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How Architecture Helps Build Community: A Conversation with Rico Quirindongo

Seattle native Rico Quirindongo was born in the Central Area. Now, as head of the City's Office of Planning and Community Development, the award-winning architect is helping restore and sustain the neighborhood's African American roots. Quirindongo believes that policymakers and building project managers need to listen to and incorporate community input when they're planning major new developments.

"What my hope has been in this work is to be able to draw more people--just normal, regular people--to bring them into the development process, to give them a voice."--Rico Quirindongo

Quirindongo points to Midtown Square as an example of what he hopes to see across the city: a major mixed-use development in the heart of the Central Area that includes significant local art, a destination public gathering space, plus new Black-owned businesses anchoring the street-level retail spaces.

Quirindongo talked with Vivian and Marcie about how his childhood experiences led him back to serve the neighborhood he calls home.

Man with dreadlocks in a nice business suit and tie smiles at the camera
Rico Quirindongo



Rico Quirindong is the Acting Director of the City of Seattle Office of Planning & Community Development. Rico works with organizations to positively influence communities through design and is committed to the betterment of his hometown, Seattle, through public engagement, design, and civic service. He was recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as Citizen Architect in 2020 and was on the AIA National Strategic Council. In 2021, he was given a Commercial Real Estate Leadership Award as a Neighborhood Champion by the Puget Sound Business Journal and in 2022 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from AIA Washington Council.

You can watch Rico's TEDx Talk "Transforming Communities Through Architecture" here




Hey, I'm Vivian Phillips.


And I'm Marcie Sillman. And, and this is doubleXposure. <laugh>


DoubleXposure is a podcast where we plumb the deepest depths and the tiniest cracks of our world to understand how culture and creativity shape our lives.


On this episode, Rico Quirindongo on how to use urban planning and development to foster community. Hello, Vivian.


Hey, Marcie Sillman, how are you?


Well, I'm hanging in there. We are in the, the last countdown toward the big dark. And I was thinking yesterday, the highlight of it is that everybody has put up their holiday lights outside their houses, and so I enjoy that.


What everybody, are you talking about?


Well, not me


Not this body <laugh>.


Well, not, not me either, Vivian, but, but my neighbors have.


Yeah, it's, it's cool. But I do miss the sunshine. I mean, the sun has been glorious over the last couple of weeks and, uh, yeah, it's, uh, gloomy Monday and it's time for the days to get shorter and shorter. I should not sing because when we start doing this, I'm always humming or whistling or…


I like it when you sing. I used to sing when I was on the radio, and the producers would be horrified.


It's more like sing-song, <laugh> not really singing.


I do like to sing, but we're not gonna be singing, but we are gonna be singing people's praises today. You have somebody in particular.


Well, you know, I have the distinct pleasure of being at the Rainier Club last week when Donald Byrd was inducted with the, I guess that's the right word, inducted as the Laureate. Let's see. Yeah. Laureate Awards celebration, honoring Donald Bird. And it was just absolutely lovely. He, uh, was honored by a number of individuals for the work that he has done, and both near and from afar, there were some recorded recognitions. Peter Boal was there and got to talk about the work that Donald has done with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. And it was just lovely.


I was talking to Donald for another project recently, and I was talking about the dances he had made for the ballet among other dances. And I said, there was the one, Donald, I can't remember what it's called, the sexy cowboy dance that was, and he said, it's called The skies are not cloudy all day. And I said, but don't you think it should be called the “Sexy Cowboy Dance?”


<laugh> Oh, I love that. I love that. You know, Thomas de France, who was the curator of the retrospective on Donald's career at the Frye Museum, I think 2018 is when that was. Now it seems so long ago. Uh, he was here. We had a grand time reminiscing about our personal memories about our relationship with Donald Byrd. But just, he's just a cool guy. I, I really admire and adore him too.


Donald came here in 2002 and he was telling me he felt completely isolated. People were freaked out because they hired him to make change at Spectrum Dance Theater. And when he started doing that, people were maybe like, whoa, whoa, this is Seattle, not New York. We go a little more slowly. But the interview went on for a while and I said, well, do you still feel like you're kind of isolated over there by the lake? And he said, no, I'm a fixture now. And so, I think this induction at the Rainier Club is an honor that also goes along with fixture-hood.


You know, Seattle lore, uh, talks about the fact that the Rainier Club was the site where the five white guys sat and dreamed up the 1962 World's Fair, right? Century 21. And at the award celebration last week, Donald put something bold out there and offered that this community could come together to create a center for contemporary dance and really put Seattle on that artistic map and the way that we've been really trying to catch up to since 1962, which was the launch, I think, of the great arts explosion in Seattle. So, um, this'll be fun. It'll be a lot of fun to see how that goes. And uh, I told him, get that paper napkin out and start writing on the back of it <laugh> and call as many of us to the Rainier Club to, um, plot and plan as he might like.


Now, when I think of dreamers like Donald Byrd, Vivian Phillips, I put you in that same category. When I think of stars, I believe that you are one of the brightest that shines in the firmament here.


And look for that check in the mail. I'll sit to Do you <laugh> ?


Yeah. Well, okay. When you get the check, I don't have the check to send you, but somebody should send Vivian that check. And I'm thinking in particular, because we've just started our final neighborhood exploration, which is the Central District. Some people call it the central area. I've always called it the Central District, the CD. I'm gonna continue to call it that until you call me out and say, call it something else.


I think it gets called both, you know, I refer to it as the Central Area and the CD. So, it's okay.


This year, after several years of planning, and I know a lot of headaches and head knocking and strategizing and fundraising, you finally opened your baby, ARTE NOIR. It's on the corner of 23rd and Union. You cannot miss it because it's in the Midtown Square building, which you also had a hand in bringing to life. And our guest, Rico Quirindongo, who is the head of the Office of Planning and Community Development for the City of Seattle, worked with you on that project. The first time I came down to visit you, there was pretty bare bones inside. I think they had poured the floor.


There was a floor <laugh>, there was a concrete floor, and a lot of concrete pillars.


Now there's an art gallery, there's an artist shop full of really wonderful things. And the building itself is something that, I mean, I know I've talked about it before, but now that it's done, it's an artful destination.


What a joy to have been able to work on that project from beginning to end. Really for me, with Rico, who I think is, I mean, he was awarded by AIA as a citizen architect, but he absolutely is someone who is dedicated to serving the public. And I think that in this interview, what we will hear from him is those nuggets about how important our built environment is to the ways in which we interact in our own communities with one another and how we view the world around us.


And I should say that if you haven't yet been to Midtown Square, you will see how that's put into action because it's not just an architect's beautiful building. And, and he has done some beautiful remodels and redesigns, which he'll talk about. But in the center, the literal center of this development is a physical gathering place for people. So there's that spiritual gathering place cuz it's covered with murals and they're gorgeous and people should see them. But there is also a place that y'all made inside for gathering. For celebration, for coming together as people. And I just think that's brilliant.


It's very intentional for Midtown Square to have created the public square. And it is articulated as such, as a public square. It's not just, you know, that open space in the center where you might, you know, happen into, you are invited as a member of the public. Thanks to Rico, I think that so much of the way that this development has actually turned out has to do with his work in community and his architectural guidance.


So let's listen to the first part of this conversation with Rico Quirindongo.

Rico Quirindongo, an architect and director of Seattle's Office of Planning and Community Development. We are delighted to have you with us on doubleXposure.


It's great to be with both of you. Thank you.


This office that you lead has gone through a lot of iterations over my years of watching it to make it in a, a overly broad but lovely nutshell. You're responsible for the look and feel, the physical look and feel of the city and how that contributes to communities.


I think that's a great summary. I mean, so my background, I was a architect for 27 years focused on both built environment and equity, social justice through built environment issues, if you will. So in, in this role, I have a staff of almost 50, we're we're able to really lean into a mission around leading with equity and how we can continue to grow as a city, knowing that, you know, we're 750,000 humans today. Um, and that we will reach that 1 million residents, uh, within the next 20 years, probably sooner than that.


So Rico, you have this little job at the cCty of Seattle. It doesn't sound like you do too much <laugh>, just joking. Um, but you also, you know, had a whole career as an architect and I am aware of the fact that your work has left a mark on a number of local institutions. And I wanna ask you, how does the work that you have done reflect back to the kind of work you actually wanted to do?


That's a great question, and Vivian, I know you ,so this to this, I'm gonna throw this in. We have four divisions in our fourth with our fourth one is the Equitable Development Initiative, where we have been awarding, if you average it out around $19 million a year in funding for profits that are community led for us BIPOC communities underserved to lean into the things that are important to community and, and realize those development projects that ultimately serve community needs. That was the work that I was doing as a consultant, um, as an architect, uh, for 27 years. I mean, I, I, I was a part with, uh, Donald King. I was a part of a small Black owned, uh, firm. You know, we did a great amount of work in the Central District and there was a, there was a time where I could ride by bike from, uh, 23rd and Union, uh, down to 23rd and Massachusetts and I would be in reach of four different projects that we were doing simultaneously.


Would you like to name those just in case somebody else is driving <laugh>, driving along that, that route and wanna take a look over <laugh> ?


I could name, I could name them.


Go ahead. Give us a couple.


So I was the architect of the Northwest African American Museum at 23rd and Massachusetts, driving north. Uh, from there I worked with Catholic Community Services on, uh, First Place Schools, which was a transitional housing project, uh, 16 units that, uh, was built to look like two houses. So, it fits in with the fabric of the neighborhood, but provides meaningful transitional housing for mothers and their families.


So you, you actually have left in architectural mark on the city that you are originally from. Correct. You are a Seattle native, but you left here to study and then begin your career. What specifically drew you back to Seattle? And I think I understand the kind of work that you were hoping to do that you have done through your previous architectural projects and, uh, your work at the city. But what specifically drew you back to Seattle?


So the reality is, is that my mother went to Garfield High School. Um, I was, uh, small runt of a child. My mother thought I would get my ass kicked to Garfield. So my parents moved me and my sister out to Kirkland when I was in second grade.


But you went away to, to I think St. Louis for, for college, right? You left the area completely.


Yes. So I, I went as far away from, uh, white suburbia as I could. And my education at Washington University was as much about the haves and have nots as anything else. So I experienced rich, affluent, gated communities across the city and Black families that were underserved and or forgotten. Uh, and where every service institution, there was a black person on the other side of the counter, but we were not seen, we were not respected, which was set of context for me. And I came back to Seattle because I'm born and raised Seattleite and my heart is, and always will be connected to Seattle. And so I knew I wanted to practice here. This was my home that I wanted to make a difference in.


Rico, we were talking about some of your architectural projects in the city of Seattle. You were talking about, you know, the corridor that you've worked in and I know that you've been really involved with the American Institute of Architects, the AIA, and I was interested to see that they honored you or bestowed upon you this title, Citizen Architect and I, I wasn't sure what that really means because you are a real architect. So what is a citizen architect?


So it, Citizen Architect has been a somewhat amorphous term, at least it's broad in its definition. Loosely speaking it, the, it it generally refers to architects who have dedicated themselves to public service. And so as, as we look at a industry which has changed a great deal in the last hundred years, so, you know, at the turn of the century, you know, a hundred years over a hundred years ago, gosh, 120 years ago, I'm totally getting old, um, <laugh> architecture was a rich white man's profession. And the projects that got, uh, designed by architects in large part were for, by and for, an affluent culture. I think if you look at where the industry is today, there is a general understanding that most of what we do is to provide betterment for all communities. And that we are leaning into the promise of the social determinants of health where we're trying to do work that ensures the whole health of communities. And so the Citizen Architect banner, if you will, um, is generally around, uh, architects like myself that have dedicated themselves to service.


Well, to follow up on that, I was fascinated in the TedTalk of yours that I watched. I think you've done maybe more than one, but the one I watched you were talking about. Not yet, not yet. But after this, you'll be inundated with requests for TEDTalk. I'm sure <laugh> In any case. Back to that TedTalk. Rico, you were talking about something that really fascinated me in thinking about architecture because I think of, you know, place and beauty, but you were talking about the connection between physical space and community pride and community identity, and I wanted you to talk a little bit more about, about that connection and how a, a building or a development can actually do that.


I pause only because there's so much that's, that's intuitive knowledge for me. And so, so trying to put that in a way that that doesn't place a lot of assumption. My own assumptions into it is a little bit of work. But I think that at, at face value, if I, well a couple things. One of the reasons that I got into architecture was because I understood that most of the world around us, most people take for granted. But the streets that we walk down, the buildings that we work in, the homes that we live in, the parks that we go to, the transit stops that we wait for our bus or our train at, all of those are designed and envisioned and, uh, invested in and built by someone, and whoever those decision makers are that build those things, determine what they look and feel like. And on some level what they represent. What I know, and I think I understood this intuitively and it, and it became lived experience over time, was that if as a, you know, just a normal person, just individual like squirrel, trying to get a nut, got my family, I've got my job, I've got my nine to five, and uh, trying to get my kids through school.


If I can look at the school that I drop my kids off at the building that I, that I work at the public right of way corridor that I drive down on a daily basis and I see some of myself within those spaces, those built environments, whether it's my family or my culture, I will care about it, right? If I don't see myself in it, I'm probably going to care about it less. And so if you talk about like what people take care of versus what they don't take care of, people don't take care of the things that they don't feel invested in. And what my hope has been in this work is to be able to draw more people like just normal, regular people, <laugh>, that are the people that we all care about and that that we are here to serve, to bring them into the development process of getting project work done. Be it private projects, public projects, public private partnerships, all of them to give them a voice in the process such that they, first of all, that their needs and their and culture are represented in the built works, but also the programs that happen within those spaces and that they become a part of the thing, the process, the outcome.


You know, Rico, you have so eloquently described the ultimate goal I think, of creating places where community identity and built environment connect in really good ways. Can you point out examples of where that is working well? In Seattle and specifically in the central district?


So maybe it's overly obvious. You and I spent a great deal of time working, uh, at 23rd Union on the Midtown Square project. Uh, and this is one that, uh, on the onset was just even looking at that intersection, the third major project being done at the intersection by a large white developer and the community was fed up. What I'm very proud of in the work that, that we did on that site was resetting the table. I was brought in by the developer to reconvene a community conversation because the City of Seattle said, Hey, if we're gonna give you the permits to build this project, you're gonna have to get right by community first. And began a conversation about, hey, what does this site mean to you? Um, why is it important? What do you believe should happen here? And then how do we hold that up and make that happen? And how can this project look like and represent the Black families and culture of the Central District that we know and believe in that frankly aren't being represented in the project. When, when I was brought into it.


I'm really curious about, about you being brought in. Could that have happened without the city saying, Uhuh, we're not gonna give you permits because we have so many examples in this city of big mixed-use squares of development. They're all over the place. So I mean, why was this one able to break out of, no pun intended, that box?


Yes, we, we do have those projects all over the city. I also was the local architect for Climate Pledge Arena, where, where we built multiple outdoor public squares to welcome in all people, regardless of whether they were just walking through or buying a ticket for an event. I think that to be fair, it was because of the city of Seattle design review process in place. So for any project of that size and any project that um, is looking for any sort of consideration regarding land use policy or building code, potential revisions, design review is a requirement where you have to, at a minimum bring the project design to a community meeting for a minimum of two meetings. One where you're talking about high bulk and scale, and then another where you're talking about what the building will look like. And it was through that process where, uh, after that second meeting, a, a large number of community members that came forward that said, we do not like what we're seeing here. That the city said we can't award you the ability to, to move the project forward.


So, you know, when you describe the design review process and the fact that the city really does hold developers’ feet to the fire based on community involvement, no community speaks with a single voice, one particular voice. So how exactly were you able to solicit and incorporate all of the feedback that was gathered from community over the course of two years, or more, to actually transform that project?


So we did a series of online surveys and face-to-face engagements, interviews with individuals, small groups, and then also meeting people where they're at, going to the event at the school or going to the gathering at a church location to just talk, talk about the project, talk about what people's interests were, um, and then like collected all of that data and understanding that data is only as good as the question asked. And the sampling of people that you are reaching out to it is always gonna be imperfect. But I think that there were some themes around, uh, visibility, access, small Black business, art and culture, that became themes that we could organize around that ultimately informed redesign of both site and faces of the building itself that ultimately led to the development of this art program where Vivian, through your leadership, we ultimately brought in eight BIPOC artists incorporated into the full design and execution of that project site where the site is now a destination location where the, the building face, you know, that faces on 23rd, that faces on Union, is it exemplary of the art and faces and vision of, of the Black community in the Central District.


Our music is courtesy of Big World Breaks, many thanks.


And this year we welcome our sponsor LANGSTON, cultivating Black Brilliance from their home at Seattle's Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in the historic Central District.


This season for our podcast, Vivian and I have focused on only four neighborhoods, not every neighborhood in the city, which would probably take us a lifetime and we're really have been exploring how arts and culture in particular can illuminate and elevate community identity, can help sustain community. The Central District is our final neighborhood and I'm really fascinated by it because clearly it is, in most recent history, the neighborhood identified with Seattle's Black community, but before any of us got here was the home to Indigenous people. It's the historic home of the very small Jewish community in the city of Seattle. And it got me to thinking about the rich gumbo of the city and, and how somebody in your position or somebody who's listening to this can think about how we develop going forward. How do we take all of those strands and weave something together?


I really like the way that you both are thinking about all of that. I, uh, have the good fortune. It's the second year that I've been able to do the introductory class for, um, College of Real Estate at University of Washington. So they have a real estate certificate program for practitioners that are looking to get another degree under their belt. And you know, so it's, it's marketers and uh, developers and uh, engineers. It's a pretty mixed group, but where the conversation has been around, so what is the development process like? How is it changing? How do you put together the capital stack for a project? All of those things. And what I posited for the group when I met with them earlier this year was the idea that when asked the question, gosh, isn't doing community engagement a challenge? And you know, it means that you have, uh, you don't have as much control over where the project goes and or how long the process is gonna be and what the outcomes are gonna look like.


My response was what if you looked at the whole process differently? Because you know, you have to hire an architect, you know, you have to hire an engineering team, you know you're gonna have a marketing group that is going to make sure that you have both the right type of units and that they reach out to the community that is going to occupy the building. What if you, on the front end of the project, before putting pencil to paper, you also understood that one of the important pieces of your pre-development costs was community engagement and that you had to have that consultant or that member of the team on board from the beginning of the project. Because, truth, how you start is how you are. And if you're incorporating the community into the process from the beginning, regardless of the project type, frankly, then ultimately, and, and this, you know, I think it's played out in many cases, including the Midtown Square project, the viability of the success of ground floor retail at Midtown Square has been made more viable because of the community engagement process that, that we convened for that project. If you conceptually understand that the community is a client and treat the community as such from the beginning of the process, it doesn't cost you more money, it just enriches and changes the process that you go through. Now if you're developer A, B, or C, you can look at that as limiting your liabilities, or you can look at that as enriching the value and content and success of the project.


Was your class receptive to this idea?


You know, i I, it's interesting. I think that they were, but I think that we are at the very beginning of a sea change. There aren't a lot of projects that I can point to where they were privately owned, but that community was at the forefront of what the program and look and value of the project was. I think that if 120 years ago this was a white male, rich family profession, I think that today we are looking at, and this is all post George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, where the architectural community, like many professions began asking the question, well what can we do to respond differently?


Rico, you were successful in actually shifting the way that the project at Midtown developed, and this was all pre-racial reckoning and whatever other pandemics we want to identify. And you talk about, you know, the past and also the fact that this new way of thinking is at the very beginning of a process. I, I'm wondering what you are thinking about the ways in which you now as a person of influence at the City of Seattle can help to guide the way that development is done into the 21st century, and what are the most important priorities for you?


That is a challenging question, but a very good one. So it's always a series of, of tradeoffs, right? And also an issue about timing. We are in the middle of a housing crisis, right? And what we know is, is that number of jobs in the city has grown year over year, well beyond the number of housing units that we've created, which has overinflated the value of homes on the market and ensured that if you are a family making a hundred thousand dollars a year, which a hundred percent area meaning income is $110,000 a year, it will be very hard for you to find a home that you can purchase, let alone one that you can rent. So I know that for our office, uh, and for the city that more important than anything else is doing everything that we can to increase the number of housing units that are produced at all levels and at all scales.


So from apodments to studios to single family to redevelopment of single family home sites and to ones that are three units that, you know, there's an accessory dwelling unit and a attached accessory dwelling unit on the site, to providing the greater densities, town homes, six-plexes, multi-family units. We're gonna have to do all of it and we we're gonna have to look at all neighborhoods and see where different scales are appropriate. We're gonna have to provide workforce housing, we're gonna have to look at how we ensure that blue collar jobs they, here on what is a working waterfront city, um, and how we create new jobs for families, for individuals that go to community college that don't go to college. Anyone at any level has the opportunity or ability to actually live and work here.


One of the things that I think about when, when you say that, and I, I agree with you about that priority and I'm somebody who made far less than that amount of money during my working career. At Midtown Square, let's just talk about that again. There are hundreds of units of housing, if I'm not mistaken in that building and it's a destination, and it involved the community and it's a stunning addition to the neighborhood on a cultural and artistic level. I mean maybe they're, we're not gonna see the replication at that scale, but isn't there some way that all of that can be integrated in this push for housing?


Yes. I think that as we look at how do we, with the comprehensive plan that gets put in place in 2024, at the end of 2024, where we know we will do some amount of upstoning across the city to accommodate an increase in housing units, we also will need to look at how to not displace our communities of color at the same time such that Black family who has a home in the Central District has a reason to say no when they get the letter from the developer saying, we'd like to buy, buy your property from you. We are looking at what those anti-displacement strategies are, frankly, the equitable development initiative, which we're putting money into commercial ground floor units, which are BIPOC-led community based projects, that was an an anti-displacement strategy put in place six years ago when we were asking this question of ourselves, the affordable housing on religious properties legislation that we passed last year so that any property owned by a church could do housing development outright on their properties is also an anti-displacement strategy.


I'm having conversations both at the city and uh, strategizing about what conversations in coordination with the office of intergovernmental relations can we have at the state once session begins in January, can we have a set aside pool of dollars that a BIPOC family can have access to so they can do that investment of development dollars on their formerly single family site to have one tenant or two tenants and see the additional revenue stream see, begin to build that generational wealth for themselves, um, such that they see the increased value of their property and not somebody else and they can stay. And can we also have the conversation about for all of the BIPOC families that were pushed out of Seattle because it was no longer portable, how do we bring people back?


Well, I don't envy your job. No, my god, no, <laugh> not at all. But I am glad that you hold that position given um, your insight, your intellect and your past experiences. Is there anything, Rico, that we've not covered, given what you know about the fact that this is our final area of focus in the Central District and anything that we've not asked you that you want to be sure to articulate?


I think that being at almost the end of our first year of this community engagement for the comprehensive plan, next year is gonna be a very important year. And what that is to say is that whether you go to the One Seattle Comprehensive Plan engagement hub online or whether you just look up the Office of Planning and Community Development city of Seattle and look up comprehensive plan update, which will provide you a path to get more information, it is gonna be super important for people to keep showing up in a time that people have a lot of other things that they need to spend their time on. And I totally appreciate that, but in this time it is really important for people to have their voices heard and even if what they're showing up to talk about doesn't directly relate to the comprehensive plan, it is our job to ensure that we point people in the direction of where they need to get to in order for them to have their concern or their need heard or addressed. I'm excited about the work that we have ahead of us and it is a heavy lift for sure, but I have a incredible staff of almost 50 people that really do get out of bed every day because they're committed to this work that are looking to make change in the system for the benefit of community.


Quick question about the comp plan. How many years supposedly does a comp plan cover for a city like Seattle?


That's a good question. If you look at Seattle 2035, if you look at the comp plan that we have in place currently, and then you look at the effort we're doing right now, we are required by the state and by the Puget Sound Regional Council to have a, a plan in place that looks at 20 years into the future and we do a comprehensive update to that. It used to be every eight years, now it's every 10. And so we're working on that new update for the next 20 years.


So it really does have a critical impact on the overall livability of our city. Yes. Yeah, it's really important for people to be engaged.


Rico Quirindongo, we thank you so much for taking time from the massive amount of work that you have on your plate to talk with us.


Absolutely. It is a pleasure and an honor. So I, I appreciate the invitation.


So Vivian, I have to say that as somebody who, as a reporter covered land use, I get really down into the weeds when we talk about things like the comprehensive plan, but these things are more than weird pieces of paper actually are probably not paper anymore, but weird things on file at City Hall. I mean these are really documents that I think that everybody should think about a little bit.


Absolutely. And not just think about but speak about out loud. The 2035 comp plan is what we are really looking at right now, and I think it's the 2022 One Seattle Initiative that's a part of that comp plan. But as Rico describes to us the state requires that the plan be updated every 10 years and right now is when that plan is being updated. And I cannot stress more strongly the absolute need for citizens who have any kind of concern about the ways in which their neighborhoods, their communities will be, be shaped or reshaped in the future that they participate. It's easy go to and it'll pop up and uh, you'll get a chance to really take a look at what the community engagement process is for that and to just get involved, know what's happening.


Well it's interesting because since we recorded this interview with Rico, who talked a lot in it in the beginning about how Midtown Square was shaped by the design review process because it was such a big project, I heard that there were proposals that the design review process be set aside for some of the proposals for low income housing to sort of expedite it to get it up and running, which I think is good on the one hand because we get caught in in meetings here. On the other hand, Midtown Square would not be the wonder that it is without that design review process. And so, I just think one of the conversations we need to have as a city is how do we balance the need for affordable housing, the need to keep our workforce here in the city as opposed to driving, especially BIPOC folk, out of, of places that they can no longer afford. Because it's so crazy here with how the city might look cuz we could throw up a lot of buildings really quickly, but as Rico explained, if you don't feel like it expresses you, if you don't feel like you have a stake in that building, it's not gonna mean anything to you. It's not gonna be something you care for and coalesce around.


Yeah, and I think, you know, everybody understands that housing is the number one priority. I also think that design review is a little bit non-descriptive of what it really is because within the design review process is a community review and agement opportunity. So while it may be just looking at what the physical structure looks like, inviting in and having the absolute participation from community also helps developers to understand what the community impact is from the design. And thank God, you know, the Midtown project happened after there was a central area specific design review board. Prior to that, all of the design decisions had been made outside of the central area. So it's really, really a significant, I should say, accomplishment for the Central Area to now have a specific design review process. But it doesn't work if people are not engaged.


Let me just ask a question here. The Central Area is one of the official cultural cultural districts in the City of Seattle, if I'm not mistaken. It was the first one, the second,


The second, it was the second Capitol Hill was the first, Central Area was the second.


Does that designation have anything to do with a community specific design review process or design review board


In this situation that designation meant everything to establishing a Central Area specific design review process. I don't know that that happens in every community. I would say absolutely it probably doesn't because other communities have community specific design review, uh, bodies, not every single one. But this particular designation meant everything for the Central Area to have that.


Well, that's good to know because I've been thinking about the cultural districts ever since they first started rolling out. Yeah. And I always wondered what would be, besides seeing, you know, some beautiful signage and marking


And crosswalks and


Crosswalk. Yeah. And I'm like, okay, that's all nice. But you know, in this case you're telling me there really was something substantial that came out of it that made a difference.


And I will also say, you know, in this conversation with Rico, he talked about the Climate Pledge Arena and the public spaces in the design there. There is an Uptown Arts and Cultural District and I would be willing to bet every penny <laugh>, not dollars, but penny that I have that that arts and cultural district actually really help to shape that exterior and probably interior design process as well.


It's completely worth a visit to Climate Pledge, even if you don't go inside to see a concert or a hockey game because there is so much public art, which also is true now more and more in the Central Area, even just around that 23rd and Union block, which is also, I would advocate worth a visit as well. So we're going deep into the Central Area, the CD, the Central District, and this is the first, there'll be several more shows. So we really appreciate you coming on this, I guess, Seattle journey with us this season.


It's been such fun to learn more about our, our neighborhoods and communities.


DoubleXposure Executive producers are me, Marcie Sillman,


And me Vivian Phillips. We get production support from Hilary Northcraft, Randy Engstrom and Calandra Childers.


Support for DoubleXposure comes from Pyramid Communications.


And we're especially proud to support Crosscut Media's Black Arts Legacies Project, highlighting the role of black artists and arts organizations throughout our cultural landscape.


If you like what you're hearing on this episode of DoubleXposure, be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app and check out our website,

Rico Qurindongo Transcript
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