Parks in Wedgwood

Albert Balch, the developer of Wedgwood, intended to have some park space in the neighborhood but not all of his plans were realized, as he got busy with house-building.  In 1941 Balch platted a forty-acre tract of land from 30th to 35th Avenues NE, NE 80th to 85th Streets which became the first section of Wedgwood housing.   Balch won awards for the way he sculpted streets along the curving lines of the terrain, conserving as many trees as possible in his new Wedgwood plat.

The boulder in Wedgwood Square Park at the intersection of 31st Ave NE and NE 82nd Street.

One Douglas Fir which might have been removed because it was “in the street” was spared by making it the centerpiece of a traffic island at the intersection of 31st Ave NE and NE 82nd Street.   Balch dedicated this .07 acre island in the July 1941 plat of Wedgwood and named it Wedgwood Square Park, making it the first official park in the neighborhood (outside of Dahl Field which technically is a playground and sports fields.)

A boulder, reminiscent of Wedgwood Rock a few blocks away, was set up and plantings on Wedgwood Square were done by a garden club.   This tiny oasis is today lovingly cared for by neighbors with the annual support of the Seattle Parks Department which delivers wood chips to be spread.

Albert Balch made plans to give the Wedgwood neighborhood parks, playfields and a commercial district.   In the busy post-World-War-Two years of expanding neighborhood growth, Balch began a shopping center on 35th Ave NE at NE 85th Street.   A grocery store, originally Tradewell, then Matthew’s Red Apple and now the site of QFC, opened in 1959.   In the 1960s the Wedgwood Broiler restaurant opened, which was originally named the Sir Wedgwood.   But as Balch got busier and busier with homebuilding, plans for a Wedgwood community center, parks and playground space fell by the wayside.

The Wedgwood Community Council has proposed an Inverness Ravine Trail.

The Wedgwood Community Council has proposed an Inverness Ravine Trail.

In 1972, near the end of his career, Balch set aside one last piece of land with the notation that it was given “for park and recreational purposes.”   Inverness Ravine Park is a 2.71 acre section of land along the banks of Maple Creek at 8619 45th Ave NE.   Nicknamed “Balch Park” by neighbors, the ravine area is hidden and is known to few.   More than seventy years after Balch first began building Wedgwood, the only two official “parks” in the neighborhood are the ones he designated:  one, Wedgwood Square Park, is an island in an intersection and the other, Inverness Ravine Park, is virtually inaccessible.

Wedgwood is thought of as a neighborhood which values its trees and green spaces, but in 2008 a report in preparation for the Parks Levy identified Wedgwood northeast of Dahl Playfield as a single family area which does not meet City open space standards.   The passage of the levy that year allowed for acquisition of property for new parks, facilities or trail corridors.

The potential park space at 8605 35th Ave NE once had an electrical substation (fenced, at left) and a hair salon building.    In the background across 35th Ave NE can be seen the Jasper Apartments which were under construction in 2012.

In 2008 the Wedgwood Community Council began work to identify a potential park space at 8605 35th Ave NE.   In 2009-2011 the Wedgwood Community Council went through the arduous process of applying for the funds to acquire this property for a park, but the process is not yet completed and is ongoing.   In 2012 soil testing began, as it was known that there was formerly a gas station on the site.   The long timeline for clean-up and acquisition means that this potential new park in Wedgwood is still in the future.   The process slowed down because of the Park Department’s decision not to develop ANY new parks in Seattle until after a levy in 2014, to vote for money for future maintenance of parks.

8605 35th Ave NE on 3-23-2013

As of Spring 2013 the owner of the building at 8605 35th Ave NE still had not removed it from the site. The owner is not the same as the former hair salon business, which was leasing the building from her.

For more info on land use and parks in Wedgwood, see the Parks Committee page of the Wedgwood Community Council.  Clean-up of the potential park site at the former Morningside substation, corner of NE 86th Street, began with soil testing in early 2012.  The hair salon business (CC & Co) in the building at 8605 35th Ave NE closed in November 2012, but as of early 2013 the building on the site, which had a separate owner, had not yet been moved off of the site or torn down.  The complicated legal situation was that the building owner had a ground lease from City Light, so the building was technically hers.  She was asked to move the building off of the site if she wanted to keep it.

The building at 8605 35th Ave NE was demolished on November 26, 2013. See the Wedgwood Community Council webpage for more photos.

The building at 8605 35th Ave NE was demolished on November 26, 2013.

NOVEMBER 2013 UPDATE:  After a long legal timeline, in November 2013 Seattle City Light obtained authority to demolish the building at 8605 35th Ave NE.  The owner of the building (not the same person who owned the hair salon business) disputed who should be responsible for moving or the cost of demolition, so that was the reason for the long delay.  I (Valarie) got there just in time on November 26, 2013, to take photos of the demolition which began at 7:45 AM and only took ten minutes.

After the demolition of the building, soil testing and clean-up, in December 2013 ownership of the site was finally transferred from Seattle City Light to the Seattle Parks Department, using purchase funds of the Parks Levy of 2008.

AUGUST 2014 UPDATE:  In August 2014, Seattle voters approved Proposition 1, which created a Seattle Park District. One of the less notable or contentious aspects of Proposition 1 was funding set aside for future development of fourteen land-banked park sites around Seattle. This funding includes approximately $750,000 to develop the future Wedgwood park site beginning in 2019.

While development funding has been allocated for the future Wedgwood park site, a park design has not been developed. This park design process will ultimately have to occur with the assistance of a Department of Neighborhoods Small & Simple Grant.  In other words, development of a park at the corner of NE 86th Street on 35th Ave NE, will not be “automatic.”  Wedgwood residents will have to work together to apply for the development and park design.  Anyone who is interested in working with this process is invited to contact the Wedgwood Community Council.

Wedgwood Community Council volunteers set up a picnic place with tables at Wedgwood's Future Park, corner of NE 86th Street.

Wedgwood Community Council volunteers set up a picnic place with tables at Wedgwood’s Future Park, corner of NE 86th Street.

JUNE 2015 UPDATE:  While we wait for park development funds, the Wedgwood Community Council (WCC) has undertaken improvements at the future park at the corner of NE 86th Street.  To enhance the site and encourage people to use it, the Wedgwood Community Council has done periodic clean-up.  On June 27, 2015, WCC volunteers set up a picnic space.  This project was achieved with a Small Sparks grant from Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods.

APRIL 2016 UPDATE:  Wedgwood Wedgwood Community Council volunteers continue to maintain the Picnic Place with periodic work parties for clean-up.  Since the Picnic Place is owned by the City of Seattle Parks Department, the community council is working with them for future development of the site.  Parks levy money will be used for creation of a “pocket park”  but Wedgwood will have to wait its turn; the Parks Department says “our turn” for the park development will come in the year 2019.

Food truck planning session.May 3 2016

Summer 2016:  Wedgwood Community Council outdoor meeting

JULY 2017 UPDATE:  In the two years since Wedgwood Community Council volunteers created the Picnic Place at the corner of NE 86th Street, the space has been well-used.  Wedgwoodians have enjoyed having a spot to sit and sip a cup of coffee, and the picnic tables have also been used for outdoor meetings of the community council as pictured here.  The outdoor meetings of summer 2016 were so successful that the WCC is having meetings there again in the summer of 2017.

Believe it or not, the Parks Department says that the community must raise the money to pay for design of the pocket park and submit it to them for approval!  The Wedgwood Community Council has begun this process, so as to be ready with a park design when “our turn comes” in 2019.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for northeast neighborhoods in Seattle, Washington.
This entry was posted in Balch, community council (present time), Neighborhood features, parks and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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