Planning the re-development of the former Sand Point Naval Air Station, now known as Warren G. Magnuson Park, began in 1997, two years after the naval station was transferred in 1995 from the federal government to the City. The Community Preferred Reuse Plan (1997), the Sand Point Blue Ribbon Committee report (1999) and the Magnuson Park Concept Design (1999) all contributedto the framework for how this 309 acre addition to Seattle’s parklands might best serve residents.
The transfer came with a hitch. As a result of deactivation in 1970, the Station’s buildings were neglected and fell into disrepair. The City has so far invested about $42 million and completed 40 capital improvement projects at Magnuson; third-parties who lease space there have invested $33 million; and Solid Ground and the University of Washington, which own additional land in the park, have invested more than $54 million to transform seriously unsafe buildings into safe, active public recreational facilities.
However, many buildings remain in dire need of repair today.
Two such buildings that for years I and Sand Point Arts & Cultural Exchange (S.P.A.C.E.) have been advocating to restore for arts and cultural uses are buildings 18 and 30.
Building 30 hosted hundreds of events each year until being declared unsafe for full occupancy, resulting in only a handful of events being allowed annually and negatively impacting past users such as Friends of the Library, Rat City Rollergirls, Seattle Tilth and Cascade Bicycle Club.
Building 18 has long been identified by S.P.A.C.E. an ideal location and size for artist work studios. Recently, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has pledged to create 25 new artist studios in Building 30, which will come online next year. It seems more likely now that the Cascade Bicycle Club will lease the building once it’s fully rehabilitated in the next few years.
After two years of pressing the director of DPR to include Building 30’s rehabilitation in the Mayor’s budget, DPR has decided to advance rehabilitation from 2015 to next year. I’m also pleased to see DPR include $2m in its 2013 proposed budget for stabilizing Building 18 rather than demolishing it.
What makes Magnuson so attractive to me is its mixed use appeal. It has pretty much every recreational activity one could wish for in one location. Although arts and cultural activities have waned in comparison – due to more dilapidated buildings being closed or due to the eviction of artists from leased buildings – the restoration of Building 30 next year and the possible renovation of Building 18 in the near future represent two long-overdue arts & cultural space milestones for Magnuson Park that will be reached.
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