Hing Hay Park, International District, Seattle, Washington. • Photo by Joe Mabel
Hing Hay Park, International District, Seattle, Washington. • Photo by Joe Mabel

By Nathaniel Reeves

Members of the public gathered in the International District Community Center on Thursday night for a presentation on the upcoming expansion of Hing Hay Park.

The park has sat for decades at Maynard Avenue South and South King Street in the International District, but Seattle Parks and Recreation hopes to expand the park one block to Seventh Avenue South, where a post office currently stands. The project will cost approximately $3 million from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy and will be completed by spring 2015, according to a press release from Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Thursday marked the first of three public meetings that will take place over the next six months to inform the community of the progress of the expansion. For now, the goal is to hear input from the community about what the park should look like.

The expansion was first discussed by the International District community in 2000.

“It’s been a long time coming, so I know people are really excited about it,” said Kim Baldwin, who runs community outreach for Seattle Parks and Recreation. “We’re happy to be able to hold these meetings and with the response we have received.”

The meeting focused on what would be done with the post office site rather than any upgrades to the existing park. As the post office is used by many people, the limits of expansion are still under negotiation, and it is unclear if it will close or move to a different location at this time.

To help the city of Seattle with the negotiation of the post office site, the community has established Friends of Hing Hay Park, a group that has been pushing for as much expansion as possible. The group established its four goals as outreach, fundraising, making sure the community’s input is heard, and coordination between the city and the public.

Earlier this year, it decided on a design team comprised of SvR Design from Seattle and Turenscape from Beijing, combining two different worldviews.

“We want people to know were bringing local talent and global experience,” said Nate Cormier of SvR.

A massive part of that global experience comes from Kongjiu Yu, lead designer of the project. Yu was a farmer in China during the Cultural Revolution and now runs Turenscape while also teaching at Harvard.

Yu has ambitious ideas of changing the idea of what people in his native China consider to be beauty through design. He calls it the Big Feet Revolution, and hopes to convey it through the new Hing Hay Park.

“What’s happening in China is really destroying the environment and degrading the culture,” Yu said. “The buildings are no longer beautiful. We need a big revolution to change that thinking. We want to bring that thinking to Hing Hay Park and make it both contemporary and carry traditional meaning.”

The two design firms look to do that by gaining an understanding of the International District and the Seattle community as a whole. The next two months will be about interpreting what the public wants and expects.

“This park will serve all of South Seattle,” said Cormier. “We want (it) to be complementary and provide different activities from some of the other existing parks. “

The discussion then turned to how Hing Hay could do that. Many advocated for turning the park into a center where special events such as the Night Markets or Lunar New Year celebration could take place. Other topics brought up included what would happen to the veterans memorial statue in the park and whether that memorial would be expanded, and how the funding was working.

The next meeting will be January 20, as the architect firms will take some time to design and plan based on community input and bring back its results.

For more information, visit http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/hing_hay/.

Nathaniel Reeves is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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