Youth share a vision for waterfront future

// "Knowing you are hear to listen to our ideas makes a difference." - Victoria Tiravo, Student, Walker Junior High.

A group of local youth, ranging from sixth to 12th grade, have been busy for the past eight months creating a new vision for Tacoma’s waterfront.

In October 2010, the first waterfront completion charrette for youth was held. The participants walked along the waterfront from Murray Morgan Bridge to Old Town.

It yielded a number of creative designs. The goal of the program is to develop a vision for the future, through short essays and two and three-dimensional designs 

The adults leading the project include Amy Dedominicis, an architect with Tacoma Design Collaborative; Anne Wessells, a professor in the Urban Studies Department at the University of Washington-Tacoma; Doreen Gavin, a civil engineer with AHBL; Lara Herrmann, an attorney who is active in the group Walk the Waterfront and Sara Clair, vice chair of the board with Greater Metro Parks Foundation.

While some students attend public schools in the city, Tacoma Public Schools did not sponsor the activity. Other students attend Bellarmine Prep and public schools in Puyallup.

Dedominicis and the students gave a presentation on their efforts so far to Tacoma City Council during its May 10 study session. Dedominicis explained that while studying for her doctoral degree at the University of North Carolina, she wrote her thesis on a facility in Wilmington, N.C. that is similar to the Center for Urban Waters in Tacoma.

The youth split their efforts into specific areas or features of the waterfront. These include Murray Morgan Bridge, the pedestrian bridge near Schuster Parkway and potential new features that would improve the pedestrian experience.

Amara Gordon, an eighth-grader at Truman Middle School in Tacoma, told council members she would like to see a kiosk on the waterfront where people could rent bicycles or in-line skates for a small fee.

Jake O’Leary, a sophomore at Bellarmine Prep, discussed his idea for a three-level sidewalk along a section of Schuster Parkway, with a water feature. When asked for a cost estimate, he replied his project would be about $25 million.

Marissa Birmingham is a senior at Bellarmine Prep who will attend the University of Portland in the fall. She said she is passionate about the waterfront and Puget Sound.

She described her plans for an outdoor gallery on Murray Morgan Bridge. Walking down the stairway from the bridge deck, Birmingham described the appearance as moldy and wet. “I want it to be an attraction, not an eyesore.”

Donnie Cilenti, a seventh-grader at Jason Lee Middle School, discussed his vision for making Murray Morgan Bridge more accessible.

Leiana Tirado, a junior at Clover Park High School in Lakewood, discussed her plans for a safer walkway for pedestrians. She would like to include a wall to be adorned with art from local artists.

She collaborated on her project with her sister Victoria, an eighth-grader at Walker Junior High School. She said the wall would provide a forum for artists to express themselves and would deter vandals who might otherwise spray paint graffiti in the area.

“Knowing you are hear to listen to our ideas makes a difference,” Victoria Tiravo told the council.

Akash Morrell, a sixth-grader who lives in Puyallup, said he and his family like to ride bicycles in their free time. He told of his desire to someday have his family take a bike ride from the future LeMay Museum to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

His sister Maraya told the council an elevated sidewalk would improve safety for bicyclists and would be an important link in connecting Thea Foss Waterway with Ruston.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the students did a good job capturing the essence of Tacoma’s waterfront. “You celebrate and embrace our industrial heritage,” she remarked.

Councilmember Jake Fey commended the youth for having ambitious ideas for Tacoma’s future. “The challenge for us is coming up with the idea to make them real.”

On May 14 the students will examine the waterfront again, this time with a perspective from the bay aboard the Charles W. Curtis, a boat owned by Tacoma Youth Maritime Foundation.

Dedominicis said the outing will be a way for the youth to connect the dots from what they have accomplished so far.


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