John P. Willison Records, 1959-1971  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Seattle (Wash.). Dept. of Community Development
Title
John P. Willison Records
Dates
1959-1971 (inclusive)
Quantity
2.25 cubic feet, (3 boxes)
Collection Number
1642-01
Summary
Records of John P. (Jack) Willison, Director of Seattle's Urban Renewal Program, include project and administrative files for urban renewal projects.
Repository
Seattle Municipal Archives
Seattle Municipal Archives
Office of the City Clerk
City of Seattle
PO Box 94728
98124-4728
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-233-7807
Fax: 206-386-9025
archives@seattle.gov
Access Restrictions

Records are open to the public.

Languages
English


Historical NoteReturn to Top

In 1957, the Washington State Legislature adopted the "Urban Renewal Act" enabling Washington cities to take action to prevent, arrest, and eliminate blight. After the federal Housing Act of 1959 authorized the Housing and Home Finance Administration (a division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development) to make grants to localities for the preparation of Community Renewal Programs, Seattle formed a Community Renewal Program Committee. The federal Community Renewal Programs were designed to assist cities in the development of long-range comprehensive plans for city-wide renewal; inventorying existing "blight" both residential and non-residential; assessment of public facilities, streets, schools, parks and playgrounds, and libraries; and to determine the urban renewal treatment needed to "recapture, or create anew the good environment."

The Seattle Urban Renewal Program was authorized by ordinance in 1957, and the first federal funds allocated for neighborhood studies were received in 1959. The program was designed to eradicate urban "blighted areas" in the City. It was initially administered by the Executive Department, and then transferred to the Department of Community Development in 1969. Conventional urban renewal funding was designated for four neighborhoods: Yesler-Atlantic, University-Northlake, South Seattle, and Pike Place Market. In addition, Neighborhood Development Program funds targeted Leschi, South Park, and North Greenwood. Despite the early identification of neighborhoods and the adoption of urban renewal plans, most projects did not get underway until the mid- to late 1960s.

John P. Willison (known as Jack) was director of the Urban Renewal Division from 1963 to 1969. Before coming to Seattle, Willison was director of the urban renewal program in Columbus, Ohio. After the transfer of the Urban Renewal Division to the Department of Community Development, Willison's title changed to Development Operations Director. He was preceded by Talbot Wegg, Urban Renewal Coordinator. Wegg left in 1963 to join a private engineering consulting firm. The Urban Renewal Division was responsible for the development and administration of designated areas for various types of redevelopment, as well as the relocation of area residents who were required to move to make way for improvements.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The records of Jack Willison are primarily focused on urban renewal projects. The major projects included are the Central Business District, Northlake, Pioneer Square, South Seattle, and Pike Place Plaza. Administrative files are included as well. The bulk of the records date from 1963 to 1969 during Willison's tenure as Director of the Urban Renewal Division. Contents of the records are described more fully below.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item and date], Department of Community Development, John P. Willison Records, Record Series 1642-01. Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Project FilesReturn to Top

The Project Files include correspondence at the federal and local level, minutes of meetings, and financial information. Significant projects include the Central Business District, Northlake, Pioneer Square, South Seattle, Pike Place Plaza, and open space. Federal project numbers are included in folder titles when known.

The Northlake Urban Renewal Project, also known as the University Addition-Northlake Urban Renewal Project, was located within one-fourth of a mile of the University of Washington campus. Primary land uses for the project included development of housing, dining and parking facilities for the UW, public and private utilities, and off-street parking. Relocation of Northeast Pacific Street was part of the project. Work was initiated in 1960 but did not begin until 1964, in part because of legal action taken by property owners regarding the constitutionality of the urban renewal law. Legal action arose again in 1966 when the City was asked by the State Supreme Court to justify conditions that would support "blight" within the project area. Correspondence between the UW and property owners with the City is included. Files include legal correspondence and property surveys as well.

The controversial nature of redevelopment plans for the Pike Place Market is reflected in Willison's records. Correspondence from Victor Steinbrueck, Friends of the Market, Allied Arts of Seattle, and citizens describe the disagreements. Additional correspondence from business groups, the Health Department, and others voice opinions about plans for the Market. Housing, retail, and parking were some of the issues discussed. Information on public hearings is also included.

The Pioneer Square Redevelopment Project records include studies of the potential and economic feasibility for an urban redevelopment project in this area. The survey and planning application for proposed development was not submitted initially because of the area's non-residential character. Eventually, application was made for a non-assisted project which permitted the use of rehabilitation loans for property improvement. Willison' records contain correspondence discussing this decision. As part of the planning, there is also discussion of a ring road in downtown Seattle. The ring road is also discussed in the records on the Central Business District. Some reports of the Pioneer Square Advisory Committee are also included here as well.

The South Seattle Redevelopment project focused on utility improvements and development of land for private industrial purposes. The federal grant for $3,850,000 included land acquisition, relocation of people and businesses, demolition, new construction, and utility improvements such as sanitary sewers, storm drains, paving and underground telephone and power lines.

The Yesler Atlantic project was designed to encourage rehabilitation of existing structures in order to contribute to the improvement of the entire area. The records document property acquisition and development plans. Included is correspondence with the Yesler Atlantic Citizens Conference, made up of property owners and tenants in the neighborhood who protested urban renewal plans, and other residents, who were in favor of the efforts. Legal information, background for hearings, and correspondence with neighborhood organizations and consultants is included as well. The properties in question were known as the Yesler-Atlantic "T". Work on another urban renewal project area, known as the Yesler-Atlantic "U" was deferred because of the uncertainty of the R.H. Thomson Expressway scheduled for construction south of East Yesler Way after 1968.

Container(s) Description Dates
Central Business District
Box/Folder
1/1
Distributor System / Ring Road
1964
½
Government Center Project / Federal Building
1964-1965
1/3
Circulation Study / Steering Committee
1967
1/4
Pike Plaza
1964
1/5
Staff Committee Meeting Minutes
1963-1966
1/6
Planning and Implementation
1964-1965
1/7
Waterfront Development
1964-1965
1/8
UW Demonstration Grant
1964-1967
1/9
Cherry Hill Urban Renewal
1960
1/10
Haller Lake Community
1965
1/11
Model City Program
1967-1969
Northlake Urban Renewal (Wash R-8)
Box/Folder
1/12
General
1966-1967
1/13
UW Coordinating Committee
1967-1968
1/14
Blight Survey (includes First Hill)
1961-1963
1/15
Law Suit
1963-1967
1/16
Land Purchase / Redevelopment Agreements
1963
1/17
Execution Information
1964
1/18
Public Hearing
1962-1963
1/19
Selected Buildings
1963
1/20
Background
1964
Open Space Programs
Box/Folder
1/21
General
1965-1966
1/22
Correspondence
1964-1970
1/23
OS-6
1963-1964
1/24
Magnolia Tidelands
1966
1/25
Sicks' Stadium
1965-1967
1/26
Sicks' Stadium / Empire Athletic Center
1966
1/27
Urban Beautification
1965-1969
Pike Plaza
Box/Folder
1/28
Economics
1968
1/29
Review
1968
1/30
Public Hearings
1968-1969
1/31
Financing
1968-1969
1/41
Forward Thrust : Community Renewal Program (CRP) Study Committee
1967
Pioneer Square
Box/Folder
1/32
Community Organizations
1964-1968
1/33
Consultants
1966-1969
1/34
Planning Studies
1965
1/35
Survey and Planning Application
1966
1/36
Property Demolition
1971
1/37
Renovation / Rehabilitation
1968-1970
1/38
Reports and Proposals
1966-1968
1/39
Non-Assisted Project
1968
1/40
Property Acquisition
1964-1968
2/1
Relocation
1967-1970
2/2
General Neighborhood Renewal Plan
1970
2/3
General Planning
1965-1970
2/4
Maps
1966-1968
2/5
Poverty Program : Neighborhood Youth Corps
1964-1965
2/6
South Park
1966
South SeattleRedevelopment Project (R-13)
Box/Folder
2/7
Correspondence and Notes
1964-1966
2/8
Correspondence and Notes
1967-1968
2/9
Financial
1964-1968
2/10
Planning
1964
2/11
Loan and Grant Contract
1965-1968
2/12
Seattle Area Industrial Council
1965-1966
2/13
Progress Reports
1964-1966
2/14
Work Flow
1964
2/16
Site Improvement Contracts
1968
2/16
Workable Program for Community Improvement
1965-1966
Yesler Atlantic Project
Box/Folder
2/17
Citizen Conference / Citizen Groups
1964-1967
2/18
Comprehensive Plan
1965
2/19
Newsletter
1966-1967
2/20
Planning
1966
2/21
Planning
1967-1968
2/22
Public Hearing / Background (Wash R-5)
1966-1967
2/23
Public Hearing
1967
2/24
Land Acquisition Map
1967
2/25
Legal Information (Wash R -5)
1967-1968
2/26
Rehabilitation - Non-residential Properties
1964
2/27
Shopping Center Proposals
1971
2/28
Reports and Plans (includes sociological survey)
1963-1967
2/29
Staffing
1965
2/30
Miscellaneous
1964-1965

Administrative FilesReturn to Top

The Administrative Files include planning, real estate, community services and fiscal management, as well as personnel and legal information. The legal issues include broader challenges to the concept of urban development. Information on community organizations is also included in this subseries, such as newsletters from the Central Association for Seattle, as well as correspondence and minutes from Seattle Urban Renewal Enterprise (SURE) and the Official Urban Renewal Advisory Board (OURAB).

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
2/31
Audit Reports
1966-1967
2/32
Code Enforcement Program
1965-1966
2/33
Historic Preservation
1964-1972
2/34
Housing Act Amendment - 1964
1964
2/35
Land Disposition
1965
3/1
Land Disposition
1963-1969
3/2
Edwards v. City of Seattle
1968
3/3
Urban Renewal Background - Legal
1963-1966
3/4
Low Income Housing
1968
3/5
Office Urban Renewal Advisory Board (OURAP)
1963-1966
3/6
Relocation
1963-1969
3/7
Rehabilitation
1965
3/8
Central Association of Seattle - Newsletters
1964-1966
3/9
Seattle Urban Renewal Enterprise (SURE)
1964-1966
3/10
National Association of Real Estate Boards Visit
1964
3/11
Small Business Administration
1967
3/12
Slide Show Narrative
1965
3/13
Urban Renewal Programs - Other Cities
1962
3/14
Affirmative Action / Equal Employment Opportunity
1968
3/15
Personnel - Job Specifications
1959-1960
3/16
Personnel - Staff Planning
1959-1963

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • City planning--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Community development--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Urban renewal--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Personal Names :
  • Willison, John P.
  • Corporate Names :
  • Pike Place Market (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Seattle (Wash.). Dept. of Community Development
  • Geographical Names :
  • Seattle (Wash.)