Hing Hay Park. Photo credit: Paul Kim.

On December 31, 2007, Seattle Parks bought property adjacent to Hing Hay Park to expand the current .33 acre park to .64 acres. The acquisition was made as a result of the Parks and Green Spaces Levy that was approved by voters in 2008. As part of an effort to “greenify” the neighborhoods in and around Seattle, the levy grew out of an earlier resolution adopted in 2000 called the Pro Parks Levy, which allocated $198.2 million to increase green spaces throughout the city. The property, now leased by the United States Postal Service’s International District Station, will begin the process of creating a new park once the Postal Service has found a place to relocate.

In the meantime, the pagoda that stands at the rear of the park has undergone massive renovation. Begun in February of 2009, the renovation included restoring the roof, applying a fresh coat of paint, and repairing the failing lighting.

Kelly Davidson, of Seattle Public Parks and Recreation, elaborates on the reason the pagoda was restored before expanding into the new property: “The park expansion project was part of the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy and was not yet voter approved at the time the pagoda roof restoration funds were allocated. . . The work was designated to be completed because of the deteriorating condition of the roof and there were also safety improvements that were made in response to community concerns about the site”.

The origins of the project began in the early 2000s, when the city acquired properties in Seattle as part of the Pro Parks Levy in November of 2000. During this time Interim CDA, a non-profit agency that promotes the revitalization of properties in the Chinatown/International District, advocated that the city should use the money from the levy to purchase properties in the International District.

Tom Im, Neighborhood Planner of Interim, says that “as the city looked in the neighborhood it inquired a lot about properties, specifically in the Little Saigon neighborhood because it’s underserved. . . [We thought] that maybe if the city enlarged the parks and changed the design, they would be utilized by residents.”

The city ultimately decided on expanding Hing Hay Park because of the lack of trees and open spaces in the neighborhood. According to Michael Shiosake, Deputy Director of Parks Planning and Development Division, “Trees are an important component of the city. There are so many benefits to having trees, in terms of shade, clean air, and habitats. That’s usually part of most park development projects.”

Though relatively clean and well-frequented, the park currently lacks an expansive area where people can socialize and play sports. There is also a lack of trees to provide greenery to an otherwise drab park (with the exception of the pagoda, which stands out as a colorful reminder of Chinatown’s Asian heritage). Im says, “It’s a rather grey concrete structure with mortars. It’s black and grey; the park is not green. . . But the issue of the park is that during certain parts of the day, it is a place for questionable activities.”

The planning for the new park has been laborious and slow-going. Im states that at this stage in time, the city has not yet approached the design of the new park. The planning for the new Hing Hay is expected to begin in 2013 and finish by 2015.

The acquisition of the property currently bordering Hing Hay should increase space within the park as well as provide an opportunity to plant more trees in the area. In addition, the increase in visitors frequenting the park should also deter questionable activities from occurring in the vicinity. Hopefully, once the new Hing Hay is completed, neighborhood residents will find a welcome refuge where they can enjoy the abundant greenery that characterizes the Northwest.

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