New design envisioned for downtown park

March 16, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah landscape architect Dar Webb re-envisioned Pedestrian Park. Downtown boosters hope the proposal launches a discussion about the future of the park. Contributed

Advocates for downtown Issaquah want to transform the space between Jak’s Grill and Mandarin Garden from a blah concrete expanse into a vibrant park for pedestrians, musicians and festival vendors.

Michael Johnson, events director for the DownTown Issaquah Association, asked Dar Webb, a landscape architect and a downtown tenant, to re-envision the space known as Pedestrian Park. Webb presented a park lined with trees, planters and public art.

“That place would be unbelievably packed if we opened it up like this,” Johnson said.

The proposal received a warm reception from the city Arts Commission when Johnson and Webb presented renderings and discussed the idea March 8. However, any proposal to remake the park must go through the public process for all city projects.

The proposal presented last week merely shows how Pedestrian Park could be improved. Any eventual upgrades to the park will look different from the renderings Webb prepared.

Johnson said he hopes the proposal will encourage business owners, city officials and residents to re-envision the space.

City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said the park needs improvements, but said the city lacks money to complete the project.

“We know it needs a makeover,” she said.

Should the city move forward with plans to remake the park, McGill said, the effort will proceed with input from the municipal Park Board, downtown businesses and property owners, residents, city officials and other stakeholders.

McGill included a Pedestrian Park proposal in the Capital Improvement Program last year. The plan outlines city projects related to — among others — city facilities, parks, transportation and utilities. The sweeping document prioritizes projects and determines the order in which city staffers will tackle efforts.

The plan called for $100,000 to be spent on design work next year, but McGill said she expects another lean city budget to delay the project.

The document notes how the park “needs improvement for pedestrian movement, space for gathering during events and renovation to improve visibility for safety.” But the Pedestrian Park plan ranked near the bottom on the list of parks and recreation projects.

Johnson, organizer of the annual Music on the Streets performances, uses the space as a venue. He said he envisions a mixture of public and private dollars used to revamp the space, possibly with a small stage for musical acts.

Webb, president of Darwin Webb Landscape Architects, said he hopes the proposal will initiate a conversation about the high-profile public plaza.

“We want the space to be comfortable with three people in it or 200 people in it,” he said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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