September 15, 2016
From Parking Lot to Public Park: City Awards the East Howe Steps Plaza Project a $100k Construction Grant
Although you may not be able to tell right now, a new public plaza is taking shape in Eastlake. It will be on a triangular piece of public land that has been used as parking by businesses over the years, east of Fairview Ave. and where Howe St. might have been had it continued west across Eastlake Ave. That bit of Howe Street right of way is opening up with the private development that is happening there and will connect with the new public plaza.
The plaza will be the base of what will form a grand stairway up Howe St., connecting Lake Union to the historic East Howe St. staircases that run through the I-5 Colonnade Park and up Capitol Hill along the Streissguth Gardens.
The project has been in the works for over ten years and just last week got a huge boost with a $100k construction grant. Last Saturday morning the project steering committee, made up of Mary Hansen, Ron Endlich, Linda Furney, Leslie Silverman, Ariah Kidder, Judy Jopling, and Tom Kipp, hosted an impromptu celebration with coffee, pastries, information and tours on site.
“It feels like we’re suddenly lurching forward as opposed to inching along,” said Tom Kipp.
The grant provided the group with a new momentum. The project had leapt forward in late 2014 and early 2015 with three public open houses at TOPS to gather community input on design concepts. But final design work on the winning public choice, “Front Porch” concept, took a longer than expected.
That design will feature trees, plants, seating and open space and (like stepping out to a front porch) will be a place to stretch, sit, reflect and hang out, wrote Mary Hansen in an email . The plaza will fan out to a stretch of the Cheshiahud Loop, connecting with the trail there.
Ron Endlich, another committee member, who was key to securing the $100k construction grant explained that the project had received a $25k planning grant (funding the open houses), a $25k site survey grant and a $50k design grant. All those grants also had to be matched 50 percent by the neighborhood, and a lot of the match was made through volunteer hours with some cash fund raising.
But now the stakes are a bit higher. The $100k construction grant will require a 100 percent project match with a good portion of it needing to be in cash. “It needs to be secure funding,” Ron explained, for construction. While volunteer hours will also count, the steering committee will be looking toward neighborhood businesses to help make this match. Construction could start as early as next spring with the first phase completed by next fall.
In the meantime Daly Partnership, a private developer, is constructing a project on Eastlake at East Howe St., known as the East Howe Steps. That project is well underway and will add two apartment buildings with retail on the ground level. The two buildings will border, south and north, the pedestrian thoroughfare linking East Howe St. and Eastlake Ave. with the plaza.
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