Parkour playground on Madison chosen as finalist in plan to activate Seattle empty spaces

Not long ago, it was a rare thing to find a city park with a climbing wall. In a similar fashion, a planned Capitol Hill park could be one of the first to be built specifically for freerunners to jump and climb up curbs, over tables and across walls.

ParkOurPark,” the brainchild of local non-profit Parkour Visions, was one of the 13 finalists selected in the city-wide Holding Patterns Initiative, led by the Seattle Design Commission. SDC developed Holding Patterns in response to growing concern over the growing number of abandoned or unused lots across the city, and sent an open call out into the community for creative solutions to activate those empty spaces.

CHS highlighted the Holding Patterns Initiative when they first announced the call for idea submissions. We identified 9 targets on the Hill, including the People’s Parking Lot, that are eligible for temporary community lots.

ParkOurPark envisions obstacle courses filled with things like donated park benches, picnic tables, reinforced bus shelters and concrete curbs that people could jump off or climb up. Informational signs would be scattered across the park, describing how to use the equipment in a style modeled after training signs at exercise stations in public parks across the country.

They’ve set their sights on the small triangle of concrete on the corner of 19th Street and E. Madison, next to the Hearing Speech and Deafness Center (HSDC). The group is also interested in the much larger across the street that used to be home to the Fratelli’s factory and its famous cow mural. “There are few outdoor Parkour parks in the country – this is really the first idea I’ve seen based around the overall vision of using your environment and what’s around you,” said Beth Jusino, project lead for the Parkour Park Project and volunteer with Parkour Visions. “It’s something that kids get excited about… but that people of all ages could enjoy.”

Here’s what commenter Katy on our Holding Patterns post had to say about the bigger empty lot across the street:

I was excited to read the blog on “Holding Patterns.” I have lived on the Hill for 30 years and have been dismayed to see the ugly,empty lot at 19th and Madison. My neighbors and I were waiting for the lot to be developed, and I remeber the developer addressing a Miller Park Neighborhood Community meeting several years ago to explain his plans for development of the space. In the meantime the Fratelli’s structure (including the iconic cow mural) was destroyed and the space left to graffiti and garbage.

I would like help with any plans to convert this eyesore. Maybe a plan could incorporate a reference to Fratelli’s and the cows.

Holding Patterns received 83 land-use proposals, ranging from temporary graffiti canvases to community food gardens and “blackboard jungles.” They’ve selected 13 finalists and 13 runners-up, which you can read more about on the SDC website.

“In terms of betterment of neighborhoods, we think the program can temporarily fill what are otherwise “voids” in the fabric,” said Mary Johnston, chair of the SDC and partner of Johnston Architects. “Capitol Hill is a great, lively neighborhood that embraces interesting ideas. I think this program will particularly appeal to the neighborhood sense of active engagement.”

The initiative will facilitate conversations between property owners who cannot afford to build or complete their construction projects, and community leaders interested in transforming those spaces into communal gathering areas. The implemented projects will be temporary fixtures on the lots until the owners can begin construction or lot development again.

“The city is open to any of the concepts at this point,” said Johnston. “In general, simple [projects], easy to implement and easily put up and taken down might be the best.”

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Jusino says that Parkour Visions has a team of volunteers willing to set up and break down the park, and a professional consulting team that could develop safe courses and designs. To stay cost-efficient and economically friendly, ParkOurPark would operate under the ‘Leave No Trace’ Parkour philosophy, which promises to leave the space better than they found it.

ParkOurPark and the other 12 finalists will meet with property owners, city department representatives and possible funding partners on July 20. They will have the opportunity to present their ideas, answer questions and determine next steps. This meeting isn’t open to the public or media, but CHS will keep you posted on what happens next.

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9 thoughts on “Parkour playground on Madison chosen as finalist in plan to activate Seattle empty spaces

  1. UPDATED: I was thinking of the larger empty lot on the NW corner of 19th & Madison. The proposal is for the smaller triangular lot on the SW corner – next to the Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center – the one that was being developed by Pb Elemental (an innovative architectural firm that seems to have pretty much gone belly up).

    Commenter Kate notes that the ” the space [was] left to graffiti and garbage.”

    When garbage started to accumulate on the site I contacted the developer, Val Thomas. Soon thereafter the site was effectively fenced and the garbage removed. The site remains garbage and (mostly) graffiti free. Yes, it’s an eyesore, but it’s a tidy eyesore. Not sure we can expect much more during a recession.

    Likewise the 23rd/Union site: a request to the owner quickly resulted in the weeds vanishing.

    I’m grateful that both owners are keeping their building lots relatively tidy while they await economic conditions that will allow redevelopment to occur.

  2. FedRep Park space, – meet – Parkour Visions and emptyspaces

    ( Although… the photo doesn’t show any of MY favorite parkour elements, like simple vertical walls at staggered heights (like cell phone bars), building-to-building top jumps, or turning stairwells / fire escapes. We can work on it though ;) )

  3. doesn’t all this stuff already exist in the city? whats the point of this? should at least make it a skatepark/parkour area

  4. Couldnt agree more.. If its not a skate park, its a waste. Parkour is popular in Russia and other poor Eastern European countries, not America, and especially not Capital Hill.

  5. mappy, the image is just a concept image. The actual contents of the park will depend on what the city has available and what gets donated. Also its not going to have any thing at dangerous heights – not going to be appropriate.

  6. This would be one of the first parkour parks in the US – currently there are none yet there are four dedicated parkour gyms (with one in Seattle) around the country.

  7. A skate park is like giving a cat a scratching post. It’s a waste of money because they still are going to damage everything they can sink their claws into.