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Art vs. transportation: Greyhound move hits an obstacle

Facing eviction next spring from its Stewart Street terminal, Greyhound has come up against an unlikely roadblock in its search for a new Seattle home. It's a standoff the city has seen before.
Susan Zoccola's "Bloom"

Susan Zoccola's "Bloom" Courtesy of Susan Zoccola

A rendering done for Susan Zoccola of the impact of a Greyhound terminal on her art work "Bloom."

A rendering done for Susan Zoccola of the impact of a Greyhound terminal on her art work "Bloom." Lisa Jacoby/Courtesy of Susan Zoccola

The proposed Greyhound terminal would be adjacent to Sound Transit's Stadium Station east of Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field.

The proposed Greyhound terminal would be adjacent to Sound Transit's Stadium Station east of Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field. Sound Transit/Google

Greyhound has operated out of a Stewart Street facility in Seattle for more than 80 years, but with that property slated for redevelopment, the patriarch of U.S. intercity bus service is facing eviction in April. The company has its sights on a location at South 6th and Royal Brougham, just east of the stadiums, and the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which owns the parcel, is amenable to a lease, whose final terms remain under negotiation.

But Greyhound's plans do not sit well with Seattle artist Susan Zoccola, whose installation Bloom overlooks the 25,000-square-foot lot from the wall of the King County Metro parking garage immediately to the south.

In 2005, the George Benson waterfront streetcar's maintenance facility, near Broad and Elliott, found itself in the crosshairs when the Seattle Art Museum decided to build its Olympic Sculpture Park there. Art won that battle, and the streetcar disappeared.

This time, however, it appears that transportation will not be denied.

Greyhound's development permit application is progressing more or less smoothly through the city's Planning and Development Department, and WSDOT is on board with the plans — it presumably stands to gain lease income from Greyhound. The bus company, for its part, can look forward to a location just off the freeway, immediately adjacent to the Stadium light-rail station at 501 S. Royal Brougham Way and just a few hundred yards from Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field and the new basketball arena's site.

Cath Brunner, public art director at 4Culture, King County's cultural affairs agency, told Crosscut that “contracts provide that we must notify the artists if there are pending changes that might affect the art work. We were contacted by Greyhound through their design consultants. We immediately notified the artist — it was both contractual and the right thing to do.”

The county, which paid Zoccola $35,000 for the work in 2004, has thus helped her plead her case, but the artist and Brunner came away empty from a late summer meeting with staffers for Mayor Mike McGinn. “We were basically told there are no other locations [for the artwork] in Sodo, and it's very important to keep Greyhound in Seattle,” Zoccola recalled the encounter. “I didn't feel supported by the mayor's office in any way, shape or form.”

Asked to respond in an e-mail interview, McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus punted. “We don’t have jurisdiction regarding the art work,” he stated. “When our office learned about the issue, we reached out directly to 4Culture to facilitate an initial discussion with them and Greyhound.”

In their meetings and correspondence with Greyhound and its design consultant, Parametrix of Bremerton, Zoccola and 4Culture have asked Greyhound to reorient the terminal building, keep the structures as low as possible, distance the facility from the artwork, add up-lighting to illuminate the work better, build the bus canopy with a translucent material to make the work more visible, and paint the facility a neutral color rather than the bright blue Greyhound had planned on.

Reorienting the structures would mean parking buses under a freeway ramp, a no-no under federal Transportation Security Administration regulations. A Sept. 20 email from Greyhound real estate manager Randal Levingston to Zoccola and WSDOT intercity bus program manager Steve Abernathy gave ground on the color, promising a neutral gray in most places, but, 4Culture's Brunner reported, no other concessions satisfactory to Zoccola have been forthcoming.

“They can't make it any lower [than in the current design] and still get the buses in,” Brunner explained — and that's not low enough to allow full view of the art. As for the canopy's modifications, “they declined to do that, saying it would cost too much.”

In an e-mail statement, Nick Licata, who chairs the City Council's committee for culture, said, “I’ve ridden Greyhound buses for years and I value the critical inter-city transportation services they provide. But, I would hope a company that earned $30 million in profits last year could do more to accommodate this major public artwork. By doing so, they would enhance their customers’ experiences of riding Greyhound in Seattle.”


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 6:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Although I generally support the arts, this seems like a no-brainer.

The artist was a bit short-sighted to assume the adjacent vacant lot would not be built upon in the near term.
To manipulate the architecture around this art-piece seems like the tail wagging the dog.

The artwork is innocuous enough, but hardly so important so as to drive development in the area.

jeffro

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 7:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Save all the lawyers fees by commissioning the artist to do a new work for the greyhound building + site. something that speaks to all the passengers and works with the building. 50K sounds about right.

chapala21

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 8:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Ms. Zoccola is just discovering what fans of Benson’s waterfront streetcar learned…”All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Erect it in front of the new stadium. It will receive plenty of exposure with all the congestion and gridlock anticipated with the current wrong-headed designs for handling waterfront traffic.

jmrolls

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 8:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Hey, we tear down public art all the time, and often it's not a bad thing. There was the fountain on Fifth Avenue in the parking lot of the old Municipal Building. There was the bronze fountain and red brick shelter at Westlake Square. And many more. Even Venus di Milo lost her arms.

gabowker

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 10:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Greyhound would get a lot of mileage out of hiring the artist to work on the bus station design and possibly appropriate her previous work into new configuration. Susan? You game?

And Mr. Bowker, as you say since we do apparently tear down public art all the time (count me on the end of that wrecking ball), and it's often not a bad thing, how about we start tearing down some of what architects have blessed us with? Might not be a bad thing.
Jack Mackie

jam

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 12:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, fortunately the Municipal Building went down with its fountain.

gabowker

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

It really would not surprise me if King County's purchase agreement gave this egotistical, needy artist the right to veto any subsequent construction around it.

Ask 99 out of 100 people what it is, and they will tell you it's a "decoration." Or I should say, 99 out of 100 people who even *notice* it.

This would be a perfect sketch for the new, rebooted 'Almost Live'. Unfortunately, it would be art imitating life...

orino

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

The Federal Visual Artists [sic] Rights Act? You've got to be kidding. She sold the work. She was paid for it. How can anyone put an artwork on a wall in the thriving city and expect the lines of sight to it to be preserved by the customer in perpetuity?! I doubt that many of the buildings in New York that had views of the Statue of Liberty in the 1890s can still see it today - if they're still standing.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 2:24 p.m. Inappropriate

The artwork in question, a collection of red orbs and swooping arcs, a cosmological representation of the divine need to park cars ostentatiously, as if the gods themselves would park there, and by gods I mean the holier than thou monarchs of commerce and industry who've condemned humanity with a disastrous addition, one may conclude is another piece of kitzy Seattle crap slapped on the side of a toilet hole parking garage like lipstick on a pig.

Wells

Posted Tue, Dec 18, 5:41 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm in that area of downtown Seattle all the time and have never so much as noticed the art in question before.

It's one thing to support the arts. It's another to re-arrange/re-design building or other development due to the "view" of art. It's absurd.

If the artist wants to sue, let her sue; she's just wasting her money.

MLG

Posted Wed, Dec 19, 9:10 a.m. Inappropriate

I would strongly support a ban on crosscut reader responses and the destruction of current responses. It's a complete waste of time that makes our e-zines actually uglier and promotes worthless human beings like poncho who think they are god's chosen one's... the entire reader response world is a farce.

Posted Wed, Dec 19, 11:15 a.m. Inappropriate

If the Crosscut publishers want to delete these comments, that is their right. What's your point?

Of course, a Federal Commenters' Rights Act might trammel that right.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Dec 19, 3:27 p.m. Inappropriate

swiftylazar, you want blandsville to reign? Buy a paper paper, then you don't need to read the worthless human beings.

Posted Fri, Dec 28, 12:45 p.m. Inappropriate

For gosh sakes, dbreneman and common1sense, you really, TRULY don't know what sarcasm is? Wow.

orino

Posted Wed, Dec 19, 7:06 p.m. Inappropriate

If the artist purchased or was granted a View Easement across the adjacent parcel of land, then she has a good case to take to court. But it sounds like that didn't happen. She's trying to take much of the neighboring owner's property rights and offering nothing in return. The term "self-absorbed" comes to mind.

I urge everyone to look across the street to the really classy public art on the transit yard's tall fence. Always tantalizing, to my eyes.

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