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Planning for Seattle AIDS Memorial begins at center of Capitol Hill Station plaza

The Capitol Hill Station plaza is set to be a new center of activity on the north end of Cal Anderson Park. Its center will include a memorial to those lost to the AIDS crisis — including park namesake Cal Anderson, Washington’s first openly gay legislator who died of “acquired immune deficiency syndrome” in 1995 at the age of 47.

The Seattle AIDS Legacy Memorial group is working to fund and create the monument.

“We’re thrilled to be able to connect the history of the neighborhood to be centrally located where all Seattleites tend to come,” said Paul Feldman of SALM. “We’re hopeful, through careful planning and careful engagement, that we’ll hear stories we’ve never heard before and we’ll make clear to visitors that there’s still much work to do.”

Most of the details will be decided in the months ahead as the plaza and the surrounding developments move forward toward a possible late 2019 opening, but the SALM group will call for artists in the coming months. Finalists will be asked to offer specific design proposals fitting the following requirements: create a place of reflection and remembrance, provide a call to action, tell the history of King County’s AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 90s, the lessons that came with it, and the diverse community responses.

Artists must also make the installation prominent, visible to passersby, mostly outside, accessible to convenient public transportation, easily maintained, accessible to the disabled, wifi-abled and powered. One important consideration when choosing the artist is that, although the plan spans three spots joining the plaza, the Nagle and Denny festival streets and the northern edge of Cal Anderson, it’s clearly one project. During the design review process, some community members suggested plaques honoring those who died including Anderson.

While Cal Anderson Park honors the late politician by name, there is no permanent marker in the area acknowledging his history. In 2012, a temporary portrait of Anderson was unveiled on the giant wall that surrounded the Capitol Hill Station construction site.

The plaza — by necessity due to legal requirements and the physics of construction over an underground light rail facility — is somewhat of a blank slate planned for community activity. The four buildings that make up the surrounding developments will create more than 400 affordable and market-rate apartment units and 59,000 square feet of commercial and community space, and more than 200 new parking spaces below ground for residents and shoppers.

The plaza design — including the giant, permanent vent for the underground station that cries out for decoration —  creates “a more distinct central gathering space and provides a more direct relationship to Cal Anderson Park,” architects from the project write of their design. “The variety of spatial experiences has been maintained in the various overlooks and seating opportunities that surround the central area.” Here is how the architects on the project describe some of the plaza’s planned features:

  • Plaza edge seating has been increased and an accessible ramp has been incorporated into the plaza edge shape allowing additional space for bicycle cage parking (which is to be provided by Sound Transit between Site A and the existing transit vent shaft). Vehicular access to the plaza has been constricted on the north by the addition of trees and moving the eastern seat wall further east toward Site B South.
  • Additional trees and lighting elements have been added to the east edge of the public plaza.
  • Plaza edge seating has been increased and an accessible ramp has been incorporated into the plaza edge shape allowing additional space for bicycle cage parking (which is to be provided by Sound Transit between Site A and the existing transit vent shaft). Additional seating opportunities have also been added amongst the trees on the northeast edge of the plaza.
  • Additional, pedestrian scaled lighting elements have been added to the plaza, which includes fixtures that are integrated with plaza elements and the surrounding architecture.

Schemata Workshop is the architect for the two buildings on 10th while Hewitt is designing the two buildings on Broadway. Berger Partnership is landscape architect for the entire site and part of the design super team working on the Capitol Hill Station development project.

Surrounded by new housing and new street-level retail, the plaza will also likely become the permanent weekly — or more — home for the Broadway Farmers Market. In 2010, Sound Transit issued a letter of intent recognizing the nonprofit’s desire to move its market into the plaza once construction is completed. Inclusion of the farmers market in the space has been a long-held community goal for the project. The market has also been considering increasing its presence on the Hill with possible night markets.

A community advisory group will meet monthly as the project is implemented into the design with city representatives and Gerding Edlen, the lead firm on the transit oriented development set to rise around the station. SALM received $75,000 from the city to begin the process.

Feldman said that while the “battle days” of the 90s, up until 1996, are over, discrimination and stigma continues. Feldman lives with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV disproportionately impacts people of color (despite multiple studies showing they tend to have safer sex than Caucasians) and the LGBTQIA+ community.

36.7 million people around the world live with HIV or AIDS. The number is so large, in part, because medical treatment has greatly improved since the epidemic so people who have HIV are able to live longer and comparatively healthier lives. Testing has also expanded.

UPDATE: Our original post contained errors about transmission. Brian Minalga, project Manager of The Legacy Project in the Office of HIV/AIDS Network Coordination at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has provided CHS with an update to include here. Thanks to him and to the Seattle AIDS Legacy Memorial group for helping us get the story right:

Capitol Hill-based organizations like Gay City Health Project and Lifelong provide rapid HIV testing services with results in just 20 minutes. HIV is contained in blood, semen, pre-semen, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The virus is mainly transmitted through sex, needles and syringes, breastfeeding, and perinatally (during pregnancy). Advancements in HIV prevention, however, have vastly changed the HIV landscape. We now know that people living with HIV cannot pass HIV onto their sex partners under conditions of viral suppression, known as being “HIV undetectable,” or when their medications are working to reduce the amount of HIV in the body. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, is an option for HIV-negative people to take a pill once daily to reduce their likelihood of contracting HIV by over 90%; Gay City has a PrEP Clinic for those interested in the pill (find more clinics here). Needle exchange programs are working wonders to reduce HIV transmission among people who inject drugs. And when people actually use them, male and female condoms still provide excellent protection against HIV and other STIs. While the science of HIV pathology is now well documented, stigma and misinformation persist. HIV is not transmitted by saliva, sweat, tears, hugging, kissing, sharing utensils, or sharing toilets. Humans cannot contract HIV from the air, water, or insects like mosquitoes.

Of every 100,000 people in Washington, seven have HIV. 6,968 people in King County live with HIV.

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7 thoughts on “Planning for Seattle AIDS Memorial begins at center of Capitol Hill Station plaza

  1. I think it’s unfortunate that the “South Station Entrance” was ever included by Sound Transit. The other two entrances (north and west) would have sufficed. The land where the south entrance is located could have been much better utilized for additional affordable housing. Oh well, water under the bridge…..

  2. I remember Cal Anderson leading a protest in his underwear at Tugs to stand up to police harassment of gay nightlife. He lived his life with boldness and joy. I think he would want a mural celebrating life and the gay community of Capitol Hill, past present and future, not a somber memorial. I hope local queer artists such as John Crisitello are engaged in this process. It should be art that is a celebration of life, powerful, thought provoking, and forward thinking.

    • Disagree. First of all, the plaza is not that “giant.” And there are plans to activate it with all kinds of activities, not the least of which is a twice-weekly Farmer’s Market. We need some open spaces in our increasingly dense neighborhood. And the development includes about 400 units of new housing…..a substantial portion of which is affordable…..isn’t that enough?

  3. I really do my best not to complain about the word choices and perspectives of any articles here – because there are enough folks who already do that – but one sentence here really jumped out at me. The way the sentence about bike cage parking is constructed, it sounds like the accessible ramp is being constructed for that purpose alone. I’d think this would be a side benefit, the main purpose being offering access to folks who can’t run, walk, or limp up the stairs.

    • It’s not very clear the way I added it to the story but the descriptions of the plaza features come from the project architects. So I guess I’m passing the buck a bit! But also see probably a good idea to clarify! Thanks for the comment!