South Lake Union Park gets $10 million donation

Paul Allen's development company, Vulcan, announced today it will contribute $10 million to South Lake Union Park, the largest private donation to a public park in Seattle history.

Vulcan's contribution was hailed by city and parks officials as crucial to completing a $22.7 million plan for the 12-acre park. Under the plan, the grassy park would feature a model-boat pond, boardwalk, wharf for historic vessels, lawn for festivals and concerts, a Native American longhouse and canoe-carving shed, bike and walking paths, and a beach for kayaks to land.

The non-profit Seattle Parks Foundation aims to raise $20 million in donations to carry out the plan. With Vulcan's contribution, the foundation will have to raise only $10 million.

"It's hugely important. This lead gift makes it possible to go raise the other $10 million," said Carol Lewis, president of the foundation's board of directors.

Taxpayers have already contributed $5 million for preliminary work through the Pro Parks Levy approved by voters in November 2000.

Vulcan' s money will come in two chunks. The first $5 million will help start construction in the park, which sits near the southwest shore of Lake Union, between Valley Street and Westlake Avenue North. The money will replace the bulkhead between the park and the water and build an adjacent boardwalk and a pedestrian bridge over a watery inlet that cuts between the main park and its western edge. Construction is expected to start in late 2005 and be completed in 2008.

Vulcan will hand over the second $5 million once the non-profit Seattle Parks Foundation has raised the remaining $10 million. In effect, Vulcan will give the first $5 million to start park redevelopment and the last $5 million to finish the job. The company owns about 60 acres in the South Lake Union area and is redeveloping the area as an emerging biotech hub with an estimated 8,000 new apartments and condos.

The summer Nights at the Pier concert series will move to Seattle's South Lake Union Park for the 2005 season. The shift, announced last year, is driven by multimillion-dollar repairs needed for piers 62 and 63 where the popular concerts have been held.

Vulcan has lobbied the city to build a new streetcar line in the area and to reconfigure Mercer and Valley Streets to make them more attractive and friendly to pedestrians. The company has also sought zoning revisions that allow for taller building in the area. The City Council recently approved a $3 million tax break for the company in exchange for Vulcan providing affordable housing in one of its projects.

Mayor Greg Nickels praised Vulcan for its "very generous contribution" and City Council President Jan Drago thanked Allen, adding that the park was a "very important part of his vision" for redeveloping the area.

Allen did not attend a morning ceremony at which his contribution was announced and celebrated. Ada Healey, Vulcan's vice-president for real estate development, said she was "tickled green" by the announcement and said "we believe a green space in the middle of the city will benefit the entire city."