An audience of more than 50 people attended the design presentation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum on Saturday, Oct. 15.
An audience of more than 50 people attended the design presentation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum on Saturday, Oct. 15.

A proposal to renovate and expand the Seattle Asian Art Museum drew more than an hour of public comment and questions from concerned Volunteer Park area residents on Saturday, Oct. 15.

More than 50 people attended the event, with mixed reactions and more than a dozen demanding to know how the project would impact the park.

Resident Jonathan Mark has taken up a petition against the expansion with group Protect Volunteer Park. Mark handed out flyers prior to the start of the meeting, calling for attendees to sign the petition and visit protectvolunteerpark.org for more information. Mark said more than 150 people have signed the petition to date.

“The Seattle Art Museum was founded in 1933 in this building,” Seattle Art CEO Kim Rorschach said. Rorschach said the funds were donated by Dr. Richard Fuller. “He built the building and then gave it to the city of Seattle. In the early ‘90s, we moved the main operations downtown.” It became the Seattle Asian Art Museum in 2007.

However, only modest additions have been made over the years, she said “…but no real comprehensive renovation since it opened in 1933. It doesn’t have proper climate control. It doesn’t have adequate seismic protection.”

When hired in 2012, Rorschach was asked to assess whether the building could remain in use. In addition, she said the museum had a trust obligation to protect art under its care, which made upgrades necessary for the continuation of the museum.

The project would add 3,500 square feet to the museum’s footprint on the east-facing side of the museum while installing a climate control system, as well as provide air conditioning for the building. In addition, the project will address seismically vulnerable walls built before earthquake prevention regulations as well as meet ADA requirements and improve the loading dock area.

The expansion — expected to add about 13,000 square feet in all — is needed to create space for art currently being stored in the basement where climate control machinery would need to be located, said Sam Miller of LMN Architects. Because of the lack of air conditioning and climate control, condensation was discovered behind a painting recently, which could have led to ruin. Many exhibits refuse offers to display art due to inadequate standards, Miller said.

“My 11-year-old son slides down that slope, so this is important to me and my family,” one man said, asking why park users had not been asked for feedback on the proposal.

Another man described seeing people with picnic blankets, sitting in the grass on the east side, rebutting comments by the project developers that the area is not used much.

Miller said the addition would be three floors and would be located to avoid prominent trees. He also said great preservation efforts were taken, beginning with a study of the trees, their position, stability and health mitigate any potential impacts.

Several attendees said the area where the eastside expansion desperately needs improvement anyway, pointing out that the wall is blank with little maintenance and should be improved along with the museum. Still, others objected to what they felt was inadequate public and community outreach, stating the first they had heard of the proposal was prior to Saturday’s meeting.

One woman blasted the developers for what she called pushing one proposal of what they wanted and not giving the community options to vote on.

Miller and Rorschach said they had to present a design concept for community feedback and reaction. Miller said design meetings have been held since July and included a design charrette with members of Volunteer Park Trust and Seattle’s Friends of Olmsted Parks.

“We felt that we had to put something forward for you to react to, and we really have evolved it based on comments and I know we’ll continue,” Roschach said. “I’m sorry to have come across as unfeeling. We know this isn’t decided, it has to be approved and it’s not approved yet. Community sentiment is important.”

Another conflict was the proposed size of the expansion. The petition against the project states the expansion would increase the museum’s footprint by 15 percent, while architects say it would only be ¼ of a percent that will take away from the park.

Miller said that construction will not start until September 2017 and another year is expected for completion. The museum will be closed for as long as two years for renovations, starting at the end of February 2017, when art and equipment is moved over several months. The museum is not anticipated to reopen until 2019.

Miller and Rorschach said the project is going through the landmark review process as both the park and the museum are designated historical landmarks.

Two more meetings are scheduled to present the expansion plans, on Saturday, Nov. 19, and Saturday, Dec. 10, from 1-2:30 p.m.

Miller said Seattle Parks and Recreation representatives are expected to attend the Nov. 19 meeting to answer questions from concerned neighbors. Both will be held at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St.

In addition, Miller said that during the construction process, project managers will holds meetings to discuss mitigation of the impact of construction, equipment and digging will have on the park.

Visit seattleartmuseum.org/visit/asianartmusueum/ for more information.

More than 50 people attended the event, with mixed reactions and more than a dozen demanding to know how the project would impact the park.

Resident Jonathan Mark has taken up a petition against the expansion with group Protect Volunteer Park. Mark handed out flyers prior to the start of the meeting, calling for attendees to sign the petition and visit protectvolunteerpark.org for more information. Mark said more than 150 people have signed the petition to date.

“The Seattle Art Museum was founded in 1933 in this building,” Seattle Art CEO Kim Rorschach said. Rorschach said the funds were donated by Dr. Richard Fuller. “He built the building and then gave it to the city of Seattle. In the early ‘90s, we moved the main operations downtown.” It became the Seattle Asian Art Museum in 2007.

However, only modest additions have been made over the years, she said “…but no real comprehensive renovation since it opened in 1933. It doesn’t have proper climate control. It doesn’t have adequate seismic protection.”

When hired in 2012, Rorschach was asked to assess whether the building could remain in use. In addition, she said the museum had a trust obligation to protect art under its care, which made upgrades necessary for the continuation of the museum.

The project would add 3,500 square feet to the museum’s footprint on the east-facing side of the museum while installing a climate control system, as well as provide air conditioning for the building. In addition, the project will address seismically vulnerable walls built before earthquake prevention regulations as well as meet ADA requirements and improve the loading dock area.

The expansion — expected to add about 13,000 square feet in all — is needed to create space for art currently being stored in the basement where climate control machinery would need to be located, said Sam Miller of LMN Architects. Because of the lack of air conditioning and climate control, condensation was discovered behind a painting recently, which could have led to ruin. Many exhibits refuse offers to display art due to inadequate standards, Miller said.

“My 11-year-old son slides down that slope, so this is important to me and my family,” one man said, asking why park users had not been asked for feedback on the proposal.

Another man described seeing people with picnic blankets, sitting in the grass on the east side, rebutting comments by the project developers that the area is not used much.

Miller said the addition would be three floors and would be located to avoid prominent trees. He also said great preservation efforts were taken, beginning with a study of the trees, their position, stability and health mitigate any potential impacts.

Several attendees said the area where the eastside expansion desperately needs improvement anyway, pointing out that the wall is blank with little maintenance and should be improved along with the museum. Still, others objected to what they felt was inadequate public and community outreach, stating the first they had heard of the proposal was prior to Saturday’s meeting.

One woman blasted the developers for what she called pushing one proposal of what they wanted and not giving the community options to vote on.

Miller and Rorschach said they had to present a design concept for community feedback and reaction. Miller said design meetings have been held since July and included a design charrette with members of Volunteer Park Trust and Seattle’s Friends of Olmsted Parks.

“We felt that we had to put something forward for you to react to, and we really have evolved it based on comments and I know we’ll continue,” Roschach said. “I’m sorry to have come across as unfeeling. We know this isn’t decided, it has to be approved and it’s not approved yet. Community sentiment is important.”

Another conflict was the proposed size of the expansion. The petition against the project states the expansion would increase the museum’s footprint by 15 percent, while architects say it would only be ¼ of a percent that will take away from the park.

Miller said that construction will not start until September 2017 and another year is expected for completion. The museum will be closed for as long as two years for renovations, starting at the end of February 2017, when art and equipment is moved over several months. The museum is not anticipated to reopen until 2019.

Miller and Rorschach said the project is going through the landmark review process as both the park and the museum are designated historical landmarks.

Two more meetings are scheduled to present the expansion plans, on Saturday, Nov. 19, and Saturday, Dec. 10, from 1-2:30 p.m.

Miller said Seattle Parks and Recreation representatives are expected to attend the Nov. 19 meeting to answer questions from concerned neighbors. Both will be held at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St.

In addition, Miller said that during the construction process, project managers will holds meetings to discuss mitigation of the impact of construction, equipment and digging will have on the park.

Click here for more information.