Finding Freeway Park

The Freeway Park Association is wrapping up Phase One of the Finding Freeway Park project after a summer full of community design and engagement events.

Phase One of the Finding Freeway Park project aims to engage the community in a concept design process to envision and create improvements to connectivity, visibility and public safety at Freeway Park. With a Small and Simple grant from the City of Seattle, FPA hired Site Workshop Landscape Architects to lead this process and develop conceptual design recommendations for future use by the City and the Association. We envision this community design and planning process as the first step to improve access to this hidden gem and to support this needs of the community within the changing landscape of our City.

Phase Two of the project, funded by the Seattle Neighborhood Street Fund, will bring wayfinding improvements to SDOT owned right of way that leads to 7 of Freeway Park’s 12 entrances. Site Workshop is also providing design services for this part of the project and SDOT expects to implement the designs by the end of 2018. 

Contact FPA Director, Riisa Conklin at riisa@freewayparkassociation.org with questions and media inquiries. 

The FFP Project in Detail

Freeway Park is many things. It is a master work of Lawrence Halprin, a precedent-setting landscape that defined a new land use typology. It is the result of community activism and forward thinking, a jewel of the Seattle civic process. It is an arboretum, providing respite and connections to nature. It is a civic gathering place as well as a network of small intimate spaces. It is a thoroughfare for commuters traveling between neighborhoods seemingly disconnected by I-5. It is a home or a resting place to a few of the 11,600 people struggling with homelessness in our city. It is downtown Seattle’s largest public park – yet it remains a secret to many of its residents. It is virtually empty on weekends, evenings and during the winter months. Unfortunately is still perceived as unsafe, dark, confusing to navigate and a haven for negative activities despite its low crime statistics. 

The Finding Freeway Park Project was developed to address these historical misconceptions and to reconnect the Park with the city and the city to its Park through thoughtful community engagement and urban design strategies that address visibility, accessibility and safety to and through the Park.

In May 2017, a steering committee of Park advocates, neighbors and city design professionals selected SiteWorkshop Landscape Architects to lead this effort with funding from two Seattle city grants. Our design challenge was to address and ask for feedback on how we could improve: ROW connections and entrances to the Park, wayfinding and lighting through the Park and community amenities within the Park.

When the Washington State Convention Center public benefit funding opportunity arose, SiteWorkshop was able to adapt the scope of their work to include budgeting and strategy toward a 10 million dollar package for Freeway Park and expand the vision for the project to include major infrastructural upgrades and repairs.

After 9 months of advocacy, countless volunteer hours and collaboration with a network of other community organizations (The Community Package Coalition), City Departments leadership and City Council members, FPA and Site Workshop have successfully secured 10 million dollars for Freeway Park to be managed by the Parks Dept. in the form of a capital project once the funds come through.

For the past 25 years, the FPA has celebrated the history of Freeway Park as a precedent setting, iconic, and historically significant Park of global recognition. The foundation of our work has been to build upon the legacy of Freeway Park. We celebrate Lawrence Halprin, Anna Halprin, Angela Danadjieva and Jim Ellis among others as innovators whose work we advocate for in everything we do. The FFP project is an opportunity for us to continue to honor the Park’s legacy, building upon Halprin’s design intent and design philosophy to articulate improvements that are meaningful and useful to the community who use it. To read and view an ever expanding list of media resources on Freeway Park, past, present and future, visit our About the Park page. 

The FFP project aims to REPAIR elements of the original design that have been lost (paving edges, fountain lighting) as well as aging infrastructure, RESTORE elements of the Park that have suffered from decades of deferred maintenance (fountains, irrigation, plants, soil) and ENHANCE the Park’s iconic design with modern and equitable amenities (drainage solutions, lighting, restrooms and shelter, play space).

FPA is honored to facilitate this important conversation about the future Freeway Park with a variety of community stakeholders. We respect and want to protect this important place and we also understand that it is not a static place. It exists in an ever changing urban landscape and needs to be adaptively managed in order to thrive.

Through a variety of community engagement tools, the FFP project has documented that our community is equally concerned with preserving a masterwork of landscape architecture as we are with stewarding a critical piece of urban open space for people to use, appreciate and further steward. We must and we can find design solutions that honor both of these goals. Lawrence Halprin envisioned Freeway Park as ‘a park for all people’ and believed that people were shareholders and should “participate in planning their own environments.” An informed and equitable community process is the best way to steward and advance Halprin’s vision for Freeway Park and is the crucial first step in many more to come over the next few years.

We encourage YOU! to stay engaged and involved in this project. Contact our Engagement Coordinator Alex@freewayparkassociation.org for more information about the future of the project.

And please take a look at the slideshow of our presentation to the Seattle Design Commission on October 5th,2017 which represents a snapshot of the process to date. SiteWorkshop is working on the final report for the project which FPA will use to help steward the goals of Finding Freeway Park so please contact us if you have any feedback/ideas to share. The conversation continues!

Thank you for your participation in the project and your L O V E  for Freeway Park.

– Riisa Conklin, Executive Director

Give us your feedback on the first round of design ideas for the Finding Freeway Park Project. Use the comment field below and we will record your feedback for the final report coming soon in early 2018.

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