City Hall

Breaking: McGinn's Center Plan Compromise Includes Chihuly, KEXP, Playground and More

By David Meinert December 15, 2010

It's official—Mayor Mike McGinn 's choice to replace the Fun Forest at Seattle Center includes a new Chihuly exhibit in the current Fun Forest Arcade building, KEXP headquarters in the Northwest Court, and a $1 million playground between the Center House and EMP. The proposal also calls on the Center to explore opportunities for more open space in the north Fun Forest area.

With today's announcement, McGinn has brought together the Seattle Center, The Space Needle LLC, glass-art fans, the music community, the city council, and the business community to forge a bold vision for Seattle Center, all while bringing in more money and a creating a Seattle Center that will be more popular, younger—and more relevant.

By bringing together such varied interests, McGinn foreshadows what I hope we see more of from him in 2011: The impulse and ability to collaborate with all of his constituents, not just the ones who supported him when he ran for mayor.

It would have been easy for the mayor to listen to just the biased (and loud) voice of the blogosphere that helped get him elected and favored a project like KEXP. Or he could have listened to just establishment leaders, who favored a Chihuly exhibit, to try to win them over.

Instead, he made the decision go through a thoughtful process via the Century 21 Committee, collaborate with the City Council, especially council member Sally Bagshaw, and work with Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams to bring both Chihuly and KEXP, plus the additional benefits, to the Center.

I expect we'll now see more collaborations between the Space Needle and groups like the Vera Project and SIFF, between the Chihuly organization and the music community, between SIFF and KEXP. This is nothing but great for Seattle, which tends to have many isolated scenes and communities.

Nellams deserves much of the credit for this accomplishment. In the last few years, he has brought  a 10,000-square- foot skate park, a new concert series via KEXP, the Theater Commons and a revamped Pridefest to Seattle Center. He's also worked out a deal to bring the SIFF Cinema to McCaw Hall and the SIFF offices to the Northwest Court area next to The Vera Project, which also come to the campus under Nellams. And with today's news, he's added an exhibit by one of Seattle's most famous and popular visual artists to that mix, plus a great new playground, and the studios of one of our music communities most cherished assets, KEXP.

A remodel of the Center House is also in the works. McGinn was right to reappoint Nellams earlier this year. He was right to work the process in coming to his decision about Chihuly, and he was right to work out a compromise.

Good for McGinn and good for Seattle.
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