Three years ago, $90,000 of Forward Thrust funds were set aside to build a mini-park in the International District. Time is running out on the children’s playground. But now, some formal action is finally taking place, spearheaded by an International District Improvement Association (Inter*im) planning committee.
“We feel we have only until the end of the year to pinpoint a site and come up with plans or face re-allocation of the money,” said Inter*im Board President Dennis Su.
The Inter*im Physical Development Task Force was formed early this year following a warning from James Mason, International District Manager, that the City Council was considering other uses for the mini-park funds. The group headed by Vera Eng, decided it could no longer wait for assistance from the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. On its own, it set out to solve the main problem of locating a feasible site.
Inter*im’s prime site up until this time has been on two streets bordering Hing Hay Park, South King St. and Maynard Ave. The problem was that building here would require vacating the streets and removing store-front property.
At the end of March, the task force asked the park department for help in drawing up a proposed sketch of the park. This was an attempt to show the area’s business people what the playground would look like to convince them to vacate the land.
“That’s when the park department came back and told us that they would not help and take any responsibility in the street-vacating procedure,” said Su.
The group was also pressured by time. According to Su, “Vacating the street without any opposition would take six to nine months and the businessmen are bound to oppose.”
“It was then that we decided we’d better do something, that we’d better look for alternative sites,” he said.
At its latest meeting, the task force went back and examined a 1976 study and came up with three other site possibilities.
Two of the proposed locations are on land currently owned by the Tsue Chong noodle factory at 8th Ave. and Weller. The first is the grassy area adjacent to the factory, where a loading dock once was. The other possibility is the northern half of Weller Street that extends east to the freeway.
The problem with both sites is that Tsue Chong is in the midst of expanding its plant and is reluctant at this time to sell the property.
The third site is the alley separating Bush Hotel and the United Savings and Loan building.
“The main reason why this site is being considered,” said Elaine Ko at Inter*im, “is because it is close to the day-care center planned for the remodeled Bush Hotel.”
The obstacle here is that the Bush Hotel and its adjoining land is under going a change of ownership and, until that transaction is finalized, little planning can be done on the site.
Throughout the year, the task force has maintained that the park department has held an uncooperative and negative attitude toward the mini-park project. But Walt Hundley, department superintendent, told The Examiner that he “has been committed to a park in the district” and as far as he is concerned, “that commitment still stands.”
“I don’t think the funds are in jeopardy as long as there is movement on the project,” he said. “If the community insists on it, and come up with a location and plan, we will go ahead.”
He also said the department did not give more assistance in drawing up a sketch for the businessmen situated around Hing Hay Park because “it’s just not good business to pay for a design that may not be used.”
Despite the most recent letter from Hundley that all but leaves the park up to the community, the task force is still convinced that it must pick up the pace to beat its informal deadline set at the end of the year.
“I think the park department feels that there is no need for a children’s play ground and that the community is not together enough to plan it,” stated Su.