Street View

How Capitol Hill's Pac-Man Park Came to Be

SDOT’s Pavement to Parks program turned an underused roadway into a gaming delight.

By Seth Sommerfeld March 20, 2017 Published in the April 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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The Pac-Man theme at Olive and Denny Way was selected by popular vote.

We don’t mean to alarm anyone, but a stretch of Summit Ave, between Olive Way and Denny Way, has been overrun with ghosts. The latest installment of Seattle Department of Transportation’s Pavement to Parks program has transformed the little-used intersection into a large-scale pixelated depiction of the arcade classic Pac-Man.

The other Pavement to Parks projects are nearly as playful: Rainier Vista’s colorful fists that hold up houses was dreamt up by neighborhood teens. The First Hill locale encourages gathering with chairs, tables, and angular umbrellas. 

The program, started in summer 2015, attempts to enhance neighborhoods that have a dearth of parks by targeting underutilized street spaces. Each gets a $70,000 budget, and SDOT seeks to transform four new spots each year. Pavement to Parks manager Susan McLaughlin says feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: Internal polls show a 97 percent approval rate on First Hill, with some neighbors freaking out when tables were temporarily removed last year, fearing their new space was disappearing.

The video game-inspired Park Man Plaza between Olive and Denny, chosen by popular vote (and the Fair Use Act protecting it from copyright infringement), was originally slated to be painted onto the asphalt with house paint. The heavy rain of fall and winter forced a change of course. In January, SDOT went with more durable painted--thermoplastic tiles that could be torched down to the pavement. Thermoplastic lasts longer than paint, with its two-year life span, so this Pac-Man may have just earned a few extra lives.

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