The Volunteer Park Trust is holding a community meeting Thursday night to answer questions and take feedback on the project to create a new amphitheater in Capitol Hill’s landmark park:
Amphitheater Project Public Meeting
Thursday, October 15 — 6 to 8 PM
Seattle Asian Art Museum 1400 E Prospect
Please join Volunteer Park Trust at a public meeting where we will answer questions and seek community input on the proposed Amphitheater upgrade for Volunteer Park. Meet project consultants ORA Architects and Walker Macy Landscape Architects, and let us know your concerns, suggestions and ideas.
The park’s aging stage has served the park since the early ’70s. The popular venue is host to dozens of annual events — scheduled and impromptu — and serving thousands of people as a stage for dramatic performances, music, rallies, and more.
CHS first reported on the replacement project in late 2014 when the VPT announced it was receiving a grant to fund the early work for creating a design for the project. Over the summer, the trust began the planning work including bringing on an architectural team “to conduct a feasibility study exploring community preferences and technical requirements for a new amphitheater.” ORA Architects is directing the study with Walker Macy Landscape Architects.
“The current brick structure, built in 1971, is in poor condition and its replacement is long overdue,” VPT said in a CHS Community Post about the project. “Among its many inadequacies are bad acoustics, inadequate backstage space, and absence of weather protection. The stage lacks fundamental features needed to successfully present music, theatre, dance, film, and other events.”
While the thousands who utilize the venue every year will likely be excited about the planned improvements, some neighbors who live within earshot aren’t thrilled with some of the events the stage hosts. “I’ve already registered complaints with the city,” read one CHS comment about the recent dB in the Park event. “That was the most mind numbing, obnoxious concert we’ve ever heard from 3 blocks away. 7.5 hours of unrelenting bass, windows rattling, etc. is insane. City living certainly exposes one to lots of noise, but this was over the top.”
Perhaps a new bandshell could help dull the bass.
The Volunteer Park Trust group formed in 2012 as a response to looming challenges to preserve the more than 100-year-old park while finding historically appropriate ways to enhance the Olmstead-designed green space. Subject to landmarks protection after its 2011 designation, Volunteer Park’s aging features are, one by one, coming up for upgrades, overhauls, and — sometimes — removal. The largest example is the 22 million gallon reservoir which still serves as part of the city’s clean water infrastructure even as Seattle Public Utilities considers decommissioning the facility. The Volunteer Park Conservatory, meanwhile, is already undergoing millions of dollars in historically appropriate upgrades. Future projects will include restoration work at the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s art deco building and a new lease on life for the park’s most visible landmark — the Volunteer Park water tower.
According to the city, a performance pavilion was designed into the park by the Olmsted Brothers back in 1912 — but that pavilion apparently stood where the Seattle Asian Art Museum stands today. According to the invaluable Don Sherwood Seattle Parks files, the present day location for the stage dates to 1915:
“A tall wooden band shell, designed by prominent local architect Carl Gould, was built in 1915 in the current stage location to provide a better listening experience for musical performances,” the successful landmarks nomination for the park reads. “Eventually damaged by weathering and poor maintenance, the band shell was demolished in 1948 and replaced by the current building in 1971.”
The Olmstead brothers noted the park’s original bandstand was intended “for the Symphony more than for brass bands.”
A $25,000 grant from the city’s Neighborhood Matching Fund program paid for the conceptual design of the project — another grant will need to be secured to complete the formal design and then the fundraising process will begin to power the construction phase of the project. The VPT Amphitheater Project Task Force, “a group of neighbors and community volunteers committed to improving the park,” is managing the project.
The final design phase for the project is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2016 with a goal of having the new performance space completed by 2018.
You can learn more at volunteerparktrust.org.