When Freeway Park was built in the 1970s, it was hailed as a major architectural and engineering accomplishment. Designed by the world-renowned firm of Lawrence Halprin & Associates, it was the first park to be constructed over a freeway, thereby “healing the scar” that I-5 created in downtown Seattle. Over the years, however, the park has fallen into disuse. As the vegetation matured and cut sightlines, the park became darker and more difficult to navigate. Seattle’s growing drug-using and drug-selling population, as well as its homeless population, found a home in Freeway park. The murder of a blind and deaf homeless woman in broad daylight in 2002 spurred a city-wide effort to revitalize and reactivate Freeway Park.
The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department asked PPS to assist it in developing a community vision for the park and the larger neighborhood through a series of collaborative workshops and visioning meetings with community groups and other major area stakeholders.
This community process resulted in a collective vision for a park with a better balance between tranquility and activities and attractions that would begin to turn the park into a positive force for the neighborhood and the city as a whole. It was determined that the edges of the park, in particular, needed to be enhanced with major visible anchors in order to attract visitors into the park. Within the park, the community wished to emphasize and enhance the park’s different “places” according to their different functions. Some areas could be improved with seasonal horticultural plantings; others with major attractions such as an aviary or temporary art exhibits; others yet with life-size games and outdoor cafés. The community is also considering different park management options needed to ensure the long-term success of Freeway Park as a regional destination.
Reawakening in SeattleWorking on two prominent Seattle parks, PPS is in the thick of community efforts to help the City’s public spaces fulfill their promise.
Time to take back that park over the freewaySeattle Post-Intelligencer, June 21, 2006