A redesigned east side for SAAM.
A redesigned east side for SAAM.

“Everybody’s heard about the renovation,” he said. “Nobody’s heard about expansion.”

“The museum is in great need of serious renovation,” she told a gathering of around 40 attendees. “… I was asked if it made sense to continue to operate in the museum.”

Rorschach said the museum has a responsibility to protect the collections of artwork, which it can’t properly do now, because of a lack of climate control.

There is also a loading dock under a 1955 addition on the north side of the museum that is hard for trucks to access, and only has a passenger elevator, Miller said, and not one large enough to efficiently move art collections. 

Miller addressed the roughly 4,000-square-foot addition on the southeast side of the museum, which had some concerned about its encroachment into the park.

The original design had included a wraparound staircase with large windows, meant to provide a better connection between the museum and park on the east side. He said the design changed, because of concerns people might wrongly assume the staircase is an entrance to the museum. While Volunteer Park Trust member Eliza Davidson said she’d still prefer no expansion of the museum, she was glad the staircase plans were changed, which came up during the charrette.

The stairway has been redesigned into the building, maintaining large windows there, as well as in new gallery space on the third level, the 1,517-square-foot event space that will replace the Alvord Board Room on the second level and meeting, lounge and office space on the first level.

A 1,024-square-foot education center is also planned for the second level, as more room is needed to grow the programs being offered at SAAM. SAM provided 251 programs at the Asian art museum last year, serving 17,000 people. When the museum reopens in 2019, SAM expects to provide 350 programs to 25,000 people. It is raising endowments to meet this goal, Rorschach said. 

Miller said SAM is working with an arborist to identify exceptional trees around the museum and determine how to keep them preserved, and landscape revisions on the east side of the museum.

“They’re OK, in principal, with the idea of what we’re doing,” he said of the modern addition to the more historic facade, adding ARC doesn’t like “fake historic” additions to buildings.

Davidson asked who would cover the longterm maintenance costs associated with the museum addition. Rorschach said SAM has an operating agreement with the city, which is currently being renegotiated, however, the city will continue to cover utilities and operating costs, such as engineering and housekeeping, which is around $200,000 annually. The city does not cover curatorial and administrative costs, she added. While a larger footprint will be created with the expansion — in all about 13,000 square feet — Miller said replacing exhibit lights with LEDs and other energy efficiency upgrades should lower utility costs.

“It’s tough. You’ve got to size it right,” Rorschach said. “We have to do a lot of fundraising, as we’ve already explained. … We know it’s a lot to ask to increase the footprint.”

The city of Seattle has committed $2 million to the design and planning of the renovation and expansion, plus $11 million through the 2008 parks levy, which has an escalator clause to account for current construction costs eight years later. Rorschach said SAM is asking the city for another $5 million contribution, but she did not know if some or any of that request will be met. SAM expects half of the funds for the project to come through private donors, and is currently in its silent fundraising phase, with a public phase to follow. She added 80 percent of the total project cost is for upgrades. 

Edward Telcs, who has lived near Volunteer Park with his wife for five years, said he’s not opposed to the project, but is concerned about the construction impacts, the details about which were not available. 

The museum is expected to close in spring 2017, as it is expected to take six months to remove collections and other materials from the building before an August construction start time. Following a year of construction, Rorschach said it will take another six months to put everything back in place, with reopening slate for spring 2019.

BN Builders has been selected as the general contractor/construction manager, and is currently working out staging plans and how construction crews will access the park and art museum, Miller said. Those details will likely be available by the next public feedback meeting 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the SAAM, 1400 E. Prospect. Two more meetings are scheduled at the SAAM: 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 and 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. 

Coming up

Doug Bayley, former VPT chairman, said 500 plants have been purchased for the organization’s Fall Restoration Day 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, which will be planted on the west side of the park, near the Black Sun sculpture. He said the idea is to enhance that side of the park before the SAAM expansion begins.