Building Place and Community through Serious Fun

One of Framework’s goals is to pioneer new ideas in urban living, bringing neighbors together to activate underused city spaces. Seattle’s First Hill Public Realm Plan gave us the opportunity to field-test a bold prototype project designed to creatively turn neglected urban spaces into successful, active neighborhoods, creating new community relationships while strengthening old ones.

The First Hill Improvement Association (FHIA) received a grant from the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods to activate two First Hill spaces over the course of summer 2015. Framework worked together with FHIA, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, and neighborhood volunteers to put on a series of events that would bring people out into the street and encourage them to enjoy their neighborhoods, build relationships, and initiate discussion about building long-term community assets. The results would be recorded and analyzed so that, if successful, that success could be learned from, and repeated.

Seattle’s First Hill Park, despite being one of the few green spaces on First Hill, has long been in a state of neglect. Framework created two pilot pavement-to-park spaces in underused space in the right-of-way of University Street, connecting them along a new University Street Corridor.  Neighborhood events were proposed to activate the new spaces. A neighborhood group composed of community residents was asked how they would like to see the space used. The group opted for two events that would interest a wide variety of residents: First Hill Fidos, for dog lovers; and University Street Trivia Night and Vintage Street Game Festival for old-time gamers.

Despite the fun, these activation efforts are serious about addressing the lack of open space and amenity for First Hill. The culminating report considers the lessons learned in terms of bringing people together, strengthening the community, and providing needed assets. Permanent changes to parks, open spaces and community building will build on these experiments in activation.

Framework was Design and Production Lead 

First Hill Improvement Association

First Hill Residents
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
Seattle Department of Transportation
Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation
Freeway Park Association
Doug Holton, FHIA Community Planning Intern