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Seattle Center: Strong recommendation for Chihuly facility

An advisory panel has made a strong recommendation that Seattle Center put a new Dale Chihuly glass exhibit on its campus.

The panel’s report went to Center Director Robert Nellams, who will forward his own recommendations to Mayor Mike McGinn. The Seattle City Council will have the final say on whatever the mayor proposes.

The Chihuly exhibit was backed by the Space Needle’s ownership and was seen as the one most likely to generate additional revenues from visitors. Overall, the panel’s report makes clear the weight it gave to financial considerations in looking at the nine proposals, which included open space, a radio station studio, and a Native American cultural center.

The city’s handling of the issue has generated considerable heat since the Center first came forward with the Chihuly exhibit idea without seeking other proposals, despite lengthy behind-the-scenes planning at City Hall. Then, when the panel was established to review proposals that the Center had requested, the group decided to do almost all of its work behind closed doors.

The panel noted that it could have chosen more than one of the proposals for redevelopment of the south Fun Forest area. But it felt so strongly that the group “elected to make the Space Needle LLC its sole recommendation.”

The panel encouraged Seattle Center to continue talks with listener-supported radio station KEXP to explore different areas of the campus that might be appropriate for a broadcast facility.

The panel found that the proposal for the Native American center wasn’t feasible financially but it spoke positively about the possibility of including a Cedar and Salmon Festival idea from the proposal’s backers in the 2012 celebration of the 1962 World’s Fair’s 50th anniversary. The panel also said the Center needs to work on ways “to have a greater receognition of Native American history and contributions in campus programming and design elements.”

The report made a series of pointed observations about the lack of “empirical data on capital or operating financing” for the open space plan advocated by Friends of the Green (disclosure: Crosscut Publisher David Brewster is associated with FROG). The report acknowledged that the Center’s master plan calls for open space in the area, but quoted the plan as also saying, “New ideas and opportunities, which can’t be imagined or planned for now, are likely to be presented to Seattle Center sometime in the years ahead.”

The full report is here (as a pdf).

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