Last spring I pushed for a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) process for the proposed redevelopment of Seattle Center’s Fun Forest. After eight months of review and evaluation, an agreement was reached. Rather than an “either/or” decision, Seattle Center embraced several great ideas for a major win: the Center invited KEXP to expand into the northwest corner of Seattle Center, the Chihuly family to create a one-of-a-kind exhibition in the South Fun Forest area, and thanks to the generosity of the Wright family of Space Needle fame, an imaginative family play garden will be created in the North Fun Forest area. These exciting changes are coming to the Seattle Center grounds as we approach the 50th celebration of the 1962 World’s Fair and beyond.
KEXP’s vision for its new home is a nearly 28,000-square-foot office and studio space with an additional 30,000 square feet of accessible green, open space created from the existing outdoor courtyard. The space will provide a variety of performance possibilities, and its arrival at Seattle Center will continue a half-century of music on the campus. This is the place where the Beatles, Elvis, Zeppelin, and the Stones rocked the Coliseum. EMP opened up in 2000 with a collection of rock memorabilia and amazing live performances. Seattle Center has been the host to ever-evolving Bumbershoot and Folklife Festivals, and the Center just renewed their agreement to host the youth-oriented Vera Project. KEXP makes sense at Seattle Center.
The redevelopment of the Northwest Rooms will change the way Seattle Center blends into the Uptown neighborhood, improving the transition between the two and driving economic development in the neighborhood. Gone will be the formidable concrete barrier on Republican Street, replaced with a renovated building that provides windows into the radio station operations, whether it’s a view of “John in the Morning” hosting his show or an afternoon in-studio performance from a touring band that stops by before performing at one of Seattle’s many live music venues.
The station will continue to host close to 400 live performances a year, but the difference will be that KEXP will be able to open its doors and invite the public in to watch. Admission will be free to everyone. Each of these mini-shows, comprised of maybe four or five songs has the ability to lure people out to city restaurants and clubs later that night to hear a full set from these artists.
New and expanded partnerships are already underway as part of KEXP’s efforts, including offering video and audio recordings of live performances to Seattle Public Library patrons. Working in tandem with UW, KEXP will provide internships in intellectual property law and communications. Educational opportunities will abound with the Vera Project, the Center School, and elsewhere with initiatives in broadcast education and music curation.
The Northwest Rooms will be used for staging the 50 year celebration. And then, the opening of KEXP will punctuate the “art & music row” running along Seattle Center’s northern border, with McCaw Hall, Pacific Northwest Ballet, SIFF Cinema, Intiman, The Rep, the Vera Project, and the forthcoming SIFF Film Center in the old Alki Room. Given the city’s love affair with art and music, Seattle Center and KEXP will be a complementary fit. In 2013, it will be time to break ground and start celebrating the next fifty, this time with a spectacular soundtrack.