UPDATE: This post has been updated since it was first publlished. Joe Mabel granted me permission to include his photo in the post.
Eastlake is already known for having one of the more unusual parks in Seattle: I-5 Colonnade Park, two acres of stairways and mountain bike trails located under the Interstate highway.
If Jules James, longtime Eastlake resident and businessman has his way, the neighborhood will be noted for another unique park: Submerged Parcel Park (SPP). James has submitted a formal proposal for funding for the park as part of the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund.
The land in question is located under Lake Union in front of the ZymoGenetics building, the old Lake Union Steam Plant. This area is one of the last open pieces of Shoreline on Lake Union. James is proposing that it be formallly acquired as park land and incorporated into the Chesiahud Lake Union Loop Trail.
According to James’ proposal, the underwater land was originally platted and sold in 1907 as a funding mechanism for the Alaska-Yukon Exposition. One of the pieces of land was purchased by the Water Department to protect the outflow from the Volunteer Park Reservoir. Part of this land and a piece on the land was transferred in 1910 to the new Lighting Department as the site for a hydro-electric plant that used excess Volunteer Park Reservoir water to generate electricity.
City Light owns another piece of land in the area, which it has leased to the Lake Union Drydock for over 60 years, James says. When the steam plant ceased operations in 1984, the two pieces of submerged land became surplus but were never sold. ZymoGenetics built a floating sidewalk and a small dock within the Fairview Avenue right of way that are open to the public.
James’ proposal says the area is included in the Eastlake Neighborhood Plan “and has consistently rated a high Eastlake neighborhood open space priority.”
James admits in his proposal that the project “will not rank well” in the Green Spaces Levy’s criteria. Eastlake is considered to already have enough open space, he says. “Nor does SPP contribute much to solving social ills,” James writes, “such as too many miles driven or two few child-compatible urban housing units built.”
The property is protected by a 1990 City Council Resolution that says it can’t be sold without “a process with provides significant opportunity for public participation” and directs the mayor to “consider how both Submerged Parces of the Lake Union Steam Plant property be maintained as open space.”
James’ fear is that someone will find a way to buy the property and threaten this open waterway “thus compelling us into a crisis response.”
“I’d rather act with quiet prudence now,” he writes, “than by headlining desperation later.”
Joe Mabel has a photo on Wikipedia of the area where the park would go which also includes the dock and the ZymoGenetics building.
The official criteria for the levy’s Opportunity Fund are on the PDF attached to this post.
The Eastlake Community Council has an article online about the Lake Union shoreline that mentions the submerged land (see item #1).