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Proposal for the Site Change of Highline Heritage Museum to Create Maximum Impact on Cultural/Economic Future of the City of Burien.
Burien is a relatively young city which incorporated 15 years ago. The community has been around much longer, and has a rich history. Burien is, however, experiencing the beginning of a revitalization, which requires careful thought and planning. The planning of a city for a viable future can be a complicated process. There are many differing views on what makes a city successful. A city’s needs are met through a complex system that, when properly managed, create a functioning and livable place for it’s citizens. A thriving economy, and accompanying tax revenue, is what brings, and keeps, the people and services in the city. The city’s governing body is charged with having the vision to vote on and approve a solid plan of action. Without a long-term plan for the success of small and large businesses in a city the city will stagnate, awaiting a time when a new set of visionaries step in to create a new plan for success. The city must create the conditions under which commerce can thrive, creating conditions that support residents, and draw people from other areas to come and spend their money in the city. What is the formula for planning, and implementing this plan, for a successful economic future of the city of Burien?
It has been shown that a strong cultural center, or district, is one of the, if not the, most important ingredients in an economically successful city, culture being defined by the celebrated heritage of the residents, the history of the area, and a celebration of the arts, including fine arts, theatre/performance, dance, film, and literary arts. A city can use these elements to create a high-quality destination, and unique sense of place by planning in such a way that each of the areas defined are visibly represented in a general central location, a district. This thoughtful planning is designed to increase the quality of life for the residents, and to bring visitors, and their dollars, to the city. The influx of visitors has the effect of bringing new and varied customers to the surrounding businesses, causing businesses to compete for customer dollars by increasing the quality of services and goods, creating a higher level of commerce, which in turn draws more people to spend their monies. In the end, this raises the cities tax revenues and feeds back into the community.
The importance of the cultural district of a city to its’ economic success has been studied, and many cities plan their future with an emphasis on arts and culture. Just recently, the Bloomberg administration of New York City implemented a couple of programs to help artists become better business people in order to retain the artist population in the city. The following excerpt is taken from the New York Times:
“The city’s cultural sector â€˜attracts very, very creative people who have incredible ideas, but they don’t always know how to turn their ideas into financially sustainable entities,’ said Seth W. Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. His agency is spending $50,000 on this program and a similar one being run by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, with Creative Capital.
It is harder than it used to be to live as an artist in New York City, given the cost of housing, studios and rehearsal space, and the Bloomberg administration does not want artists to leave the city. Culture is a magnet for tourism and a major reason why people in other professions, (and often high tax brackets) want to live here. Ergo, two city-financed courses devised to help artists help themselves.” â€˜Creative Types, Learning to be Business-Minded’, Kate Taylor, New York Times, June 18, 2010.
In the current economy it is easy to overlook culture as a way to sustain an economy. It can seem to be a luxury, and an extraneous part of a city’s budget. It is often one of the first items to be cut from the budget. It doesn’t feed, clothe or house the people. Arts and culture can seem not as important as other services or budget-saving strategies by those who don’t have a personal connection or interest in art or culture. But, as is being discovered in the schools, and most pressingly, in our district, the Highline School District, culture and the arts help establish important pathways deep in the mind, and in the community. Looked at in a holistic way, creating a sense of community, of a rich cultural setting that values its’ own mixture of heritage, culture, and artistic endeavors, establishing the setting, setting up the structure wherein these are celebrated, will take Burien a long way towards solid fiscal stability.
The first step towards creating a Burien Downtown Cultural District is to relocate the Highline Heritage Museum to the northeast corner of SW 152nd St and 4th Ave SW (Current site of The Dollar Store):
There are a number of reasons why the site at the Northeast Corner of SW 152nd Ave and 4th Ave SW is a stronger site for the Highline Heritage Museum then the currently planned site at the SW corner of 152nd Ave and Ambaum. First, but not foremost, is the question of architectural and social history. An historical society razing an historic building, that was photo-documented in a WPA project in the 1930’s, to make way for a contemporary building in an historic district (Olde Burien) seems illogical:
There is also the practical issue of the lack of conveniently available parking at the current site:
There are only a handful of parking spaces designed into the site-plan. This negatively impacts the current businesses in Olde Burien, straining the current parking situation. In the current economy, these businesses are already struggling, and don’t need the extra strain. There is a lack of thoughtfulness when an architectural design with so much potential is forced onto a small lot to fit an outdated concept. Especially when the design is an asset to, and makes more sense in, another part of Burien. The contemporary qualities of the design of the Heritage Museum would beautifully complement the new Burien Library/City Hall. And there is plenty of room to take into account the parking needs of a soon-to-be prominent museum at the proposed site. There will need to be practical and safe access for school and tour busses, and plenty of non-invasive parking for museum patrons. There is no need to put Olde Burien businesses at a disadvantage when there is a better option for all concerned.
Another reason the Highline Heritage Museum would be best placed at the NE corner of 152nd and 4th Ave SW is that placing it at that location would be the next logical step in the creation of a downtown cultural district. The process of creating a cultural core was begun when the Burien Public Library/City Hall was built on the NW corner of 152nd and 4th Ave SW. Public access to knowledge, including culture, history and art, housed in a contemporary structure that is placed in a key central location is a strong beginning on the path towards causing Burien a to flourish. From there, more in the same vein is needed. Already planned and ready to go is the Highline Heritage Museum. This would be a perfect second component to the Burien Cultural District. The Museum and all of the work that has been put into it, including a permanent rotating exhibit from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., will bring a note of prestige, tourists, and as a result, more money to Burien. It also acts to anchor the corner across from the Library/City Hall. (There is a Children’s Museum in the works that would beautifully complement the property, tied together with landscaping that flows over to, and ties into, Town Square.)
As Burien continues to grow, being thoughtful about designing and creating a downtown with a cohesive vision, rather than the current hodge-podge manner, will go a long way in creating a serious and respected city. Placing another contemporary structure in the downtown core will help Burien continue down the path of being a city that could be a contender with Seattle and Bellevue. We want to bring money to Burien; thoughtful design and holistic, visionary planning assists in that goal.
In order for Burien to develop into an economically flourishing city, the citizens and local government must take Burien’s long-term future into serious consideration, looking to larger cities like Seattle and New York as examples of already successful cities with experience and reputation, By creating an atmosphere conducive to arts and culture they set the example showing how this is key to developing an economically successful city. The first step in this direction is to begin planning a Downtown Cultural District where the citizens of Burien, and people from outside the area, come together to celebrate and enjoy local, national, and international entertainment and exhibits, and bring their monies to spend throughout the business districts. Town Square is in place as an outdoor performing space, and space for the community to gather and play. The City Hall/Public Library building functions to tie together learning, and community, with civic presence. Now we must add the first serious building of culture in the Downtown Cultural District, the Highline Heritage Museum.
Conceived and written by:
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