Neighborhood activism leads to new public park in Rainier Vista

By Seattle Housing Authority, Seattle Department of Transportation and Rainier Vista Traffic Safety Committee

From backyard barbecues to parties in neighborhood parks, summer is a busy time in Rainier Vista. Many families and groups of kids enjoy Central Park, but unfortunately the street surrounding it has been used as a race track during the summer months, putting park users and residents in danger.

With the goal of restoring safety and comfort, local neighborhood advocate Justin Hellier applied to have South Genesee Street on the south end of the park converted into a new public space through the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) Pavement to Parks program.

His proposal was accepted and plans are now in the works. The revision will close one block of Genesee and convert it into a community space that will become an extension of the park.

The Rainier Vista Pavement to Parks project was one of three projects selected citywide. It will be built this summer and remain in place for one to three years before a permanent design is considered. It is expected to calm local traffic and bring the community together in a safe and fun public space. SDOT has been working with the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) and the neighborhood Traffic Safety and Community Building Committee in shaping the project.

park graphicMore than 110 neighbors gave their ideas for the new park at the kick-off street party April 22. The community enjoyed food, live performances and traditional Ethiopian coffee. Surveys were conducted in five languages, and the project received 90% support from the neighborhood. A majority of neighbors (64%) would like to see play equipment in the space. Plants (44%) and seating (38%) also received a high number of requests.

A summer Teen Internship Program (TIP) has also been created around this project to support the design and evaluation work.

The ten-week TIP will be coordinated by Mares Asfaha, SHA’s Youth Program Coordinator, and Gwen Wessels from Seattle Parks and Recreation.
The TIP is made possible through a partnership that includes SDOT, SHA, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and the Rainier Vista Homeowners Association. Mares has hired six teen interns to help SDOT with public engagement, design and evaluation. These interns will also organize the grand opening event in August, as well as a series of community activities.

For information on the Pavement to Parks project, call 206-733-9649 or email

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