"I am overwhelmed by the number of people here," joked Nick Metz, deputy chief of the Seattle Police Department said to a large crowd gathered on 12th Avenue and Pine Street this afternoon. Throngs of local artists, city officials, and off-duty police officers were gathered there for the same purpose: to celebrate the metamorphosis of a fenced police parking lot into a multipurpose affordable housing project known as 12 Avenue Arts. The center will include 88 affordable housing units, 108 underground parking spaces for police, community office space for non-profits, local retail space, and of course, tons of space for the arts.
"I wasn't sure if I was here to talk about housing or the drone program," Metz joked to a jubilant crowd as they snacked on Via Trbunali's pizza and Cafe Vita coffee. This time Metz dodged a bullet—it wasn't the drone program. Officer Metz was joined by Mayor Mike McGinn, Senator Ed Murray, Capital Campaign Co-Chair Mike Malone and a conglomeration of other Capitol Hill locals who each donned a bright orange hardhat and symbolically tussled with a pile of colorful dirt to celebrate the occasion.
Eager to get in some subtle campaigning in front of one of his strongest mayoral opponents, senator Ed Murray, Mayor McGinn was quick to point out that most of the work on this mammoth project was done during his three years in office. But the collection of speakers illustrated that this was not just a McGinn-driven miracle. This project represents a tremendous feat of "cajoling" and cooperation between Seattle's artists, developers, and local businesses.
The arts center is scheduled to open sometime in 2014.