who transformed an area into one that is visually more appealing and meets the needs of business owners, shoppers, and pedestrians?

  2. Get a clue burien city council says:

    Get rid of wah long.

    • greenman says:

      How about a couple card clubs, strip clubs, and of course Medical Pot clubs…Call it Burien’s Sin Street……probably would pay more taxes than you can imagine.

  3. Shari says:

    I like very, very much that this study was conducted and that this conversation is happening and would love for business & economic development and general revitalization to be a Council and citizen focus. It’s been a real concern that some of my favorite businesses downtown have been closing their doors over the past year or two…I want to shop locally and I want there to be a downtown retail core with a thriving small business community that can be sustained. I think Shannon’s request for benchmarks in this study is a smart one and Mr/Ms Verz’ comment is also important– what lessons can be learned from other neighborhoods and, in fact, from the street to the north? I will confess that as much as I love the 152nd corridor, I’d patronize the businesses along there much, much, much more often if I could park more easily…I enjoy the pedestrian experience, but first I have to get there to be able to do that. I’m definitely in favor of making a really attractive 153rd that hosts businesses that supply products & services that most of us need on a regular basis–but I’d hate to focus just on the prettiness and pedestrian friendliness IF those come at the expense of convenient parking. Maybe there’s a way to find a good compromise.

    • TcB says:

      Where do you do your shopping now? Do you do a lot of shopping at Southcenter?

      • Shari says:

        I rarely go to Southcenter. By far most of our shopping and eating out happens in Burien. When I think of the times we go somewhere else, it’s usually a McLendon’s, Lowe’s, REI or Furney’s thing. Oh, and BBQ Pete’s.

  4. TcB says:

    153rd was part of the boom, 152nd used to be a wide street just like 153rd. The design of the roads and the idea of having the businesses offset back from the street instead of storefronts up against the sidewalk which is more pedestrian friendly came from the 50’s and 60’s mentality, very car centric planning. Drive-in restaurants, Drive-in Movies, Parking in front of the store, etc. I think Licensing some small kiosk type businesses to be placed right up against the sidewalk would help generate some more pedestrian interest. There’s a little coffee shop on first avenue in front of a car dealership that comes to mind.

  5. ALAN says:

    Burien needs to change some of its codes/restrictions on this area. We wanted to open a garden center and the restrictions were so bad, we located outside of the downtown area.

  6. Vince says:

    It’s tough to overcome the width of the street and set-back of the buildings which are the reasons the street feels so desolate. One option, but an expensive one, is to create a boulevard with a wide park down the middle, which would push the street closer to the store fronts and eat up some of the parking lots.

  7. Arthur stevens says:

    B-town blog asks, “What the heck were city planners thinking when they designed the street?”

    what are YOU thinking suggesting the city had anything to do with the street design? Me thinks the street has been around a bit longer than the city.

    Ot is it just another opportunity for the BTB to take a shot at the City?

    Bet this won’t be published.

    • Arthur – That question was meant rhetorically, from my own viewpoint. I’m a former comedy writer, so please excuse my attempt at irony. I only wrote it after reading the report and driving and looking and observing how far apart businesses on SW 153rd are placed. Someone had to have decided to pave it and turn it into a retail street at one time, right? I’ll admit I don’t know the exact history of this issue but I’m open to hearing what it is. Oh, by the way, I published your Comment. Thanks for reading/interacting. -Scott

  8. Julie says:

    Shouldn’t we make 152nd work – which means occupied real estate paying taxes, profitable for owners, reasonable vacancy rates, no pawn shops/tatoo palors in our best spaces – before we “invest” public money again.?

    • TcB says:

      So many people get PUBLIC and PRIVATE confused. The city controls things like Zones and infrastructure(sidewalks, lights, etc). They do not own the private property and with some exceptions can not tell the owner of the property what business to lease to. The city can try to entice businesses to invest in upgrading their property by upgrading infrastructure and access. The city of Burien does not control who leases at Town Square, if pawn shops and tattoo parlors are allowed to do business (unless a city ordinance banning said business is enacted, but you have to be careful banning tax paying businesses in this climate) and especially does not control where people really like to do their shopping.

  9. Coverofnight says:

    This is an interesting street, in that most of the businesses are set back from the road until you get to Vince’s and that eye place across the street; it’s like that wide corridor “necks” down to a narrow opening – this makes it a bit tough to develop a consistent look along the whole length of the street. That being said, here are some of my thoughts regarding the report.

    First, I’d change part of the Vision for Burien to: “…where the residents are welcoming, celebrate art, promote vitality and respect the environment.” True Americans already love thy neighbor and don’t have to be told to “embrace diversity” and “celebrate culture” – this just sounds like feel-good buzzwords were thrown in to keep special interest groups happy. Same with the environment – we don’t want to see it trashed, but we don’t need to be regulated with items such as bike paths that are rarely used and “green” regulations that again, are in place just to be politically correct.

    Continuing with the report – it says that SW 153rd is an auto-oriented street; news flash: Western Washington, with all this windy, rainy weather is an auto-oriented region! Nobody likes to walk is this crap; this constant wetness – we want to park nearby and get in to shop without getting soaked. Thanks though, to our Council for putting that fancy parking garage BLOCKS away from these businesses so patrons can walk in the rain, shop and carry their purchases back through the rainy weather. Then, if we CAN park nearby, we can’t enjoy time shopping because we have to worry about some lousy parking enforcement guy ticketing us for too much time spent patronizing local businesses – really, it’s time to get rid of this guy; it’s strictly a revenue generator for the City and is not in the best interests of the business community. This is Burien, not Seattle – come on, can him (and those red-light cameras, too)!

    Landscaping is needed along the full length of 153rd – nothing brings an area down to a human scale quicker than a nice canopy of trees.

    Creating an identity for the corridor is a good idea at 1st and at Ambaum, but I would suggest also incorporating larger unifying/pedestrian-oriented identities at the intersections of 2nd and 6th – the intersection at 4th is WAY too busy with auto traffic to be anything much more than a thoroughfare for autos.

    As for the buildings…that’s a tough one. If the business owners were going to put money into these eyesores, they would have done it by now. As long as they rent and bring in profits, there’s no immediate incentive for them to upgrade these “Aurora Avenue” type storefronts. If the City can re-evaluate parking criteria in this area, maybe the incentive for them would be the ability to expand rentable square footage which may entail building/storefront upgrades (Less restrictive regulations? NEVER gonna happen with this City).

  10. How about not imposing a “traffic impact fee” on new business with a change of use status? It’s hard enough financialy to get your own busniness started but when the city of Burien imposes this type of “tax”, it makes you wonder if the city is discouraging new stores to open. We’ve looked but that “impact fee” is such a turn off.

  11. candi says:

    I’m moving to Burien soon atleast for a year so i hope i like the little city.

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