Counterbalance Park

When the little park designed by Murase Associates opened at the corner of Queen Anne and Roy, I was not impressed. The unloved, gravel-covered site had previously been scraped of its gas station (with pollution still beneath) and sat on a highly trafficked and confusing intersection (yes, people, you can turn left onto a one-way street when the light is red). It mainly attracted street drunks clutching 40-ouncers. Yet the Uptown Alliance raised about half the $1.1 million budget for a makeover, with a lead gift of $225,000 from Raj and Akhil Shah of nearby fashion maven Shah Safari; the city supplied the balance. Suddenly the place was clean, presentable, and open with a ribbon-cutting appearance by Mayor Greg Nickels. For months, however, it seemed like nobody noticed or used the place. Wood planking, gravel, and low concrete benches edged in stainless steel do not invite kids or families to come and play. There is no fencing or barrier to keep children in (or cars out); but admittedly, there are hardly any kids in the condo cluster we call the LQA. The corner is mainly traversed by singletons heading to Chopstix or Peso’s who, along with this passing grocery shopper, were suddenly struck by the multicolored lighting that recently appeared in the park. Designed by local artist Iole Alessandrini in conjunction with Murase, the tiny, programmable LEDs are still in their beta testing period. Part of the original park scheme, the tardy diodes now dramatically transform the two concrete slab walls that bound the park’s north and west aspects. They become screens for the wavering, vertical, borealis-like glow. For canoodling couples parked on the darkened benches, the backdrop is now like a dispersed spectrum display: light pulled apart into its constituent parts. If more people would actually stop and use the place, it could become Seattle’s best after-hours park. BRIAN MILLER

Starts: Nov. 26. Daily, 2008

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