Why the Garfield Super Block project means thinking big

The Central District’s community gathering space could be a model for the rest of Seattle.

A grassy playfield sits in the middle of an urban area in the Central District, Seattle with residences and other fields around it.

The plan has centered community engagement for two decades.

Photo via the Garfield Super Block

Now’s a good time to get acquainted with the Garfield Super Block. We’re talking about the eight-block area in the Central District that includes parks, athletic venues, historic buildings, and a gathering space for the community.

Recently, Seattle Parks & Recreation held a public meeting to go over new designs for the unfinished portion of the Super Block. Among the highlights will be the city’s first-ever parkour park, a comfort station with concessions, and a major arts installation.

Once construction starts for the renovations in 2025, you may be hearing the term Super Block even more around town — let’s take a closer look at the big idea.

What makes a block so super?

By definition, a Super Block refers to an urban area larger than a regular city block that’s closed to cars and generally features interconnected social + recreational facilities — but its look can vary.

Many cities have taken inspiration from Barcelona’s version (called Superilles) that have transformed the city with vibrant plazas. Studies show how similar Super Blocks could work in Tokyo, Mexico City, and elsewhere.

Seattle has been pondering Super Blocks for years, though our layout is less grid-like than other global locales. Besides Garfield, Occidental Square has elements of the concept, as do certain Waterfront developments. The city’s Healthy Streets initiative from the start of the pandemic may have also paved the way for Super-ish projects.

Blocks of the future?

Years ago, Seattle City Council floated the idea of a Super Block along the Pike/Pine corridor in Capitol Hill. There’s also been talk about closing off Pike Place to car traffic, which could create something like a Super Block. Funding and buy-in from businesses have presented challenges, though.

At the moment, the Garfield area is Seattle’s most prominent active project to watch for Super Block-heads. Keep an eye on updates at the website to learn more or schedule a tour.