Core Design Team
Firm: DLR Group
Architecture, Planning, Interior Design, FF&E Design, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering
Landscape Architecture: HBB Landscape Architecture
In June 2020, Cal Anderson Park became the focal point for several Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests following the murder of George Floyd. These protests, among many other forms of community activism leading up to this point, accelerated efforts in several governments and organizations to take a much deeper look at the assumptions, language, and designs of public space systems. During the BLM protests, Cal Anderson Park served as a public gathering space for hearing stories of social injustice and community efforts to unite and heal. The park became a place for meetings, community gardening, conversation circles, and a place of respite. Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) recognized the need and opportunity to respond to these events, and initiated an outreach process to receive and address potential design and programming interventions to Cal Anderson Park.
The design team was asked to lead community engagement for the Cal Anderson Park Community Conversation & Vision as the first step in a process to support the evolution of programming, development and maintenance of the park that expresses the rich and varied cultures of Capitol Hill and the greater Seattle community. Inspired by the activities of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), also known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), the design team established an outreach process that would be creative, flexible, and inclusive to all.
In response to the unique circumstances and safety parameters of the COVID-19 pandemic, interactions with the community were adapted to a virtual format. The design team’s multifaceted approach involved stakeholder meetings and individual interviews, along with an outreach website and online surveys. Community conversations were held to review the park’s history, explore how to create a sense of belonging, prioritize ideas and define a plan for immediate action items. Adjustments were made throughout engagement process to support better outcomes for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LGBTQIA communities, while representing and reflecting the diverse communities, neighborhoods, stakeholders, and visitors being served.
In 3 months of community engagement, 3 community conversations were held with 490 participants, 4,770 community members were surveyed, and 6 listening sessions were organized with 46 participants and stakeholders groups. Through this process, five priorities emerged to create a more inclusive park that reflects the community needs values: Art, Conversation Corner, Garden Program, Human Services, and Safety. The park reopened in December 2020 and SPR is continuing to collaborate with the community to determine next steps on bringing about programs and activities around these five identified community needs and values. The City of Seattle hopes to use Cal Anderson Park as a model for transforming Seattle’s parks into spaces that support marginalized communities and create a sense of belonging for everyone; sustaining the health of the people, the health of the environment, and the strength of the community.