environmental design

pla | Phillip Lehn Architect

Waterway Park 

Tacoma, WA

Challenged by a Tacoma City Councilman during a public meeting to come up with something better than the State's plan for the Tacoma Spur, Phillip and Mariam Lehn prepared a more comprehensive and holistic plan of their own. The Washington State Department of Transportation plan proposed an elevated freeway connecting Interstate 5 and Tacoma's central business district that cut the city off from the waterfront and rose high above and blocked views of Union Station, one of the city's most historic, iconic and beautiful buildings. The Lehns' plan for Waterway Park proposed a slightly slower (45 mph vs 60 mph) interurban arterial between I-5 and the city's downtown covered with a public park connecting the city's many fine but neglected nineteen century brick buildings to the many educational, recreational and entertainment rich opportunities above the lid and along the waterfront. The State's plan focussed exclusively on moving vehicles from the freeway to the city as fast as possible. The Lehns' plan saw the project as a rare opportunity to transform and reinvigorate the city as a whole.


The Lehns' plan was enthusiastically promoted by the Republican candidate for Pierce County's first Chief Executive race and became one of several important issues discussed in the election.  Unfortunately, since the plan couldn't comply with federal interstate highway standards for weaving distances, it wasn't elligible for the 90% funding offered by the federal government.  Booth Gardner, the Democratic candidate who later became Governor, won the election and the Lehns' plan for Waterway Park was not realized. However, it was well publicized during the election and many of its ideas affected the State's and the City's subsequent development of the area. The height of the originally proposed freeway was signficantly reduced and many of the museums, educational and commerical opportunities first envisioned by the Lehns' plan for Waterway Park were ultimately realized.


pla | Phillip Lehn Architect  © 2016