Green Lake Community Center Options Narrowed to Three at Current Site

Courtesy of Seattle Parks and Recreation. Vignette of Option 3 for selected site alongside sycamore tree rows

Seattle Parks and Recreation’s online open house has returned for the Green Lake Community Center/Pool redevelopment project, including the results of the previous open house. The selected and current site, adjacent to Green Lake’s commercial core, received overwhelming support at 75%. None of the other sites even netted 10% of the votes.

The project’s team has since done a more detailed analysis on the site to evaluate potential footprints for the new community center and pool. Analysis of urban context, transit, on-site trees, and solar orientation produced five potential options–three of which have moved up for public consideration in this open house.

Courtesy of Seattle Parks and Recreation. Zones bordered by yellow are still being considered. Zones bordered by red have already been ruled out as they would have created too little benefit for the impact on the landscape.

All three options provide the same amount of recreational amenities, and support facilities. Parks pledges to maintain parking for 100 cars, which preserves the number of parking stalls from the old design.

Different options have also been developed for the new Green Lake Community Center. Each option has its own respective design options.

Option 1: Park Pavilion

Community center amenities include parking, tennis courts, play area, basketball courts, and a playfield.

Courtesy of Seattle Parks and Recreation

Option one uses the current footprint of the community center and pool. However, the increased footprint of the planned center consumes the current location of the basketball courts, which would be shifted to the east. The east ballfield is lost to accommodate the basketball courts and new walkways.

Otherwise there is little change to the overall layout of the current site. The access road, parking lot, and drop-off loop remain the same and very few trees are displaced. Where they are removed, new trees will be planted to compensate.

For design choice, a new entry would be lined up to rows of sycamore trees. The assigned design option also creates a pavilion on the second floor of the new building that could grant views of the lake. Passersby on the trail would be able to see activity in the center.

Major challenges for this option is the loss of use of the existing center for the duration of construction, current estimates would put that period between 2024 and 2026. Additionally, no change to the existing lake shore-adjacent parking lot wastes the potential of the spot.

Option 2: Lakeside Porch

Courtesy of Seattle Parks and Recreation

Option 2 shifts the community center northward, completely displacing the existing parking area. The proposed parking lot would push the play area between the rows of sycamore trees and significant green space is lost. A signalized intersection is also relocated one block southeast to accommodate the parking lot.

The ballfields gain green space, as the basketball courts shift up with the center. New trees are added along the new green space granted to the ballfields.

Shown with Amenity G, the existing pool structure could be used for an open-air pavilion or some other facility. The upside of the parking lot move opens up more lake shore space for activities. The current facility can also continue operation during construction.

The respective design option comes with a spacious porch that faces the lake. Like Option 1, passersby on the trail would be able to see activity in the center.

Option 3: Neighborhood Connector

Courtesy of Seattle Parks and Recreation

Option 3 is the most radical change to the community placement, as it pulls it toward the neighborhood and farther from the lake. The east ballfield is completely displaced with this footprint, but more lakeside space is opened up for other activities.

The parking lot changes are similar to Option 2, completely displacing the play area and relocating the parking lot away from the lake shore. However, this time the design team chose to invade the sycamore tree rows with concrete, as a trade for no intersection changes.

Just like Option 2, the existing pool structure could be used for an open-air pavilion or some other facility. The current facility can also continue operation during construction, but unlike Option 2 parking goes unaffected for a chunk of time.

The new footprint also takes into account the potential soil instability that the old site suffered from. Option 3’s location puts the community center along the lake shore that Green Lake had before it was dredged. The better soil conditions allows simpler and more cost-effective foundation work.

The move closer to East Green Lake Way N links up the community center into Green Lake’s urban core. This connects the center with the two-way bike lanes that are currently being constructed on the east side of the Green Lake loop. A newly improved intersection of NE Ravenna Blvd, NE 71st St, and E Green Lake Way N welcomes pedestrians into the center.

Evaluating the options

The new facility is expected to have a greater footprint than the old building. Pairing no change to parking and increased square footage means that green space has to be sacrificed. I’m confident that some parking can be sacrificed to preserve or even increase the park’s green space.

While it’s true that 61% of survey participants from the May survey identified access to parking and drop off as a priority, this doesn’t factor in the potential mobility changes by the estimated 2026 completion. By then, the Roosevelt light rail station will have been in operation for nearly half a decade.

The new light rail station would be a short bus transfer or 0.6-mile walk to the community center. I’d also expect local transportation priorities to shift with all the planned mobility changes.

Green Lake will be seeing other major non-car mobility improvements with the Green Lake and Wallingford Paving and Multi-Modal Improvements. A two-way protected bike lane will run along the east half of the Green Lake loop, and pedestrian access will be improved with new intersections lining the lake.

The May survey also showed that 59% put pedestrian access/walkability as a priority, and 46% put access to transit as a priority. With a half decade of time to adjust to all the mobility improvements coming to Green Lake, I wouldn’t be surprised if pedestrian and transit access priority would overtake parking priority.

For Option 1, less parking stalls could make room for more lake shore access. For Options 2 and 3, this could reduce impact on green space and create a more favorable location for the affected play area. If parking were to be removed entirely, then the two-way bike lane would be less interrupted along this section of the Green Lake loop and significant green space would be made available.

As is, Option 2 is my favorite as the new parking lot would not have a major effect on tree coverage and lake shore space would be expanded. Option 1 is the worst in my mind due to the lack of change to the current parking situation, and lack of access to a community and pool for years.

Option 3 is a close second. I personally like the idea of the community center being close to the community, rather than isolated and next to the lake. Proximity to Green Lake’s commercial center brings it into the neighborhood and opens up more lakeshore space.

The Neighborhood Connector(Option 3) option would rocket up to my top pick with some minor tweaks. If Option 3 shared Option 2’s intersection change, it would open up more green space by reducing the roadway needed to connect parking with East Green Lake Way N.

If the parking lot were to shrink, it would let the sycamore tree row go unaffected. For me the sycamore trees are aesthetically tied to the park’s identity. That being said, displacement of the sycamore trees that many Seattleites cherish could have positive effects.

While it goes against my instinct, displacement and replacement may be worth exploring. This will depend on the health, and remaining life of the trees. Both of which should be checked as a part of the redevelopment project.

Near end of life trees and the same variety of trees are vulnerable to disease and die off. Dead trees don’t produce leaves, reducing canopy cover. Maintaining healthy urban vegetation helps cities cool air temperature, improve air and water quality, and sequester carbon. Redevelopment offers an opportunity to evaluate and improve the ecology of Green Lake’s tree population.

Be sure to check out the open house and submit your own thoughts on the new design proposals in the accompanying survey. The open house and survey will remain open until August 20th.

On July 29th, a live online public meeting was held, it was recorded and will be available on the project website. The website also has more detail for each option, and renditions of what a new community center could look like.

Author’s Note:  Based on feedback, two paragraphs touching on urban forestry and the Sycamore trees have added as of Thursday, July 30 at 5:30 p.m. PST. 

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Shaun Kuo is a junior editor at The Urbanist and a recent graduate from the UW's Jackson School. He is a Seattle native that has lived in Wallingford, Northgate, and Lake Forest Park. He enjoys exploring the city by bus and foot.

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The elephant in the room is the “need” to preserve existing parking. Why? The parking lot has been closed for months now, yet the park itself seems to be as popular as ever. People adapt, and increased transit options as Roosevelt Station opens will only make getting to the lake without a car easier.

So, my preference would for option 1, but with most of the parking removed. I would keep the pick-up/drop-off lane. The limited parallel parking parking in the loop would go first to meet the needs of the disabled (handicapped permit required), with any excess spaces being paid parking, governed by parking meters, and with higher prices than the parking meters on nearby streets to help manage demand.

The parking lot itself, I would close to cars, entirely, and convert to a basketball court, replacing the existing basketball court and avoiding impacts to the ballfields to the east.

By getting rid of the parking, we can implement option 1 with almost no impacts to the park outside the footprint of the existing community center.

Jackson Cantrell

By 2028 I don’t think it’s that wild to imagine only needing a couple of accessible parking spots and a streamlined waiting/ drop off or pick up zone with car chargers. Autonomous cars might not be here by then but they’re coming soon after and more people who will utilize the GLCC will live within walking and biking distance then.

Matias Grioni

Nice overview. As presented, option 2 looks the best as you point out. Option 3 has potential, but if there is no leeway on parking, meaning the sycamore tree rows are affected, I think that is an important loss of character for the park.

I have wondered what an urbanist park would look like with regard to parking. A quick google maps view of most European cities shows less parking at parks, but also a different character of park (something like Discovery Park or Stanley Park is not very common, and Seward or Magnuson retain a decent element of the natural system). What is an urbanist proposal here? Less parking is appealing but may also mean less access. On the other hand, parks are centered around neighborhoods and wanting to have unfettered access to these amenities is not good for the neighborhood either.

Douglas Trumm

My stab at it would be less parking overall, but more retaining or reserving even more for disabled folks. We also should be adding lots of apartments and building denser near our biggest parks. That in turn will allow transit service and frequency to go way up, which helps negate the loss of parking.

The evidence during Covid suggest we overrate how essential huge parking lots are. Closing parking lots has made for a more pleasant environment at the parks I’ve visited and parks usage remains high.