‘The project pause has been lifted’ — Officials satisfied for Volunteer Park museum expansion to move forward

Over the weekend, CHS reported on the last visits to the Seattle Asian Art Museum before two years of construction and word from Seattle Parks official Michael Shiosaki of an “un-pausing” of the $49 million plan to overhaul the infrastructure of the 1933-built museum and expand it 3,600 square feet into its home Volunteer Park.

Monday morning, a spokesperson for parks and rec head Jesus Aguirre confirmed that the superintendent is ready for the project to get back on track.

The responses that SAAM provided to the issues raised by the community display an alignment with the mission and values of Seattle Parks and Recreation. The museum contributes to the use and activation of Volunteer Park and is an asset of our parks system that we treasure. We look forward to continuing public discussions about the project and have communicated to SAAM that the project pause has been lifted.

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Visitors say goodbye, for now, to Capitol Hill’s Seattle Asian Art Museum


As Capitol Hill’s Seattle Asian Art Museum welcomes hundreds of visitors this weekend for a last round of free tours before closing its doors to make ready for a multiyear construction project, none will know exactly when the park’s cultural center will reopen and what shape a planned overhaul and expansion to the 84-year-old building will take.

Seattle Asian Art Museum closing weekend open house

As visitors get a last chance to enjoy Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi, or Terratopia: The Chinese Landscape in Painting and Film, and Ai Weiwei: Colored Vases, officials have yet to work out a perspective that moves the project forward. Continue reading

Parks letter calls for ‘project pause’ as Seattle Asian Art Museum prepares for February move-out day


No matter what twists and turns the public process around its $49 million overhaul and expansion take, at the end of February, the treasures of the Seattle Asian Art Museum will be wrapped up, hauled off, and safely packed away leaving the old art deco landmark empty and ready for a much needed construction project to begin. The start of that construction and eventual reopening, however, will be a little further off after a “project pause” requested by Seattle Parks superintendent Jesus Aguirre in a letter sent to Seattle Art Museum director Kim Rorschach:

In response to continuing public scrutiny of the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) renovation and expansion project at Volunteer Park, we would like to take a “project pause” to enable us to respond to community members and the Board of Park Commissioners on an array of issues that have been raised during the public involvement process. That pause will help Seattle Parks and Recreation better understand some of the project’s driver and more carefully consider park impacts.

“Thank you for your ongoing partnership as we work together to ensure whatever final project is built is in the best interests of Seattle Art Museum and Seattle’s park and recreation system,”

“Don’t say we’re not pausing,” Rorschach told CHS this week. “We are following the city’s directions on this.”

But Rorschach said the museum’s move-out date is set in stone. Continue reading

Does museum expansion plan make Volunteer Park a ‘threatened’ landscape?

An influential Washington D.C. foundation has added Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park to its list of “nationally significant at-risk and threatened” landscapes due to the $49 million planned expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. But a longtime leader of the local group that protects the park says the designation goes too far.

What The Cultural Landscape Foundation is calling for “would be very punishing” Doug Bayley of the Volunteer Park Trust tells CHS.

“A full stop would set everybody back years,” Bayley said. “I think it’s totally salvageable. I see it as an ongoing conversation.” Continue reading

A look at all sides in Seattle Asian Art Museum expansion debate

We can work this out. The proposed overhaul and expansion of the 83-year-old Seattle Asian Art Museum has become a bone of contention in the neighborhood around Volunteer Park. Another three dozen citizens had their say on the potential environmental impact of the project — including views and park use — Thursday night, adding to the dozens of letters already received on the project from all sides in the argument. During Thursday night’s proceedings, CHS heard arguments in support of the project and others with hopes of scaling it back. Here is a look at both sides.

The meeting on Thursday drew about 40 commenters on the project. A little more than half spoke in favor of the planned fall 2017 project that would expand the Asian Art Museum 3,600 square feet into the park from the east side of the 1933 historic building. The museum plans to add more display space to represent South Asia and India as well as fix infrastructure issues including a climate control system and seismic upgrades, while making the museum ADA accessible.

Here is what we heard from the proponents Thursday night:

  • The expansion fits in the Olmsted vision and the museum has engaged the community and made changes based on public input. Continue reading

Reminder: Seattle Asian Art Museum overhaul and expansion land use meeting

Another night, another important development meeting for an iconic part of the Capitol Hill landscape. Thursday, City of Seattle officials will hold a meeting to provide an opportunity for citizen comment on the environmental impact of the three-story, 13,650 square-foot project that includes a seismic and systems overhaul of the 83-year-old building home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum and a 3,600 square-foot expansion of the facility.

CHS reported here on the petition that put the public hearing on the schedule. Museum officials say they support the opportunity for more public feedback on the project during its “Master Use Permit” application process.

Seattle Asian Art Museum Land Use Public Meeting

The planned fall 2017 project would expand the Asian Art Museum 3,600 square feet into the park from the east side of the 1933 historic building. The museum plans to add more display space to represent South Asia and India as well as fix infrastructure issues including a climate control system and seismic upgrades, while making the museum ADA accessible. The project has faced a wave of opposition from neighbors but a museum representative said the tide of public feedback received has shifted after a CHS story documented the first letters on the projects from neighbors — a tally late last week, showed 56 letters in support of the project, 43 opposed, and six “other/neutral.”

While the comments collected are important, the final decision won’t be a vote decided by the public. Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections planners must weigh the proposed project’s potential environmental impact including views and recreational use in the landmarks-protected Volunteer Park. In addition to speaking Thursday night, comments can also be sent to PRC@seattle.gov referencing project #3024753.


Citizen petition forces meeting on Seattle Asian Art Museum overhaul and expansion

From the project's "geotechnical" report

From the project’s “geotechnical” report

In an effort to drive massive web traffic and create some sexy Facebook clickbait, we are posting about yet another Volunteer Park and Seattle Asian Art Museum expansion meeting. Yes, it’s true. Another meeting on the proposal to improve the 1933-built museum’s climate control system, perform need seismic upgrades, make the museum ADA accessible, and expand the facility by 3,600 square feet will take place next week after the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections was petitioned to hold a public meeting on the pending approval of the project in the city’s land use permit process. Continue reading

Art museum’s expansion faces review amid opposition from Volunteer Park neighbors

As officials try to help steer a planned $49 million overhaul and expansion of Volunteer Park’s 83-year-old Seattle Asian Art Museum toward a 2019 celebration of a new life for the cultural center, residents of the wealthy neighborhoods surrounding the park have rallied to oppose the plan as it enters a key environmental review.

From protectvolunteerpark.org, a citizen-created site dedicated to stopping the expansion of the museum:

Send comment letters to PRC@seattle.gov and be sure to reference Master Use Project # 3024753. You can also enter this number at this City web site to see project documents. In commenting on an environmental review, it is helpful to reference questions from the SEPA Environmental Checklist such as: What views in the immediate vicinity would be altered or obstructed? Would the proposed project displace any existing recreational uses? What measures do you propose to avoid, minimize or mitigate for deliberate impacts to historic structures or cultural resources?

As of Monday, around twenty letter writers had answered the call. You can see some of their thoughts above. And here, below. The good news is you, too, can be a Seattle Asian Art Museum Master Use Permit commenter — your email to PRC@seattle.gov referencing project #3024753 is due by Wednesday, November 30th. UPDATE: The city has been petitioned to hold a public meeting on the land use approval. It has been scheduled for December 15th at Miller Community Center. In the meantime, you can continue to provide public comment via email or at the upcoming meeting. Continue reading