Editor’s note: A link to the video from Tuesday night’s presentation can be found at the end of this story.
Citizens, staff and Edmonds City Councilmembers gathered in Edmonds City Hall’s Brackett Room Tuesday night to launch the process for redesigning Civic Field, the 8-acre property that the city recently purchased from the Edmonds School District.
The property, which currently includes play fields, a skate park, tennis and petanque courts, and a building housing the Edmonds Boys and Girls Club, plays hosts to several noteworthy events such as the A Taste of Edmonds, the Fourth of July fireworks celebration and the Wenatchee Youth Circus. The field was purchased by the city earlier this year for $1.9 million — although $1.5 million was covered by grant dollars.
At the beginning of the meeting, Edmonds Park, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite stressed that the Civic Field planning process is “a blank slate” open to all ideas from the public. Attendees then heard a presentation from consultants employed by Walker Macy, the landscape architecture/urban design firm selected to oversee the redesign. Walker Macy was also the firm hired by the city to complete the Marina Beach Master Plan.
Walker Macy Landscape Architect Chris Jones said that his firm has worked on a variety of park designs that could serve as idea generators for the Civic Field process, including a 12-acre park in Houston and two projects in Portland, Ore.: the Pioneer Courthouse Square, which provides the largest amount of programmed events in the U.S., with over 300 activities each year, and Ankeny Square on the waterfront, which houses the city’s Saturday market.
“We’re here as a conduit to tell us what you want,” Jones said. “We don’t come with preconceived notions of what this park should be or shouldn’t be.” Jones said that a truly successful park “needs to be championed by the community, needs to be preserved by the community, needs to be managed by the community. The community really needs to take care of this pace and champion it and this is the place to start.”
“We also want to think about designing for all ages,” he said. This includes not only children but “adults, teens, the elderly — you name it,” he said. “We want this park to recognize everybody in the community and have a space that everybody can relate to within the park at the end of the day.”
Walker Macy will be working with Seattle-based architect Owen Richards, which recently completed work on the Chihuly Museum at Seattle Center and on the Olympic Sculpture Park, and Enviroissues, a public involvement facilitator that also worked on the Marina Beach project. KPFF structural engineer will be advising the project on sustainable storm water and infrastructure strategies for the park.
Walker Macy’s focus has been on designing parks “that are flexible, programmable and durable,” said Jones, who defined programmable as “activating a public open space with events. We have found that the most successful downtown parks are successful because we’ve programmed them. We keep them active, we keep them safe. There’s always eyes on the park, so to speak.”
Walker Macy’s Ann Marie Schneider, who will serve as the project manager, then talked about how Civic Field park will be designed to ensure it fits in with its downtown Edmonds surroundings, which include not only single-family and multi-family residences but government and public safety activities located in the Public Safety Complex across the street. Another focus will be on how people will circulate through the park as a way of connecting to other parts of the city. And planners will pay attention to how the redesigned park will be viewed by those who live to the east of it, since they will see Civic Field in the foreground as they look toward Puget Sound, Schneider said.
Special consideration will be given to how the redesigned park could accommodate current uses, including not only annual events but the Boys and Girls Club, housed in a building that was used as a field house when the property belonged to Edmonds School District. Thought also must be given to the future of the stadium grandstands, which are in poor condition.
Following the presentation, Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said she wondered whether it might be possible to move the Taste of Edmonds to another location, to give planners more flexibility. Hite replied that “there really is not another site in Edmonds that could host such an event without a huge impact” to the alternative park or open space.
“That’s part of the conversation that this community will have, ‘Do you want to continue to host the Taste there?'” Hite added.
Councilmember Dave Teitzel asked Hite about the cost of the actual project, once a master plan has been approved. “It is going to depend,” Hite said. “An 8-acre site could be pretty significant, depending on what we put on there.”
Cost information will be easier to determine once the city has an approved plan, Hite said, adding that there will also be “a phasing plan for those cost estimates. So that if the price tag is $10 to $12 million, let’s take it in chunks and say what’s going to be the best way to phase this in so we can afford this as a community and start to bring some things online at Civic, sooner rather than later.”
Hite also recognized the 19 members of the citizens’ Civic Field Project Advisory Committee, which will “help drive public process and master planning process.” The committee will help “synthesize the public comment and make sense of it and help drive some of the guidance and guide us as we go through with plans,” Hite said.
There will be three open houses to gather citizen ideas on the Civic Field Master Plan, starting with the first one Thursday, June 23, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Edmonds Library Plaza Room. There will also be virtual online open houses for those who can’t make in-person meetings but still want to provide feedback, Hite said.
A preferred alternative is expected to be recommended to the council by this fall.
Jones noted that the location of Civic Field — between 6th and 7th Avenues across from the Public Safety Complex — means that the project can “build on the energy of downtown.” Most of Edmonds’ parks “are very soft and not heavily programmed,” which served the Edmonds community well, he said. “We see Civic Field as different than that, supporting what you already have in your parks system but really providing a different kind of service and a different kind of space for more cultural events.” A redesigned Civic Field can make Edmonds “more of a regional draw,” he added.
You can watch the video of this presentation here:
— By Teresa Wippel