Newly completed 12th Ave Square Park is the kind of open space you need to create in a tightly packed, Central Seattle neighborhood. Where once was an empty, 7,322-square-foot, gravel-covered lot, now is a paved plaza with native plantings, raised pedestals, and a rubber coated mound that answers the cross-neighborhood call of Cal Anderson’s Teletubby Hill. Above it all floats a sculpture by artist Ellen Sollod.
All that and you can drive through it thanks to the James Ct woonerf that runs softly (and one way, only) through the edge of the new public space.
“Seattle Parks and Recreation and the 12th Avenue Stewards are excited to announce the opening of 12th Avenue Square Park located at E. James Court and 12th Avenue between Ba Bar and Cherry Street Coffee House in the Squire Park neighborhood,” the Seattle Parks announcement reads.
The project, designed by Hewitt Architects and Sollod with input from the community, got started about six years ago but its genesis goes further back.
Here’s what Squire Park neighborhood advocate Bill Zosel had to say about the project:
The park is the result of a decade of advocacy by 12th Avenue Stewards a neighborhood group, including residents, business owners and institutions, formed in the 1990s to champion the redevelopment of 12th Avenue. Twenty years later, 12th Avenue Stewards continues to be an active neighborhood partner working with the City, local businesses and nonprofits, to advance the 12th Avenue Urban Village as a neighborhood corridor of vibrant businesses, restaurants, arts organizations, and institutions.
Seattle Parks strikes a diplomatic tone regarding the park’s location. “Situated between the Central Area and Capitol Hill, the 7,332 square-foot park is considered part of both communities,” the announcement reads. “The park space will be used to strengthen community ties through programming local events and offering a great gathering place.”
The park is one of a handful of smaller projects underway around Capitol Hill including Broadway Hill Park.
The 12th Ave project was allocated $500,000 from the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy, $490,000 from the Pro Parks Levy, and the Seattle Parks Foundation also pitched in $70,000. SDOT also picked up part of the bill for the woonerf.
Though only the width of one block, Seattle Parks says the woonerf “provides pedestrians and cyclists priority on the street,” and say the “technique of shared spaces, traffic calming, and low speed limits contribute to improved pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile safety.”
Solod’s sculpture is called the Cloud Veil:
The artistic sculptural canopy structure called “Cloud Veil” that hovers over a rounded “pillow” and the wavy concrete paving design grew out of the Hewitt and Sollod collaboration. Several other smaller pillows for seating are sprinkled through the space. The park’s unique design also includes rain gardens to extend the feeling of open space for the entire block on E. James Court, a single east-bound lane.
While the park is now open for wandering through and hanging out (there is also a giant table), Parks is planning a grand opening celebration for Thursday, April 14, 2016, from 5 to 7:30 PM in conjunction with the monthly Capitol Hill Art Walk. You can learn more at seattle.gov.