DOWNTOWN Seattle wants for little in the entertainment category, unless you are under the age of 10. A focus group of parents living downtown cited a playground — not a school — as their top priority. A small temporary playground at Westlake Park has been packed, but it isn’t nearly big enough for the estimated 3,000 kids living downtown.
In April 2011, the Seattle City Council set a course for a downtown playground on the Seattle Center land formerly home to the Fun Forest. In exchange for letting Dale Chihuly open an expensive private museum on some of the land, the developer pledged $1 million, plus $50,000 in yearly maintenance, for a playground sited between the EMP Museum and the Armory.
Construction on the Chihuly museum began within months of the council vote. But in a fine example of grinding Seattle process, it took Seattle Center two years — until the spring of 2013 — to even convene a planning committee for the playground, which led to solicitation for a design firm.
The clock ticks.
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Later this month, Seattle Center is expected to announce the next step, likely by naming a designer. Then, according to the Center, it will spend time hearing how children play in different communities and cultures, as part of Seattle’s race and social justice initiative. Later, an actual design will be unveiled. Later, permits will be obtained. Later, construction will actually start.
Seattle Center’s timeline for the playground, called “Artists at Play,” suggests it will open in October. Later, most likely.
It is telling that a private, profit-making museum opened at light speed, while a fully funded, highly coveted community amenity lingers in a Seattle process netherworld for 33 months.
The playground is targeted for kids up to 9 years old. The talking stage of this project has spanned a third of their lives.
Get on with it, before they are old enough to ask for the car keys.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).