An easily missed, triangular patch of green space walled in between Madison, Pike, and 15th near Capitol Hill’s radio and television towers could find new prominence if plans to build the most significant “living” building yet in Seattle continue to move forward. Tuesday, June 8th at 2pm in the Wyckoff Auditorium, a small group of Seattle University students will be presenting their findings on just about every aspect of the small park, called McGilvra Place, from its history to how pedestrians use the space.
The presentation will be the culmination of Seattle University’s Community Design Workshop, a class that brings together students from all majors to complete a project for an actual client in the community. “This is not a theoretical workshop, but a practical task for a real firm.” said Dr. Marie Wong, Associate Professor at SU’s Institute for Public Service and faculty leader of the workshop. In previous years the Design Workshop has done studies on land use and zoning in Little Saigon as well as construction and maintenance of the Chinatown gateway. Like those projects, Professor Wong said she agreed to the McGilvra Place project because the students could see a real positive change for the community from their work.
The project came about when Point32 CEO Chris Rogers approached Professor Wong with the idea in anticipation of Point32’s development of the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction, which is planned for the adjacent property to the east, current home of C.C. Attle’s. According to Rogers the project presented an opportunity “to demonstrate new ways of thinking about sustainability in the landscape, through green stormwater infrastructure, rethinking secondary roadways to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, and ways to enhance existing open spaces that have been made inaccessible.” The Bullitt Foundation, which will relocate its headquarters to a portion of the Cascadia Center building, has also shown support for the idee, applying for $650,000 from the Parks Levy’s Opportunity Fund for the project.
Tuesday’s presentation will cover the findings of four different teams involved in the Workshop. Chase Clancy, one of the two project managers of the workshop, provided a brief summary of what each of the four teams has been studying.
The Historical Research Team has been looking into the history or the park, along with the surrounding area, from roughly the 1860s forward. We have collected information about the history of the ownership of the land that McGilvra Place sits on, as well as the history of Madison, E. Pike St., and 15th, and the business development in the area. Also, we have collected a great deal of information about the streetcar era in Seattle, specifically looking into the history of the Madison Street Railway and the subsequent trolley and bus systems.
The Physical Investigations Team has been looking into what is actually at the park. This includes researching the eleven trees surrounding the park (although they looked like Sycamores, it turns out they are London Plane trees) and understanding what their average lifespan is, the typical structure of their root systems, etc. The physical investigations group was also tasked with researching and reporting on sustainable features that might be applicable to this pocket park, including different types of permeable pavements as well as bioswales and vegetative swales.
The Existing Park Management Team was tasked with researching who owns and who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the park. It turns out that the trees are in fact owned by the Department of Transportation, but it is the responsibility of the Parks Department to maintain them. This team is also responsible for figuring out what the costs associated with the park are in its current condition.
The Human Observations Team took up the task of observing the park and the people and traffic that are in or near it. Staking out for multiple set times over the course of two weeks, this team recorded every person that was in or near the park, what they looked like, what they were doing, if they were accompanied by someone or alone, etc.
Chase, a junior majoring in Liberal Studies, said the class had been incredibly valuable because it had empowered the students by giving them an opportunity to do work that was practical to real world situations. Another student, Christina Walker, a Sociology major, echoed Chance’s sentiments, explaining that the research had given her a very thorough understanding of the inner-workings of city infrastructure and budgets. “Working on this document has been an incredible hands-on experience and has given me the opportunity to work together on a community research and planning team in hopes to help a business better utilize a space in the community.”