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Seattle Center may replace Fun Forest with 44,000-square-foot “glass house” & Dale Chihuly exhibit

March 12th, 2010 by Thea

The Seattle Center has been debating what to do with 68,000 square feet of empty space left after half of the Fun Forest was cleared out back in January. Originally the space was meant to be used to showcase new vendors and temporary projects on a trial basis while the Center searched for more permanent ideas to implement into the Century 21 Master Plan, a $570 million, 20-year investment in the revitalization of Seattle Center and in homage of the 1962 World’s Fair that gave the Center its start.

(Image by Studio 216 for Owen Richards Architects, courtesy of both).

However, according to a report by our news partner, the Seattle Times, after receiving project ideas for the space that left the Center “disappointed,” they decided to consider a proposal to build a 44,000-square-foot “glass house” that would house artist Dale Chihuly‘s work. Many consider this proposed project an “extraordinary opportunity” for the Center. From the Times,

The Wright family, which built and owns the Space Needle, on Tuesday described a partnership with Chihuly and Seattle that could attract more than 1,000 visitors a day if the city will lease about an acre of land for what would be a $15 million tribute to the glass artist.

If built, a Chihuly spokeswoman said, the new “glass house” would be filled with at least $50 million worth of Chihuly art.

The 44,000 square feet of land directly below the Space Needle slotted for the project includes 3,800 square feet of indoor “glass house” exhibit space, outdoor public gardens and a plaza, as well as a café and bookstore/retail space.

Mayor Mike McGinn has voiced his support for the project’s consideration, noting that it could be a valuable revenue generator for the Center, which funds 67 percent of its own budget without assistance. However, others are concerned that the proposal takes away from the original plan for the space, which was intended to be a more open, multi-use, outdoor arena that would be open to the public free of charge. From the Times,

“There’s good intentions all around, but we need to decide, is this what we want to do with our public property?” said City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, who chairs the council’s Parks and Seattle Center Committee. “We’re taking green, open space and closing it off in a very walled fashion, and people can only enter into that if they can pay. My hope and dream would be to make the Seattle Center Seattle’s ‘Central Park,’ and the more green space we give away, the less we’re going to have a Central Park.”

If the Center goes through with the proposal, Space Needle CEO Ron Sevart told the Times he hopes that construction would begin on the Chihuly space when the lease for the Fun Forest expires in September.

The project could open in the spring of 2011, in time for the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair at the Center. Sevart said he didn’t know what admission would cost but said it might be in the $12 to $14 range.

This is not the only big change proposed at Seattle Center. Much discussion has circulated around a deal between the city and Seattle Public Schools concerning the ownership of Memorial Stadium.

The new deal would give ownership of the stadium over to the city, which would then rebuilt it into a “green, integrated, multi-functional space that provides for year-round community and school activities” to be shared between the School District and Seattle Center. In exchange, the city would give the school district preferential use of the new, smaller amphitheater and hand over ownership of an adjacent existing plot of land (currently being used as a parking garage). Read more on that deal here and here. Read background on the Fun Forest replacement project here. See the full Seattle Times story on the proposed Chihuly exhibit space here.

What do you think Queen Anne? Would you like to see a 44,000-square-foot “glass house”, equiped with gardens, a plaza and a 3,800-square-foot exhibit of masterful (some would say) glass creations, or would you prefer an admission-free open space? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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