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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Downtown Seattle Association Proposes Creepy Ghost Playground at Westlake Park

Posted by on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Artist rendering shows diaphanous half-embodied spirits haunting proposed playground at Seattles Westlake Park.
  • Downtown Seattle Association
  • Artist rendering shows diaphanous half-embodied spirits haunting proposed playground at Seattle's downtown Westlake Park. (Click image to enlarge.)

Anybody who followed my skeptical coverage at the time Ye Olde Chihuly Gift Shoppe & Catering Hall was proposed, knows that I'm a passionate advocate for making Seattle more family-friendly. Far from a glass "museum," I insisted, what Seattle truly needs is a Really Kick-Ass Playground™.

Eventually, in a belated acknowledgment that clear-cutting the Fun Forest (and replacing it with a building made of and filled with breakable objects) would be a net loss to families with children, Chihuly's backers sweetened the deal by kicking in $2 million to build and maintain an "art playground" elsewhere on the Seattle Center campus. That's something, I guess, though it's not nearly enough to build a Really Kick-Ass Playground™ along the lines of the "rainbow nest dome" at Takino Hillside Park in Sapporo-shi, Japan, or the 130,000 square foot rooftop playground, amphitheater, carousel, skating rink and water feature at Yerba Gardens in San Francisco.

So I'm thrilled to see the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) take up the charge in advocating for a children's play space within the downtown core... if not exactly thrilled with their anemic proposal: an 800 square foot playground in the middle of Westlake Park.

The creepy ghost-filled artist rendering aside, the DSA is merely proposing a couple of temporary climbing toys in a fenced-off padded ring across from See's Candies. At an estimated cost of only $125,000 over a two-year trial period, we're really just talking about the playground equivalent of an inflatable backyard swimming pool.

Sure, that's better than a kick in the teeth. Unless, of course, you're suspicious of DSA's choice of locations, Westlake Park, our city's primary gathering point for protests, marches, rallies, and other public events, both permitted and spontaneous. This is "a transparent ploy to eliminate the democratic protests and the messy sight of homelessness from Seattle's main public plaza," Slog-tipper Ivana suggests, inferring an ulterior motive from DSA's agenda. I mean, it's hard to have an Occupy Seattle protest at Westlake if the park is already occupied by a children's playground.

"If that's what it's all about then we're doing a terrible job at it," responds DSA's advocacy and economic development VP Jon Scholes. "If we're going for that we would have proposed a much bigger scale."

Maybe. And they should. (If not at that exact location; we need to keep Westlake Park open to First Amendment activities.)

For while I welcome the DSA's advocacy for more family-friendly amenities in the downtown core and surrounding neighborhoods, my message to them is that Seattle can and must think bigger. Other cities are using urban playgrounds as economic development tools with astounding success, and given the downtown's dearth of kid-focused amenities, an outdoor, indoor, and/or rooftop Really Kick-Ass Playground™ may be exactly the kick our downtown retail district needs.


Comments (32) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1

That sounds safe.

Posted by Will in Seattle on June 14, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Mahtli69 2
What better place for a park? It's hard to beat the serenity of the 4th and Pine intersection. And there are so many kids living in the neighborhood.
Posted by Mahtli69 on June 14, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Goldy 3
@2: There would be more kids living and visiting downtown if we provided more amenities for children.
Posted by Goldy on June 14, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Rotten666 4
Goldy @3 is correct. And from what I understand the population of children living downtown is already increasing pretty fast.
Posted by Rotten666 on June 14, 2012 at 1:45 PM · Report this
What parent wouldn't relish the opportunity for their children to play on equipment smeared with the feces and vomit left behind by those who used the park the previous night?
Posted by Rational Thought on June 14, 2012 at 1:48 PM · Report this
Oh good lord. god forbid we put a children's play area in Downtown's most central public space. No no no let's be sure to keep the area clear of anything so that we're at the ready the next time a protest/group wants to use it for a day. Sorry, but the park wasn't designed for protests as a primary use. City Hall plaza was, though, btw.

I think this is awesome. Let's hope the momentum is there to turn a temporary thing into something lasting. Great for the neighborhood.
Posted by KatherineFM on June 14, 2012 at 1:50 PM · Report this
Sorry, but the park wasn't designed for protests as a primary use.

No. It was designed for peeing.

Seriously, there's still a humongous one-square-block hole across from City Hall that was supposed to become open space about six or seven years ago. Whatever happened to that, Goldy?
Posted by Mr. Happy Sunshine on June 14, 2012 at 2:01 PM · Report this
Dougsf 8
"Here's some cash you fucking brats, now please go play somewhere else. ANYWHERE else."
— Glass Museum People
Posted by Dougsf on June 14, 2012 at 2:03 PM · Report this
@7 - :) ha! yeah, but only because without a constant stream of good things happening there, bad behavior there is the default. Positive activity discourages negative activity, which is why programming/events and such in parks is so important. We should welcome children in downtown and this is one step in that direction.
Posted by KatherineFM on June 14, 2012 at 2:05 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 10
Those things are fun to play on when it is raining.
Posted by Sir Vic on June 14, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
McGee 11
If constant usage by families gets rid of Juggalos then I could be persuaded to support this.
Posted by McGee on June 14, 2012 at 2:14 PM · Report this
merry 12
@ 7 - I, too, would like to know why there's STILL a giant hole across from City Hall. How many years has that big empty socket been sitting there now, 6? 7? 8?

But yeah, Goldy, I agree - this is a bandaid of a playground, not really even worth discussing...
Posted by merry on June 14, 2012 at 2:16 PM · Report this
Is this artist going to throw a hissy fit when real children try to use the playground? Like the person who put up those creepy shadow people did when folks were putting scarves and hats on them?
Posted by suddenlyorcas on June 14, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Must be the brainchild of the person who came up with the skating rink in Cal Anderson Park.
Posted by olive oyl on June 14, 2012 at 2:24 PM · Report this
@7, @12 - the credit crunch happend. First, it was to be open space, with the "stream" that starts at Municipal Court, and continues through City Hall, going through it. But then the City realized how attractive open green space is to the homeless, especially with flowing water (wonder how clean it would remain?). And the City has no heart to roust the homeless out of parks. Just look at City Hall Park, one block from City Hall.
Then the plan was to develop it into high-rise housing, with a plaza (read: cement or brick) and shops. But when credit dried up, the project never happened.
Something is going on now. Activity is happening lately. Portables, honey buckets have appeared in the hole.
Posted by TJ on June 14, 2012 at 2:28 PM · Report this
Ugh! Based on the variety of people that "hang out" in the park now on a regular basis, I would never take a child there to play.
Posted by TJ on June 14, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this
@12: The city sold the property. The private owner has not yet raised the money to develop it. Sound familiar? (see: recession). I believe a stipulation of the sales agreement was that part (but not all) of the property was to be retained as open space.
Posted by crone on June 14, 2012 at 2:34 PM · Report this
See also @15, who posted while I was composing. In any case, it's a private development.
Posted by crone on June 14, 2012 at 2:37 PM · Report this
bedipped 19
While Seattle's dedication to inclusion by providing public space amenable to ghosts is exemplary, I hope the zombies and vampires will continue to be welcomed.
Posted by bedipped on June 14, 2012 at 2:43 PM · Report this
chinaski 20
What this city needs is a giant water-park under a climate controlled dome. Extra points for being on a rooftop.
Posted by chinaski on June 14, 2012 at 2:48 PM · Report this
+1 for @5 and @16
Posted by seattlebikeguy on June 14, 2012 at 3:16 PM · Report this
merry 22
@ 15 & 17 - Thanks for the update!
Posted by merry on June 14, 2012 at 3:23 PM · Report this
Urinal park
Posted by yumyum74 on June 14, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this
This is a stupid place for a playground. Also I'd still like to be able to get a hot dog and watch a big chess game occasionally, between the space this takes up and more people using the park there won't be anywhere to sit.

Downtown will always be inhospitable to kids, a tiny playground isn't going to change that.
Posted by K X One on June 14, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
How about about a "ghost" dog park?
Ghost Dogs are cool, while ghost children drool!
Posted by Senor Guy on June 14, 2012 at 5:52 PM · Report this
They better leave some space for me to dissent from public policy. I don't mind if kids play there too.
Posted by Linda J on June 14, 2012 at 6:16 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 28
I wonder where Fnarf stands on this issue.
Posted by Free Lunch on June 14, 2012 at 7:04 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 29
So my kids can play in the park drenched in piss and puke while I buy some crack from the local dealers a block away? THAT'S convenience !!!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on June 14, 2012 at 7:27 PM · Report this
Jessica 30
Remember the playground that used to be at 4th and Bell? My grandmother lived on that block and no matter how much we begged, my brother and I were never allowed to play there because it was covered in used drug paraphernalia and assorted unidentifiable bodily fluids. That's what I see happening to a playground in Westlake: great for a summer, then rendered unusable by crust punks and assholes.
Posted by Jessica on June 14, 2012 at 8:27 PM · Report this
I'm with Goldy. We need a kick-ass playground but who's ass do we kiss to get it?

Other cities have fabulous playgrounds that are more like adventurelands. Why can't we?

If you build it they will come (but not at Westlake).
Posted by westello on June 14, 2012 at 9:25 PM · Report this
Donolectic 32
@30 - The memories of crack park. It's a fenced dog park now!
Posted by Donolectic on June 14, 2012 at 9:55 PM · Report this
THIS SUCKS! This is not a good place to bring your kids and chill out, because it's too hectic and busy. It's the middle of the city, with heavy traffic on three sides! People walking back and forth all day! No!

All this does is act as a major sitting roadblock in the middle of the park. By the looks of the picture, it just crams the traffic crossing the park to one side. I LIKE the open space - something rare downtown - crossing it on early mornings, or seeing the occasional street musician, the food vendor, the chess players, the anti-Israel protesters and end-of-times Christian freaks with their humongous signs. And what are they going to do when the Christmas/shopping season rolls around? Where are they going to put the damn carousel, and where are people going to stand for the tree-lighting crap?

People don't bring their kids to the middle of Downtown to play in a stupid playground, bounded on all sides by office buildings and the roar of heavy traffic. They come to shop and experience the city. This sucks. I would never bring a kid here. I'm all for a city playground, but not here. Put it somewhere quiet, pleasant, and where kids are.
Posted by floater on June 15, 2012 at 7:29 PM · Report this

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