SiteWorkshop managing principal speaks to a crowd during an update on First Hill Park.
SiteWorkshop managing principal speaks to a crowd during an update on First Hill Park.

The First Hill Improvement Association presented the latest changes and received a lot of feedback from the crowd gathered at the Stimson-Green Mansion on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

“The reason we are here and making these changes is because the park is not meeting the needs of the community now,” said SiteWorkshop managing principal Mark Brands.

Getting the designs and documentation for the park cleared and working with Seattle Parks and Recreations to get the project approved under all the requirements is the goal for this year.

Construction is set to begin in early- to mid-2018 and completed by summer. The $25,000 budget for the redesign comes from Neighborhood Matching Fund Small and Simple grant.

“2018 is actually going to be the park’s 40th anniversary, and we’re happy to be giving it a nice facelift for its birthday,” said FHIA executive director Alex Hudson.

The current redesign of First Hill Park expands all the way to the street, to allow for more open spaces while preserving the greenery that surrounds the park. A majority of the current trees and plants will be replaced, as the current plant population is ill and is wearing out.

In addition to the one Yellowwood tree that toppled during a recent windstorm, two more were removed from the park due to disease and rotting cores. However, a few of the existing Yellowwood trees will stay and be incorporated into the design.

A lot of concern was raised with regard to the step down that will serve as additional seating to the park’s visitors and the grass commons area around it. People said poor drainage for the lawn could create a pool of mud during the fall and winter times.

“We know how important the drainage is, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the lawn is drained properly and under the city regulations,” Brands said. “We can’t drain it to the street, so we are going to make sure we keep it all on site. We’re thinking of the different types of lawns and grass types that we can plant to allow for better drainage.”

A lot of positive feedback was voiced from the public in response to the seating and play area that’s being proposed by SiteWorkshop. The plan is to install benches of various sizes, ranging from two to four feet in length, as well as swinging benches to add vibrancy to the space.

The larger park area allows for installation of turn mounts that could be used as the play area for kids, an additional seating area, hosting an art installation or a sculpture. The design also allows for more lighting and lower planting around the perimeter to allow for visibility and deterrence of illegal activities. There also will be designated dog areas throughout the park.

Decisions are still being finalized for materials to be used in the pavement and what types of plants will replace the current ones. More information will be shared with the public as it becomes available.

An issue that arose multiple times was the concrete wall along the Stimson-Green and the rat infestation and illegal activities that happen among the greenery in that area, which is out of FHIA’s hands. Brands said the budget does not currently allow for any development in that area of the park. If the opportunity arises, they’ll consider the suggestions voiced by the public for its improvement.

“It’s our deep organizational commitment to make First Hill Park a lot more positive and promote activity,” Hudson said. “We want to make sure that this works long-term, and we’re going to take care of that ‘garden.’ ”