With eye toward 2019 reopening, officials break ground on $54M overhaul of Volunteer Park’s Seattle Asian Art Museum

A ceremonial lifting of paving stones where construction will add an accessibility enhancements as part of the $54 million overhaul of the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park

Leaders of the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation project commemorated the official start of construction with a ground breaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon. Parks and Recreation officials gave remarks and encouraged the community to continue their support of the $54 million renovation.

The prospect of neglecting the museum’s need for upgrades “would have been terrible and it would have been terrible for Capitol Hill,” said capital campaign co-chair Mimi Gardner Gates who greeted the audience. “Great cities are great because citizens step forward and make a difference.”

Seattle Art Museum is just is just $3 million shy of their $33 million commitment to the project and encouraging community support to reach the total.

The audience of about 50 bristled in the windy weather, gathered beneath a canopy to hear speeches from capital campaign co-chairs Gates and Gursharan Sidhu.

Superintendent of construction Jeremy Jones stood in the audience as the lineup symbolically broke ground with crowbars painted gold. It took seven people to lift two courtyard stones with golden levers for the audience in Volunteer Park. Continue reading

Here’s what will happen during ’14 to 15 months’ of Seattle Asian Art Museum construction

On March 13th, a ceremony will mark the start of more than a year of construction to overhaul and expand the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. The construction fences are already up. Neighbors and park lovers with questions about how the construction will impact the public space and surrounding neighborhood met with officials Thursday night.

Ahead of the official groundbreaking ceremony, representatives for the SAAM renovation project invited the community to Miller Community Center Thursday night for a construction presentation. Superintendents from the construction company BN Builders presented their build-out plan alongside the museum’s chief operating officer and a Volunteer Park projects manager.

The Seattle-based company BN Builders’s winning construction bid of $31.9 million includes conservation of park trees, subterranean wiring and new walking paths. Lingering questions about the project took the meeting over schedule by almost an hour. Continue reading

With start of construction on overhaul project, Seattle Asian Art Museum to hold community meeting

As work begins on the $54 million overhaul and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, officials will hold a community meeting March 1st to discuss the coming “14–15 months” of construction:

Seattle Asia Art Museum Community Meeting

In January, the Seattle City Council made its final approvals of legislation that put the museum on track for a fall 2019 reopening.

The $54 million SAAM project has been designed to expand the 1933-built museum more than 13,000 square feet by extending the backside of the building 3,600 square feet into the park. The museum will 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. Last February, officials put the museum project back in motion after a brief pause. That month, visitors also said goodbye to SAAM before the planned two-year closure.


With approvals on expansion, schools-friendly lease, Seattle Asian Art Museum set for 2019 reopening after $54M overhaul

Closed for renovation (Image: Alize Asplund)

By Alize Asplund, UW News Lab/Special to CHS

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved Monday two pieces of legislation that open the way for a $54 million overhaul and a new 55-year lease for the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park after years of community meetings and negotiations.

“A lot of what is driving this project is the need to serve audiences that want to participate and the project will allow us with a new education space to serve broader and bigger audiences,” Seattle Art Museum director Kimerly Rorschach said prior to a council committee vote on the plans last week.

Construction on the $54 million project is set to begin as early as February with the overhauled facility projected to open in October 2019, when it will be open to the public 40 hours per week for 50 weeks out of the year under the new deal. Continue reading

Updated Asian Art Museum lease proposal includes free visits, arts education for Seattle Public School students

Up against an end of year deadline, the Seattle City Council committee overseeing legislation required before the start of construction on the expansion of Volunteer Park’s Seattle Asian Art Museum made a “ratify and confirm” decision on a 55-year lease for the continued operation of the cultural center. The council’s parks committee is now ready to get around to the confirm part of the business.

Friday afternoon, the Civic Development, Public Assets, and Native Communities Committee will hear public comment on the final two pieces of legislation in the SAAM expansion process. One bill, when approved, will alter city code to allow expansion of a “non conforming” museum inside a city park. It’s a custom patch written specifically for the SAAM expansion that will also limit any future expansion. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Pets | Aurea and Raider in Volunteer Park

CHS caught up with Aurea Astro and Raider at the Holiday in the Park event at Volunteer Park. Raider is a pit bull/lab mix who is about seven. Raider is usually never without her ball but lost it on the way to the park that night. Aurea and Raider were united on Christmas Eve two years ago and so far “it has worked out” for the both of them. If you find Raider’s ball, let us know.

We ask photographer Alex Garland to follow marchers in the rain and do crazy things like trying to make yet another picture of yet another huge apartment building look interesting. We thought we’d ask him to do something a little more fun. Capitol Hill Pets is a semi-regular look at our furry, fuzzy, feathered, and finned friends found out and about on Capitol Hill.

CHS Pics | Waiting for the Santa train at Holiday in the Park

The Conservatory’s Holiday Express train always delivers

Volunteer Park Trust’s annual celebration of the holidays provided some seasons greetings warmth on a frosty Thursday night in Seattle. Now in its sixth year, the community group’s Holiday in the Park event again featured pathways lit with luminarias and plenty of caroling thanks to community sponsors. The trust continues its work on projects large and small across the park including new efforts to create safety fencing around the lily ponds and a lighting overhaul. This year, it can also celebrate the last steps before construction can finally begin on a $54 million overhaul of the park’s Seattle Asian Art Museum, a project VPT has supported.

Looking for more holiday spirit around the Hill including Santa appearances and the return of the Punk Rock Flea Market? Check out the Happy Hilladays section of the CHS Calendar, below: Continue reading

To beat Republican tax changes, $54M Seattle Asian Art Museum upgrade deal can move forward

In a rush against time and the looming Republican evisceration of federal tax credits, the City of Seattle will enter into a 55-year lease for the continued operation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum and an agreement that paves the way for a needed $54 million upgrade of the 84-year-old building its calls home in Volunteer Park. The agreement will come even as the City Council parks committee shepherding the agreement is asking for more from the deal.

Park committee chair Debora Juarez outlined the next steps in the long process to move ahead on construction in a meeting Thursday as the clock ticks before the likely expiration of some $6 million in Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit officials expect to utilize on the project. In the “ratify and confirm” procedure, the city will move ahead of the lease to beat the December 31st deadline — but Juarez and other members of the committee say they want to see much more from the Seattle Art Museum’s end of the agreement.

“It’s not that I’m not in your corner, I just want it to be done right,” Juarez told museum and city officials Thursday. Continue reading

With City Council set to pave way for construction, Seattle Asian Art Museum expansion planned to finally begin

Now with a price tag of around $54 million, the planned expansion and overhaul of the 84-year-old Seattle Asian Art Museum has been more methodical and procedural than its critics contended as they unsuccessfully tried to halt the project over the summer. Believe it or not, there is yet another important step in the process.

Thursday morning, the Seattle City Council’s Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries, and Waterfront Committee will take up two pieces of legislation to pave the way for construction on the project to finally begin in 2018 — a year after the museum closed to prepare for the work last February.

With city council approval of the two bills, SAAM should return in full glory — with 13,000 more square feet of space and with important climate control system and seismic upgrades — by October 2019. Continue reading

New lights, lily pond fences coming to Volunteer Park

With one of the biggest projects to improve the park underway at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, some smaller improvements are also coming to important features of Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park.

The community-driven Volunteer Park Trust has announced fundraising and planning are moving forward to improve the fencing around the park’s much-loved lily ponds as well as an upgrade of the park’s 40 street lamps.

Volunteer Park Trust’s Jeff Crandall tells CHS planning for the lily pond improvements began in 2010 as generations of Capitol Hill families have gone through the unfortunate experience of consoling soaking wet children who fell into one of the twin ponds near the park’s reservoir.

The new fences are not a response to the January 2017 accidental drowning death of Hill resident Amy Vanderbeck. “We’re very sorry about her death but we don’t have any information that this could have prevented what happened,” Crandall said.

Vanderbeck’s family, however, knows how easy it has been for rascally kids to jump into the ponds. Her sister told CHS that, in the weeks before her death, Vanderbeck had dealt with a sad and soaking wet kid who slipped into the pond on a family outing to the park. “She hated that pond,” the sister said.

The $46,000 project will replace the small wire fencing that has surrounded the ponds with a new sturdier, historically respectful barrier: Continue reading