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But how can it then emerge from new projects? The track record is sobering.
As important a civic creation as Seattle Center is, it still lacks a certain soulfulness save for the way it is used during Bumbershoot, Folklife, or the fountain in times of public grief. The Gothic Arches of the Science Center, the Needle catching sun as is emerges from mist: these can provide soul-stirring moments. The arts facilities are important to Seattle's overall cultural scene. But it also often has a coldness, a flatness that one associates with high-minded things called "civic centers." And one imagines what might have been if Seattle had built the fair elsewhere and rehabbed the old Warren Avenue neighborhood where the Center sits into what could have been an incredibly appealing, affordable, multi-family urban neighborhood.
The new waterfront is also a concern: As the funk on the front will struggle to survive the Viaduct/tunnel/Seawall years, what can be done to keep the little guys alive? Businesses there are "livid" over the seawall construction schedule. How do you eventually attract more small shops and kiosks that bring the vital, grassroots essence that seems so necessary to urban soulfulness.
It's a concern in a city too often focused on how to incentivize the big and inevitable instead of planting the small, entrepreneurial, and unexpected, the things you cannot permit or plan. Granted, food trucks and pea patches are good things. But we need more stuff that works but that's one of a kind, that goes a bit off-grid but someday gets grandfathered in (see our houseboat communities) as part of "who we are."
Soulfulness involves history and time, but also commerce, art and the all-embrace of a marketplace for everyone. Such places, like the Market, are often jumbled, complicated, ugly and functional, like a used Filson shirt with stains on it. The urban fabric needs more of that.
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