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October 1, 2008

Lake Union Park’s $12M second phase is under way

Journal Staff Reporter

Image courtesy Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects [enlarge]
This model shows the Northwest Native Canoe Center’s two buildings. One is a gathering space and the other is a canoe house. The cost is about $5.2 million and construction should begin in 2010.

Work has started on the second and final phase of the $30 million Lake Union Park, completing a 12-acre park in the heart of Seattle that was first envisioned 100 years ago.

John Nesholm, president of the Seattle Parks Foundation board, recalled how John Olmsted wanted to turn the Lake Union waterfront into a park in 1903 but the plan was stymied due to expensive real estate and the concerns of nearby businesses. By beginning the second phase of the park, he said, “we are witnessing the successful resolution of that dream.”

The first phase was completed last spring, creating 1.6 acres of green space, a boardwalk and a pedestrian bridge. The second phase will restore a beach for launching small craft, and build a pond for model boats, a tree grove and picnic tables, sculpted landforms and a 300-foot long interactive fountain.

The work should be complete in 2010 and is being done by A-1 Landscaping & Construction. Design for the entire park was done by Hargreaves Associates of San Francisco. Mithun designed the pedestrian bridge.

Betsy Davis, executive director of the Center for Wooden Boats located next door to the park, said the first phase has made the park vibrant and has inspired project team members to work together on the final vision.

Two other projects will be built as part of that vision. The Center for Wooden Boats will build an education center on the southeast corner of the site and the United Indians of All Tribes will build the Northwest Native Canoe Center toward the west edge of the site.

Both organizations will own their building and pay for construction, but they will lease the land from the city. As part of the lease agreement, both buildings must be built to LEED criteria. Both are shooting for LEED gold.

Another new tenant will move to the area once the park is complete: the Museum of History & Industry. MOHAI will renovate the Naval Reserve Building, also called the Armory, in 2012, though renovations are limited by its historic landmark status.

The Center for Wooden Boats now uses part of the armory for storage. Heron Scott, project manager for the Center for Wooden Boats, said the education center will include storage. “It's going to allow us to keep up the level we already operate at and expand as well.”

The education center will cost about $6 million. It will be two stories tall and have classrooms, administrative space and an open shop where the public can watch boats get repaired. It is being designed by Leavengood Architects. Construction should begin in 2010.

The Northwest Native Canoe Center will be two buildings. Noel Franklin, development officer for United Indians, said one will be gathering space and the other will be a canoe house. Combined, they will have about 6,000 square feet. The cost is about $5.2 million and construction should begin in 2010.

Osama Quotah, project architect for Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects, said the buildings will splay out from the water and be very open. The designs will evoke traditional longhouse architecture used by certain tribes in the Pacific Northwest, he said. Rainwater from the green roofs will be captured and sent to a raingarden.

Quotah said Jones & Jones also helped redesign the beach in front of the canoe center to be better suited to large canoes. Some of the firm's design work is being used by the city in its second phase of park work, he said.

A launching ceremony was held for the project yesterday. Speakers said they envisioned the park as a center for South Lake Union.

Leonard Garfield, executive director of MOHAI, said the area around the park is part of the city's history. He said it is near the site of the city's first railroad and the spot where Bill Boeing started his airplane company. Also, Henry Ford decided to build the first auto manufacturing plant outside of Detroit in the area.

It's fitting, Garfield said, to picture the area as a center for Seattle's future. “(It's) the back door to Seattle, (and) the front door to our region.”

Mayor Greg Nickels also spoke at the ceremony, saying the project is worthwhile even after 100 years. “This park is going to be a real jewel.”

Money came from a number of sources. The Seattle Parks Foundation raised $20 million from private donations, $5 million came from the Pro Parks Levy and $5 million from the Seattle City Council for infrastructure improvements. Construction costs for phase two are budgeted at $12 million.


Katie Zemtseff can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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