Design team changes outreach strategies for a changing community in Yesler Terrace

Monthly Vietnamese Senior Tea held at the Yesler Community Center, March 26, 2014.

 

When Seattle Parks and Recreation Project Manager Pamela Kliment began conducting outreach for a new park in Yesler Terrace, she had to rethink her outreach strategy. After presenting the project at three different Yesler Community Council meetings, she often found that there were only a few English speakers in attendance, and some community members couldn’t read in their own languages.

Shwu-jen Hwang and Frank Robinson are the designers for the project.  Both are Seattle Parks landscape architects.  Toby Ressler will be the project manager.  They are working as a team to make sure the park design will meet the community’s recreation and gathering needs, and be suitable for cultural traditions and future uses.

The team realized that if they were going to plan, design and build a park that reflected the people of Yesler Terrace and surrounding neighborhoods, they’d have to immerse themselves in those communities. During the last two months Kliment attended the First Hill Improvement Association Open House, and aided by interpreters, the monthly Vietnamese Senior Tea at the community center and an East African reading and singing event for children.

Reading and singing time sponsored by the Seattle Public Library held at the Yesler Community Center, April 9, 2014.

 

“Neighborhood discussions revealed that people will use the park to play games and to meet with friends,” Kliment said, “but we want to know the types of games they play in their cultures and the types of gathering areas they’d use. Do we put in benches and tables or have more open space? How close should these elements be to each other?  How can we add as much walking as possible?”

The design team faces a unique challenge because the park is part of the Yesler Terrace Redevelopment. Yesler Terrace is being redeveloped from a low-income housing development to a combination of low-income housing, market rate housing, offices and community spaces. All the existing housing will be demolished and the street grid will be altered.

The designers must try to satisfy current residents, future residents, business people, children, seniors and all of their diverse needs.

Yesler Terrace Community Council meeting April 15, 2014.

 

According to a report conducted by Seattle Housing Authority, African Americans/Africans and Asian Americans/Asians make up more than 80 percent of the Yesler Terrace population. Additionally, the disability rate in the community is nearly 50 percent higher than the overall Seattle population, meaning almost one in five residents is disabled.

“Yesler Park is the convergence point of many different cultures in a location that is close to downtown and is very connected to surrounding neighborhoods,” landscape architect Frank Robinson said.

In addition to attending already established events to do outreach, the Seattle Parks team sent out mailers in five languages and put up posters in the neighborhood inviting residents to attend three public meetings and give input on the park design. The first meeting was held in late April and the other two are scheduled for June 26 and Aug. 28 at the community center.

“Working with many different ethnic groups is very exciting and challenging, but we have found good ways to communicate with them and are very impressed with their level of engagement,” landscape architect Shwu-jen Hwang said.

The park will be 1.7 acres and will be adjacent to the Yesler Community Center on the west side. The 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy provides $3 million for the planning, design and construction of the park.

“The park is part of a changing community, and there are so many details to keep in mind,” Kliment said.

Community invited to contribute ideas and help shape the neighborhood park at Yesler Terrace

Seattle Parks and Recreation invites the community to a public meeting on Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at Yesler Community Center.  This is an opportunity for the community to review basic park diagrams and participate in a discussion on park design for the new 1.7-acre park.  The new park is part of the redevelopment at Yesler Terrace.

The intent of the park is to serve as a gathering place for current and future residents of the Yesler, First Hill and other surrounding neighborhoods.  The park design will be influenced by the outreach work done by the Seattle Housing Authority.

In 2008 neighbors expressed a desire for walking paths, open lawn, space for traditional cultural activities and sports, basketball and a covered space.  Parks recently attended a monthly Vietnamese Tea for seniors, an East African toddler storytelling session and an open house event in the First Hill neighborhood to gather additional input for the park design. The Yesler Community Center has been a critical partner in gathering community input. Current Yesler Terrace residents have called the new park the “heart” of the community.

The  Parks and Green Spaces Levy allocates $3 million for planning design and construction of the park and the Office of Arts and Culture will provide an $80,000 art budget  from 1% for the Arts program.

For each major development or renovation project, Seattle Parks and Recreation typically holds three meetings to ensure community involvement.  A second meeting will be held on June 26 and the third and final meeting on August 28, 2014.

The community is encouraged to be part of the process and provide input on the project.  Interpreters will be available for people who speak Somali, Vietnamese, Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya and Cantonese.  Yesler Community Center is located at 917 E. Yesler Way, Seattle WA 98122.

For more information about the project visit, please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/yesler_terrace_park/

If you have questions, please contact project planner, Pam Kliment, at pamela.kliment@seattle.gov or 684-7556.