What to do with Seattle Center parcel draws a big crowd
About 400 people showed up for a public meeting at Seattle Center Tuesday evening to discuss what to do with a nearly five-acre parcel of the park.
Seattle Times staff reporter
About 400 people turned out for a public meeting at Seattle Center Tuesday evening to discuss what to do with a nearly 5-acre parcel next to the Space Needle long occupied by the Fun Forest amusement rides.
One proposal, a Dale Chihuly glass-art exhibit, drew overwhelming support from the crowd. Many people — several of whom were connected to the project — got up to share their enthusiasm.
Some speakers tossed out words such as "phenomenal" and "iconic" to describe the proposed $15 million, 44,000-square-foot glass house.
"It's a smart addition to the Center and an amazing opportunity for Seattle," said Deborah Person, managing director for the Seattle International Film Festival, which uses Seattle Center as a venue.
Ron Sevart, CEO of the Space Needle, talked about how the project would bring scores of family-wage construction jobs.
This month, the Wright family, which built and owns the Space Needle, unveiled drawings of the proposed exhibit, one that would be privately financed and would sit at the base of the Space Needle. The 43-foot-high exhibit space would include a restaurant filled with pieces from Chihuly's collection. Early designs call for retail space to sell Chihuly paintings and plates, among other things.
Though Tuesday night's crowd at Seattle Center mostly favored the project, it has also met with opposition.
As soon as news of the proposal hit, the city was criticized because it had not sought options other than allowing a private company to build a moneymaking venture on public parkland.
City officials said last week they would welcome other bids for the site, which has for decades been the Fun Forest, an area of amusement-park rides.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she was "flabbergasted" by the attendance Tuesday night. There were so many people that the meeting had to be moved from the Center House's third-floor conference room to the food-court area.
Bagshaw said the size of the crowd demonstrated that people care about the future of the Center.
"Let's talk about what we can do — not what we don't want," she said.
Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams said there must be a balance between creating more open space — which is what was envisioned in the Center's 2008 master plan — and generating revenue.
The property in question is divided into north and south areas. The Chihuly exhibit is proposed for 1.5 acres in the south area. The rest would be open space, Nellams said.
"We've got to get people to want to come here," Nellams said. "It's got to be more than a neighborhood park."
Some people in the crowd did speak out against the glass-exhibit idea.
Iain Robertson, a landscape architect, called himself a "grass-roots supporter of grass." He said Seattle Center is not the right location for a glass exhibit and that the city would be foolish to give up nearly 2 acres of open space.
"For us as a city to replace that [open space] in the future would cost an enormous amount of money," he said. "You just don't get a chance at this much open space in the center of the city."
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from Seattle Times archives was used in this story.
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