In response to a condemnation order placed on a site owned by real estate firm Spectrum Development Solutions at 11th and Alder in order to build a new pocket park, the 12th Avenue Stewards community group has voted unanimously to rescind the order and allow the construction project to continue rather than begin design on a new public space.
Following the vote, Mayor Ed Murray officially withdrew the proposed condemnation order, representatives tell CHS.
“This issue is something that has been difficult for the group,” said Bill Zosel, vice-chair of the 12th Avenue Stewards told CHS in a statement on the vote.
“We all want to see another park, and it’s been very hard to find another location for the park, so this was not an easy conversation. The Puget Sound Business Journal article made this seem like a major battle between the Parks Department and Spectrum, but that really didn’t capture it at all. Everyone is looking to get a lot of different things for the neighborhood. We’re very sensitive to the fact that there needs to be a park, and it needs to be found soon.”
Zosel said that while much of the surrounding area was zoned for lowrise developments, the 11th and Alder plot was zoned midrise, leading to the city having to pay more money for the construction of a pocket park than other locations. He went on to emphasize that due to the high cost of purchasing the plot, there is “not presently money to develop the land as a park,” and that the location could have remained undeveloped for some time. The 12th Avenue Stewards has asked the Parks Department to consider other areas in the neighborhood for the development of a park.
“There’s a limited amount of money to buy land, and the assumption is that this is some of the most expensive land in the area because it’s zoned mid-rise,” said Zosel. “The Parks Department has had a pot of money for a few years and has been unsuccessful in finding land to buy. There is no deadline, but I think we all feel that sooner is better. The money could be spent somewhere else if we don’t find a place. There is a sense of urgency, as land isn’t getting any cheaper; there’s no advantage in waiting if land is only getting more expensive.”
Jake McKinstry, the project manager for the trio of apartment projects in the area that Spectrum is currently developing, said that the company recognizes the need for a park in the area, and that they would like to work with community residents and the city in order to find a suitable location.
“We’re all in alignment in that we all want good, quality open-space and the need for it in the neighborhood,” said McKinstry.
There is also lots of green space being planned as part of the Yesler Terrace redevelopment.
On Thursday, August 28th, the Seattle Parks Department will be holding a public meeting in the Yesler Community Center at 6:30 PM to discuss the construction of a new park located at 835 Yesler Way.
According to Karen O’Connor of Seattle Parks, the project developers are hoping to use the meeting to help tailor the design of Yesler Park to the community’s needs in the hope that the green space will become “the heart of the community.”
“The park is a critical piece of the new development. We really want to hear from the community and let them know about this park development,” said O’Connor.
Since the beginning of the development project, the Parks has been responding to feedback from the area’s residents to help implement features that they would like to see added. Current Yesler Terrace residents, who are primarily of East African and Southeast Asian descent, have primarily requested large walking paths similar to those available at Jefferson Park as well as covered areas and plazas designed for cultural events, O’Connor said. Other features will include a large grass area within the walking paths as well as play structures, flower beds, and plantings.
“Neighborhood discussions revealed that people will use the park to play games and to meet with friends,” said project manager Pamela Kliment. “But we want to know the types of games they play in their cultures and the types of gathering areas they’d use. Do we put in benches and tables or have more open space? How close should these elements be to each other? How can we add as much walking as possible?”
“The broad brush strokes of the design are set, but many of the details like the play structures are what we’re really looking for in the community,” said O’Connor. “The landscape architects will be presenting their concept designs and offering play equipment and other things, so by coming to the meeting they’ll be able to respond and provide feedback to the presentation. We will be looking for comments on play area, social spaces, games and other elements. It is also an opportunity to meet the artist selected for the park.”
The artist who will be designing the public artwork used for Yesler Park, Christine Bourdette, is a sculptor who has worked on projects in Portland, Oregon and Tempe, Arizona. In past projects, Bourdette has engaged in conversations and one-on-one interviews with community residents to ascertain how to best reflect the culture of the area.
“I am especially excited to explore the multiple layers of this community, to meet its members and discover what fires their aspirations, to understand the fluidity of its public space,” said Bourdette.
The 1.7 acre park is budgeted at $3 million from the 2008 Parks & Green Spaces Levy, and is currently scheduled to begin construction next March and with a planned fall completion. Bourdette’s artwork is slated to cost $130,000 with that budget managed by the Office of Arts and Culture from the 1% for the Arts program.
Although funds from the newly-created Parks District will not become available for use during the construction process, parks officials say that the additional funds allowed for by the district will help to better fund Yesler Park’s maintenance after opening.
Affordability at 11th and Alder?
A five minute walk north back at 11th and Alder, the third of an acre-sized land owned by Spectrum was purchased for $2.2 million, and after the expected completion date in the summer of 2016, will house an 85-unit complex with 14 units set aside for middle-income earners as part of the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program. McKinstry projects that out of those 14 units, studios will cost approximately $896, one bedrooms will be around $1,200, and two bedrooms will be at $1,519. The expected rent for the market-rate units has not been determined.
While housing affordability has become an increased topic of debate within Central Seattle, Spectrum representatives have said that they do not believe the traditionally working-class neighborhood around Yesler Terrace will be gentrified by the developments, but rather that Spectrum’s developments will aid in preventing households of lower income levels from being pushed out.
“What we see in the 12th avenue corridor is that it’s important to have a mix of all incomes, so our focus is how do we provide that and ensure that there’s a great mix of units for different economic places so that gentrification doesn’t happen,” said McKinstry.
Zosel said the 12th Ave group members hope to see affordable options come out of the development projects and how the area will evolve as a whole.
“Housing affordability is a huge issue in Seattle,” Zosel writes. “However, we’re not aware of any proposals for that space that would provide more affordable housing than what Spectrum is offering.”
The group is holding a picnic next weekend:
Spruce Park BBQ Sept 6th (PDF)