Something upon which we can all agree: Hurrah for the new Volunteer Park amphitheater


(Image: ORA Architects)

It’s been kind of a tough year for new things but one project coming to Capitol Hill seems to have risen above the tumult. Thursday, you can celebrate that general sense of neighborhood goodwill with the Volunteer Park Trust and check out the latest designs for a new amphitheater in the much loved northern Capitol Hill park:

Amphitheater Design – Open House

CHS showed you some of the latest designs and ideas behind the concepts last month.  The updated design calls for the translucent roof over the stage to be wavy, “referencing a leaf” with pivoting doors, instead of sliding, for a backstage area and new bathrooms as well as a flexible room that can be used for costume changes and storage. Other plans for the new amphitheater call for re-grading the seating area with a focus on reducing the flat space in front of the stage and improving ADA accessibility.

The new amphitheater is planned to be located just north of the current one which is masonry and in need of replacement.

Following Thursday’s meeting, ORA Architects will incorporate feedback and refine the final plans.  Grants from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and funds from Volunteer Park Trust have moved the project forward so far. The Seattle Parks Foundation will be the driver for fundraising and grant seeking to bring the project to life. The total project cost — design through construction — is estimated to be between $3 million and $4 million.

Construction is planned for fall 2018 with the new amphitheater hosting its first performances in July 2019.

You can learn more at

Designs for new amphitheater at Volunteer Park nearing completion

FRONT STAGE IN USEORA Architects is finalizing the schematic design for Volunteer Park’s new amphitheater, which it plans to present to the public in the first week of April.

There may be a few tweaks to the project after the public presentation, but overall the concept is established, Emily Perchlik, with ORA, told CHS.

“It’s going to be a terrific addition to Volunteer Park,” said Eliza Davidson, chair of the Amphitheater Task Force. “… It’s blossomed into something that is a much bigger contribution to the character and use of the park.” Continue reading

Investigation determines Capitol Hill woman accidentally drowned in Volunteer Park lily pond

Investigators say that Capitol Hill resident Amy Vanderbeck’s January death in a few feet-deep Volunteer Park lily pond was an accidental drowning.

The King County Medical Examiner confirmed the finding this week with the completion of toxicology reports some three months after the 49-year-old’s body was pulled from the pond near the park’s iconic water tower. Vanderbeck was found in the water wearing a heavy coat on the morning of January 9th. Police said there was no sign of foul play.

Vanderbeck is remembered as a longtime part of the Capitol Hill and the Seattle coffee scene as a popular Vivace barista who opened Watertown cafe on 12th Ave with two fellow Vivace employees before closing the venue in 2010. Vanderbeck also worked in tech and as an audio engineer and video producer.

A few hundred friends and family gathered at the Century Ballroom following her death to remember their loved one and mourn before walking together to the pond in Volunteer Park where she died.

A giving fund raised more than $30,000 to help cover the cost of a memorial in Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery:

We are devastated by the loss of Amy Vanderbeck. One of Capitol Hill’s brightest stars, she was loved far and wide. Amy was creative, passionate, hilarious, irreverent and loyal. She is the third of four sisters — the “Vandersisters” — who are incredibly close. Lisa, Jenny, and Katy knew it was dangerous to meet Amy. She would make you part of the “Vanderbeck Mafia,” which means you are in the family for life. Those who have known this honor are heartbroken. Her creative talents are listed on IMDb. She recently created the Struggle to Connect podcast.  She was intimate with quantum physics and wicked with a mixing board. In typical Amy fashion, she also accidentally became a star of Japanese television while attending a soccer game.

‘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.

Continue reading

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

We don’t know what’s next for the Volunteer Park stump tree…

But we like it. We’ve asked Seattle Parks about the cutback tree that has become a “natural” play structure near the Volunteer Park amphitheater but we’re pretty sure they have something better to deal with on a Friday than the latest CHS goose chase. All we know is the tree was clipped weeks ago and we assumed it would be fully removed. It’s still there. We’ll update when we hear more about the park’s strange (and fun) new feature. In the meantime, along with the jade vine and the last few days before a long closure for the Seattle Asian Art Museum, you have a few reasons to gather up a few friends and visit Volunteer Park this weekend.

UPDATE: Yay for Seattle Parks. Here’s what they told us about the tree — and its future:

This is a large cedar tree that was damaged and blown over as part of the snow we recently experienced. Crews will likely leave some of the tree in place, but will probably need to cut some of the tree further back to make it safe for the long term.

Fur-ther? Nice one, Parks.

LGBTQ solidarity rally at Cal Anderson, ‘2-17-17 General Strike’ gathering in Volunteer Park

Some of the signs from a November protest at Cal Anderson Park -- still applicable

Some of the signs from a November protest at Cal Anderson Park — still applicable

Capitol Hill parks continue to play important roles in Seattle’s anti-Trump activities. Saturday, activists have organized a LGBTQ Solidarity Rally Seattle in Cal Anderson:

Trump’s administration has begun an attack on marginalized and oppressed people across the broad spectrum of humanity. We are going to peacefully demonstrate on Saturday, February 11th, at 1030AM as an act of solidarity with those who have been impacted. In his first month in office, Trump has issued executive orders and proposed nominees which stand against fundamental human rights including a Muslim Ban, reallocating federal resources to start construction of a wall with Mexico, and restarting an attack on Oceti Sakowin land for the Dakota Access Pipeline. We have already heard and seen proposals for executive orders which would grant so-called “religious liberty” to discriminate against LGBTQ people and target those seeking abortions and other family planning services. In addition, it is clear there is speculation on national Right to Work legislation destroying our already-under-attack unions.

Saturday will bring an activism double header of sorts, with groups also planning to target the Wells Fargo branch inside the Broadway Market with a “No DAPL” boycott rally.

16402970_1670106883281821_960711515827668356_oMeanwhile, the following weekend will bring more rallying to the Hill as groups are planning to meet at Volunteer Park’s amphitheater as part of a planned nationwide general strike against the Trump administration on Friday, February 17th:

Solidarity Demonstration to #Resist the WA Senate Republican proposal to fund education by undermining collective bargaining rights of Education Workers. All Labor Unions are welcome and encouraged to stand in support of this Legislative attack on Unions. No Right to Work in Washington.

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

Body found in Volunteer Park identified as Capitol Hill woman


(Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

Friends say the body discovered Monday morning in a Volunteer Park lily pond was 49-year-old Amy Vanderbeck.

A longtime part of Capitol Hill and the Seattle coffee scene, Vanderbeck was a popular Vivace barista and opened Watertown cafe on 12th Ave with two fellow Vivace employees before closing the venue in 2010. Writing about Watertown in 2009, the Seattle Times said Vanderbeck had been pulling shots since 1985, starting at a Nordstrom’s espresso cart “and moving in 1989 to Vivace’s original espresso cart outside Washington Mutual on Broadway.”

Vanderbeck also worked in tech and as an audio engineer and video producer.

In 2016, she began producing the Struggle to Connect podcast. “Spurred by her therapist to leave the house a minimum of 2 hours a day,” the description reads, “Amy Vanderbeck wanders around Seattle visiting her friends and sticking microphones in their faces.” In the most recent episode from November she catches up with an old friend at Vivace. “I define a friend as someone I’ve been in the foxhole with at some point in my life,” she says. “Someone who has been right next to me when something shitty or completely awesome — but mostly shitty — has happened.” Through the episode, the two discuss love, work, sex, and Capitol Hill.

Her body was found Monday morning by a worker in Volunteer Park. Police say there was no indication of foul play.

The King County Medical Examiner is investigating the death. UPDATE 3:33 PM: The medical examiner released information identifying Vanderbeck Tuesday afternoon. The results of the investigation of her death are pending toxicology reports that sometimes take weeks or longer to complete.

UPDATE 1/11/2017: If you or anybody you know needs assistance or is in crisis, call (206) 461-3222 for help.

A Friends of Amy Vanderbeck giving campaign to raise funding for her funeral expenses and a possible memorial has raised more than $17,000 from friends and loved ones.

Her friends and loved ones will gather Friday at Century Ballroom and then walk together to Volunteer Park’s lily pond.

UPDATE 1/13/2017: Vanderbeck’s family has asked CHS to help them reach out anybody who knew and loved Amy about the gathering Friday to remember her and mark her life. “If you knew or loved or met her, come out,” Vanderbeck’s sister Lisa Weir tells CHS. Weir especially hopes to connect with people drawn to the issues of mental illness and loneliness that Vanderbeck spoke about in her Struggle to Connect podcast. “Just because she’s gone, it doesn’t mean they’re less important,” Weir said.

We are gathering to celebrate Amy. Century Ballroom, Friday, January 13. 2pm to 6pm Tell everybody who loved her. That’s why we have a big room. Everyone who loved Amy is welcome – everyone who loves us is welcome. We will march to the pond following the gathering – wear layers. Bring memories, photos, yourself. Please share post with your Amy circle. She touched so  many lives – we can hardly reach wide enough.