Design firming up, money rolling in for Counterbalance Park

The last in a series of three public meetings about the design and funding for the Counterbalance Park: An Urban Oasis provided some good news Nov. 15.

Located at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue North and Roy Street, the Murase Associates and Iola Alessandrini design has been run by the mayor's office, Seattle Parks and Recreation and his own internal review, said Scott Murase, the son of Bob Murase, who died shortly before the plan was first released. "And everyone has praised this as an appropriate design for the location," he added.

The interior of the park will be covered in crushed granite, while the current plan calls for the edges to be covered in ironwood planks, giving the edges the feeling of someone's front porch, Murase said.

There was some concern about the cost and maintenance of the ironwood, as well as how difficult it is to work with the wood. But using paving stones for the edges is still on the table, said Keith Biever, chair of the parks committee for the Uptown Alliance, a neighborhood planning group that has spearheaded the project.

A sense of light is also a big part of the design, Murase said, and the edges of a raised and sloping platform in the interior of the space will be lighted from within.

One woman at the meeting was worried that the sharp edges and corners of the park would make the space less soft and welcoming. "Well, I think it's all a matter of geometry," said Murase, who likened the design to that of European plazas.

"In symmetry there is harmony," added Alessandrini. And Uptown Alliance member John Gessner noted that hard edges are a signature of Murase designs.

"We'd like it to look like a Murase park," he said.

The goal is to keep the park very open to curtail homeless people from taking over the space, and adding murals to the surrounding walls is under consideration, Murase said. "But I was also thinking about the interpretive aspect of this space," he said of a design element that would be determined later.

The design includes numerous small trees that will be only 10 to 14 feet tall and not something people would climb, said Patrick Donohue, the Seattle Parks and Recreation project manager for the park.

There also will be benches in the park, and one of them has already been paid for by a Queen Anne family that will get a bench plaque in their name, said Jean Sundborg, who chairs the Uptown Alliance fundraising committee for the park.

The goal is to raise $976,000, and as of last week the amount stood at $825,000, she said. That includes $304,000 from the Pro Parks Levy, $225,000 from the Shah Safari company in Lower Queen Anne and $100,000 from a neighborhood matching fund, Sundborg said. HomeStreet Bank on Upper Queen Anne also kicked in an additional $5,000 at the Wednesday night meeting.

Another $200,000 has been requested in the 2007-2008 city budget, she said of an amount that will put the park planners over the top.

"It's still in there," Sundborg added.

Donohue from the parks department drew up a schedule that indicates construction should start next May and last through the end of October.

But he's hedged his bet. "When I wrote the schedule, I gave myself lots of wiggle room," Donohue said.

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or 461-1309.
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