New streateries — parklets + street eateries — coming to Capitol Hill

(Image: Seattle Bike Blog)

(Image: Seattle Bike Blog)

Capitol Hill’s first parklet — and the first parklet in Seattle — is also slated to be one of its first streateries.

Montana owner Rachel Marshall confirmed to CHS that she is one of the first applicants for the latest twist in the City of Seattle’s parklet program allowing local businesses to apply to change two or three street parking spaces into public patios and decks.

In announcing the city’s transition of its parklet program out of its preliminary phase, Seattle City Hall also announced a new streatery variation which will give restaurants, cafes, and bars a tighter connection with the facilities. Here’s how the Seattle Department of Transportation describes them:

Streateries are like parklets except the sponsoring restaurant or bar can operate the space as a sidewalk café, providing space exclusively for their customers during their open hours of business. When the bar or restaurant is closed, the space will function as a parklet, open to everyone.

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Cal Anderson’s hatches to open for Lincoln Reservoir cleaning and maintenance

Lincoln Reservoir — now covered by Cal Anderson (Images: City of Seattle)

With happy times and green space above, below Cal Anderson Park lurks two 6.25 million-gallon vaults full of clear, cool, Seattle Public Utilities drinking water. Soon, portions of Capitol Hill’s central park will be fenced off for a month of maintenance in the subterranean Lincoln Reservoir.

According to SPU, the reservoir will be drained, inspected and then washed and its roof, hatches, vents and screens will be inspected. “Repairs to the system will also be made and debris will be removed from the reservoir’s perimeter and grounds as needed,” a notice from SPU to be posted at the work site reads. Continue reading

First Hill group makes final push to stop preservation of Harborview art deco building

Harborview Hall, on the left, in 1935.

Harborview Hall, on the left, in 1935. (Image: King County)

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 5.46.04 PM

King County’s Harborview Hall preservation plan. Plans initially included leveling Harborview Hall for a plaza. (Image: King County)

It’s rare that a neighborhood group in Seattle would push for a historic building to be demolished, but the fight over First Hill’s Harborview Hall is not a typical one.

Members of the citizens advisory committee for Harborview Medical Center’s major institutions plan say they are on the ropes in a last ditch effort to have the art deco hospital building torn down to make way for some much needed public open space.

On Friday, a city hearing examiner will hear testimony over whether plans should move forward for a Harborview Hall preservation project. Continue reading

3,000 new residents and the need for ‘open green space’ on First Hill

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 7.19.36 PMFirst Hill might get a whole lot greener — at least in the spring and summer. 

Earlier this month, more than 150 residents of the First Hill community and representatives from the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Parks & Recreation, and the Department of Planning and Development gathered at Town Hall Seattle to discuss ideas for revamping certain streets in the neighborhood to allow for more dynamic and multi-purposed public open green space. 

“Not only do streets need to function as mobility, but they need to be the front door, the place where people go to meet. They’re social spaces,” said Susan McLaughlin, project manager for the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan. 

“Over the last decade First Hill has grown by over 3,000 new residents,” said Lyle Bicknell, principal urban designer with DPD and one of the speakers leading the town hall. “These new residents and workers need quality green space, in addition to those who already live here.”

During the session, First Hill residents gleaned insights into how parts of their neighborhood might be transformed within the next few years. Continue reading

Pikes/Pines | A comforting search for Capitol Hill’s largest (and likely oldest) trees


The Chinese scholar tree of Cal Anderson Park. (Image: Brendan McGarry)

Trees are magical organisms, woven into the fabric of almost every culture on earth and thankfully we have an abundance of them on Capitol Hill. Many species live hundreds of years, much longer than most people which means they have stories to tell, if only we take the time to look. However, when I set out to find the oldest tree on Capitol Hill, I quickly discovered I wouldn’t get a definitive answer.

Typically there aren’t sufficient records of tree plantings (outside of the Arboretum) to supply this information passively. To really find the answer I’d have to use an increment borer or wait for a tree to be cut down to count the rings. In my work as a Capitol Hill dendrochronology detective, I couldn’t just go cutting into trees.

Most people know our temperate rainforests are home to some of the largest trees in the world. Ideal rainfall and temperatures grow huge specimens. Capitol Hill was not far from where the original Seattle settlers set up shop and, therefore, it was quickly denuded of easy to harvest giants. What’s left of that era are trees that were spared because they weren’t worth logging. I tell this story, not to make you feel sad or to mourn their loss, but because it tells you something about my quest for the oldest and largest trees on Capitol. They aren’t native. Continue reading

First Hill open house to discuss ideas for creating public space in a dense, expensive neighborhood

10849746_10152681958713472_254082806541285596_nThey can construct big and tall apartment buildings on First Hill — and there are projects underway and plans to do so on a growing number of corners along Madison like here and here. Creating public space for those residents present and future and the thousands of people who work on First Hill is the goal of the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan. Wednesday night, city planners will host an open house at First Hill’s Town Hall to talk about how “street spaces” and “private development” can create “a greener, more walkable neighborhood” —

Open House: First Hill Public Realm Action Plan
Wednesday, January 7 5:00 PM
First Hill’s growing residential population, cultural institutions, and influx of workers warrants high quality public spaces that meet mobility and recreational needs. The current First Hill neighborhood plan (from 1998) recognizes this need for open space in this bustling, downtown-adjacent neighborhood, but despite efforts to advance this goal, land acquisition has proven to be challenging. For this educational open house, city staff will be present to discuss open space concepts and implementation strategies for these innovative open space proposals. Moving beyond land acquisition, the plan incorporates street spaces and private development to create a greener, more walkable neighborhood.

Presenters include Susan McLaughlin, Urban Design Lead/Project Manager at Seattle Department of Transportation; Donald Harris and Chip Nevins, Department of Parks & Recreation, Property and Acquisition Services; Lyle Bicknell, Principal Urban Designer with the Department of Planning & Development; and Alex Hudson, Coordinator for the First Hill Improvement Association.

Last year, CHS wrote about the City of Seattle initiative for the First Hill neighborhood born of the challenges of acquiring adequate land for parks in the area. In 2000 and 2008 voters approved levies to fund land acquisitions for new parks on First Hill, but affordable properties are almost non-existent in one of the densest neighborhoods in the state. With Seattle’s continued growth, First Hill’s plan might end up part of the solution for the future of “parks” in the city.

A documentation of the plan including specific concepts for locations across First Hill is below.
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Volunteer Park Conservatory — 103 years old and counting — reopens after ‘historically accurate’ overhaul

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

IMG_3581Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park Conservatory reopens to the public this weekend after a three-month layoff to complete work on a $3.5 million “historically accurate” restoration of its east wing. What’s a few months after serving as the Hill’s Crystal Palace for 103 years!

Powered by a fundraising effort by the Friends of the Conservatory group, the restoration of the the glass, wood, and aluminum seasonal house and the cactus house was vital for the 1912-built conservatory’s long term health and finished a project started in 1993 to transition the building’s slender frames from wood to aluminum. The Friends — many well-heeled, others just wearing fancy shoes — were on hand Saturday night for a ribbon cutting to reopen the wing with a fancy holiday gala party.

The conservatory was planned to reopen to the public on Sunday.

City Council Tom Rasmussen at Saturday night's ceremony (Image: CHS)

City Council Tom Rasmussen at Saturday night’s ceremony (Image: CHS)

Thursday night, December 11th, the Conservatory’s lights will be part of the 2014 edition of A Holiday in Volunteer Park along with choral groups and “paths lit by hundreds of luminarias.”

In the meantime, the Volunteer Park Trust, the community group dedicated to supporting the park as a whole, has embarked on the first step in a project to create a new bandshell to replace the park’s crumbling amphitheater structure.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory is located in the northwest corner of the park at 1400 E Galer. You can learn more about hours and more at

Volunteer Park bandstand: Group wins grant to come up with new design for amphitheater

The old Volunteer Park bandshell in 1932 -- it was demolished 16 years later (Image: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr)

The old Volunteer Park bandshell in 1932 — it was demolished 16 years later (Image: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr)

A Capitol Hill community group is excited about a big grant from the City of Seattle that will help it continue its mission of helping shape and restore one of the neighborhood’s favorite public assets.

The Volunteer Park Trust tells CHS that it is kicking off a project to replace Volunteer Park’s aging stage with a new bandshell. The money will go to the development of a conceptual design for a new bandshell to replace the masonry stage that has served the parks since the early ’70s.

The stage in more recent times (Images: CHS)

According to a trust representative, the group plans to hold an open call to select the firm to create the conceptual design. You can sign up at to be notified when the process begins.

CHS can give you a few pointers if you’re looking for guidance in your design. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Central District gets a parklet

IMG_8733Funded by the surrounding community, the 25th and Union parklet made its debut Sunday with a kid-powered ribbon cutting. The ceremony and gathering on the Ten Penny Studio-designed mini-park in front of Cortona Cafe was part of a busy weekend around the Central District including the first annual Central Area Block Party and a 100th anniversary celebration for 23rd and Yesler’s Douglass-Truth library.


The new Central District public space joins a similar mini-park on E Olive Way that was the first parklet constructed in Seattle back in 2013. Planning remains in motion for a street park near 10th and Pike backed by the Comet and Lost Lake.

More images of the new parklet — organizers Amanda Bryan and Karen Estevenin wrote about it here — and all the Central District fun, below.

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

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Arboretum trail will give Central Seattle its very own Green Lake

Rendering of the future trail (Images: City of Seattle)

Rendering of the future trail (Images: City of Seattle)

Planners expect a center line to help split traffic on the trail's curves

Planners expect a center line to help split traffic on the trail’s curves

Following this winter’s rains, crews will begin work on a paved trail weaving in an out of the wetlands and gardens of the Arboretum allowing pedestrians a closer connection to the natural preserve and giving bike riders an alternative to busy Lake Washington Blvd.

“Seattleites love Green Lake… this is going to be a great alternative walk in a spectacular Seattle park,” said Paige Miller who works for the Arboretum Foundation and sits on the joint committee that is supervising the project.

The 1.2-mile loop will be 12-feet wide and paved perfect for slower traffic including joggers and strollers. Bicycle riders will be able to pedal through the Arboretum rather than brave the winding, motor vehicle-filled Lake Washington Blvd. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Park(ing) Day 2014 — UPDATE

The creator of the "Community Conversations" pop-up park on E Pike said she had an ulterior motive for participating in Park(ing) Day 2014 -- she's new in town and looking to make friends! Stop by! (Image: CHS)

The creator of the “Community Conversations” pop-up park on E Pike said she had an ulterior motive for participating in Park(ing) Day 2014 — she’s new in town and looking to make friends! Stop by! (Image: CHS)

The CHS newsmobile gets a tune-up on E Pike thanks to Bikeworks and Pronto (Image: CHS)

The CHS newsmobile gets a tune-up on E Pike thanks to Bikeworks and Pronto (Image: CHS)

UPDATE: Free bagels and books at one parklet, Couchfest movies at another on 12th Ave. Free conversations and bike tune-ups on E Pike. Free groovy soul on 10th Ave. CHS toured the Capitol Hill Park(ing) Day 2014 pop-up parks Friday afternoon and found a few sections of street filled with feet — and couches, turf, tables, chairs, plus plants. Arielle Lawson told CHS she’s new to the city and setting up a conversation-focused Park(ing) Day park in front of Cupcake Royale was part of her secret strategy to find new friends and get to know Capitol Hill. At the Pronto-sponsored park on E Pike in front of Caffe Vita, they weren’t letting anybody ride the bike share bike, yet, but you could sit and get your picture taken. On 10th Ave in front of the Odd Fellows building, they didn’t really care what you did as long as you climbed up on the pedestals. “Dance,” Marc McGuane invited a few visitors to his Soul Patch pop-up creation. What brought the designer to Capitol Hill to create his Park(ing) Day park? “I just wanted somewhere with some foot traffic,” he said. “And someplace they wouldn’t mind some music.”

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 8.15.31 PMPark(ing) Day was born in San Francisco. But the Seattle tradition of celebrating creative use of public streets with tiny “pop-up parks” got its start on Capitol Hill. This year in Seattle, Friday’s event will feature 50 or more of these pocket parks on the streets of neighborhoods across the city — including six on Capitol Hill and another on First Hill. Details on the parks and more, below. We’ll also be out and about on Friday to get a few pictures and notes from the day. Smile.

Harris in 2009 (Image: CHS)

Harris in 2009 (Image: CHS)

The first Seattle Park(ing) Day took place in 2009 along E Pine — off the street, it turns out.  Urban planner Keith Harris helped turn the People’s Parking Lot — a gravel-covered dirt parcel left empty as a developer waited to build the six-story building that stands there today — into the first home for the Seattle version of the event. There were some lean years in between with low participation but the event has grown into a much bigger deal in 2014. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Round and round Cal Anderson for first annual Red Door 5K

IMG_2457IMG_2507The first ever Red Door 5K Run/Walk to benefit Broadway at Union’s Gilda’s Club sent runners and walkers big and little around and around Cal Anderson on a sunny Seattle September Saturday.

CHS wrote about the new fundraiser and “red door” campaign to support the organization and Camp Sparkle, a day camp for kids 4-12 affected by cancer. On Saturday, some of that support was paid $5 at a time thanks to the Red Door 5k “shortcut” donation box.

In two weeks, one of the inspirations for Saturday’s Gilda’s Club event will add its start and finish lines once again to Volunteer Park as the annual Seattle AIDS Walk returns. You can learn more about the September 27th fundraiser and E Pike-based organizer Lifelong at CHS is proud to once again be a community sponsor of the event.

More pictures below.IMG_2288 IMG_2348

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Be ready to enjoy the rare stink as Volunteer Park Conservatory’s corpse flower prepares to bloom

(Image: Friends of the Conservatory)

(Image: Friends of the Conservatory)

UPDATE: Bloom. The spokescat has spoken: one of Volunteer Park Conservatory’s corpse flowers is now in full bloom and reportedly it “stinks to high heaven!” The Conservatory — 1400 E Galer St — will keep long hours Friday, September 12th, staying open from 10 AM to 9 PM so as many admirers as possible can have a chance to see and smell the rare occurrence. Named Edward Allan Pew after a naming contest that ran the last few weeks came to a close earlier this week, the plant is the first titum arum to bloom at the Conservatory since 2008. As of June of this year, less than 160 corpse flower blooms were reported to have been documented worldwide since 1880.

A rarefied stench in the air? There is expected to be one any day now at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Visitors over the next few weeks may have the chance to experience a rare botanical occurrence through multiple senses as one of the corpse flowers now on display at the Conservatory is blossoming and shooting upwards. The plant is expected to bloom and release an odor that has been described as “a cross between rotting flesh and Limburger cheese” within the next two weeks.

Corpse flowers typically require seven to ten years of vegetative growth before blooming for the first time. This will be the first time the particular plant has bloomed since arriving in Capitol Hill in 2006, the Seattle PI reported, and the fist time any corpse flower has bloomed at the Conservatory since 2008, the Friends of the Conservatory group said.

Though CHS is not casting a prediction on precisely when the plant will bloom, the Conservatory’s “official spokescat” Ivan Von Katzen offered this forecast in a Facebook post Thursday:

Corpse Flower Watch: Our new buddy is on display at the Conservatory in the Bromeliad House and it grew an inch overnight! It now reaches 31″ and is growing fast! We anticipate the flower will be in full fragrant bloom within the next two weeks.Come take a look at this rare wonder Tuesday- Saturday [*Sunday] from 10:00 am – 3:00 PM – 1400 East Galer Street, Seattle WA — at Volunteer Park Conservatory.

Once the plant blooms, the supporting structure of its flowers, or the “spathe,” will likely only stay open for about 12 hours before starting to wilt, sources indicate, though some corpse flower spathes have been reported to stay open for one or two whole days.Native to western Sumatra, the corpse flower is known as bunga bangkai (“corpse flower”) in Indonesian or by the Greek name Amorphophallus titanum, or more commonly titum arum. In addition to the particular odor it emits when blooming, the titum arum produces the largest non-branched “inflorescence,” or group of flowers, of any plant in the world. Friends of the Conservatory explains:

Once a blossom appears, the corpse flower grows rapidly and can reach a height of over 10-feet within the course of a few weeks.  It grows from a large tuber which can reach 150 pounds or more.

After its first bloom, the titum arum will typically bloom again after anywhere from another two to five years, to another seven to ten years, Friends of the Conservatory reported.

In addition to seeing one reaching bloom, you can also have a chance to win a 2-year-old titum arum of your own by coming up with a personal name for the blossoming corpse flower at the Conservatory. The “Name a Corpse Flower, Win a Corpse Flower” contest is on. Potential plant-namers can turn in their suggestions at the Conservatory, where entry forms are available at the gift shop, or via Twitter by sending their ideas to the spokescat — @Ivan_Von_Katzen.

The titum arum about to bloom at the Volunteer Park Conservatory was donated by the University of Washington Botany Greenhouse some eight years ago, the Seattle PI reported. It should soon be adding to a small pool of statistics: when a corpse flower bloomed at the conservatory in Como Park in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2013, only about 125 corpse flower blooms were said to have been documented worldwide since 1880.

The stench of corpse flower blooms do serve a purpose beyond generating sensational blog posts. The smell of rotting flesh emitted attracts insects such as the carrion-eating beetles and “flesh flies” that pollinate the plant in its natural habitats. Meanwhile, the flowers’ red color and their texture are said to add to the illusion that they are pieces of meat.

Something to chew on maybe if you make it to the Conservatory to check out the events now unfolding.

UPDATE: It’s over. Another sink has come and gone!

Sunday, September 14 was the last day for our Titan arum to be on display. Edgar Allan PEW was well on the way to total collapse by the end of the day. Stay tuned in future years for the next big stink!

12th Ave community group votes for apartment development over city ‘pocket park’

Reverb-Spectrum-11th-And-AlderIn 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. Continue reading

One last song from the piano in Volunteer Park

Monty Banks

Monty Banks

The pianos in the parks are gone, auctioned off to the highest bidders to support public open spaces in King County. In addition to inspiring musical spins around Capitol Hill’s green spaces, the Pianos in the Parks campaign has also inspired some excellent performances. A contest to capture some of the best from around the parks system has wrapped up — the winning video shot down on the waterfront is below. We’ve also included a finalist who chose the Volunteer Park piano for his plinking — check out the performance by Monty Banks after the jump. Continue reading