SEATTLE -- Some say they are an eyesore, while others find allthe vacant lots aroundSeattlejust plain depressing.

There are between 30 and 50 vacant lots around downtown Seattle and Ballard. They are spots where old buildings were torn down, but when the economy turned sour, plans for new construction were put on hold indefinitely.

Now those lots feature large holes, piles of dirt, graffiti or rusting fences.

They're really not good for the city. They're not safe and they're not very attractive, certainly, said Mary Johnston, an architect on Seattle's Design Commission.

In addition, some of the vacant lots are in prominent locations, such as the one across the street from Seattle's City Hall. Others were once the home of sentimental favorites, like the former Sunset Bowl or the old Googi-esque Denny's, both in Ballard. There were once plans to build glistening new condominiums in their places, but that construction is now on hold until the economy perks up again.

We're all hoping it picks up pretty soon, said Johnston. But in the meantime, we'd like to do something fun with some of these lots.

The Seattle Design Commission is now scouting for ideas to fill some of the spots. They are holding a competition to find creative and inexpensive ways to turn these eyesores into something more appealing.

We've been getting wonderful ideas, said Johnston. Everything from really passive garden ideas or maybe planting fields of sunflowers to attract birds and butterflies, to really active, fun ideas like miniature golf or one of my favorites is a community dance floor.

The deadline for those ideas is May 24th. The Commission is in the process of talking with property owners to see who would be interested in participating in the program, and they hope to implement the ideas is as many as five lots.

To check out the Design Commission's web page and submit your idea, go to

Read or Share this story: