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City of Seattle
Mike McGinn (former Mayor)

SUBJECT: New rooftop P-Patch opens at Seattle Center

6/2/2012  1:00:00 PM
Lois Maag  (206) 615-0950

New rooftop P-Patch opens at Seattle Center
First large-scale rooftop community garden in the country

Community volunteers, along with Mayor Mike McGinn and Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Jean Godden, celebrated the opening of the first rooftop P-Patch community garden at a ceremony today on the roof of a city parking garage. Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and Seattle Center staff joined the festivities on the top level of the Mercer Garage at Seattle Center. Named the UpGarden P-Patch Community Garden by neighborhood volunteers, this P-Patch is the country's first large-scale rooftop community garden and the first municipal rooftop community garden fully accessible to the public.

"As the first of its kind, the Uptown P-Patch community garden is another example of Seattle's broad community support and efforts toward creating a more sustainable future," said Mayor Mike McGinn. "And as with all P-Patches, it is a model of inclusiveness and civic engagement."

The project was funded by Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch Community Gardening Program through the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy. Even though the city funded this project, the real work was done by the community. Since late last year, community members have donated thousands of hours to help design and build the P-Patch, and more than 200 have expressed interest in participating in the project.

"P-Patches are a beloved amenity in our city. The interest in them and the desire for them is ever increasing," said City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. "I applaud Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and Seattle Center for thinking outside the box, or in this case, above the garage. We saw a need in this neighborhood, found an opportunity, and as a result of lots of hard work, we have a new UpGarden. This is worthy of celebration."

"I, like many, began this journey just wanting a plot for growing some vegetables. I did not realize the extent of what was required to bring a P-Patch to life in such a short time," said Craig Moore, coordinator of the core group of volunteers. "The process has brought me closer to a group of neighbors that I now share a sense of pride and ownership in our creation."

Seattle Center provided the site of this first-of-its-kind community garden on the roof of the Mercer Garage located on the north side of the campus. Taking approximately one-half of the top level, UpGarden converts nearly 30,000 square feet (size of six basketball courts) of the 50-year old parking structure which was built for the Seattle World’s Fair.

"In 1962, we were focused on science and space exploration and industrial innovation, believing that in the future we would have flying cars, instant meals and disposable utensils," said City Councilmember Jean Godden. "Today we recognize that we should focus on sustainable, healthy living. The transformation of this 1960s garage roof is emblematic of that shift."

When it is fully complete, the new garden will have more than 110 new vegetable garden plots for nearby residents while also providing a park-like setting and habitat for birds and honey bees. In addition to the large planters, the design features an Airstream trailer repurposed as a tool shed and a 1963 vibrant purple Ford Galaxie serving as a planting bed. The garden also has “giving gardens” which are P-Patch plots set aside for growing food for donation to local food banks and feeding programs. Future plans include a mural, beehives, bird houses, tables, benches and a community kiosk.

The Project

Finding a space for the UpGarden P-Patch was challenging for P-Patch Community Gardening Program staff because of the lack of public land in Queen Anne and the prohibitive cost of purchasing it. "At the P-Patch Program we're always looking for creative ways to work with community members to make community gardening available in their neighborhoods," says Laura Raymond of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. "With the realization that the most open space to be found was on rooftops, we decided to pursue the idea. Seattle Center was approached and welcomed the new addition."

As a project funded and managed by Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) P-Patch Community Gardening Program, the staff hired landscape architecture team Kistler | Higbee Cahoot to design this innovative P-Patch. The architects led several design workshops to collaborate with community members on the garden’s design and worked with DON staff to organize a volunteer-led construction process. Community members have been volunteering nearly every weekend over the past few months to work on the garden.

Originally designed for the 1962 World’s Fair, the 4-story concrete structure was meant for cars -- not the heavy weight of soil. In order to balance the structural constraints and a sloping rooftop, architects Kistler and Higbee looked to terracing a series of wooden raised beds 12" to 18" high which is deep enough to grow vegetables. They determined that potting soil rather than top soil was best to use because it is lighter. Due to its exposure to wind and sun, the garden will be watered using a drip irrigation system.

For more information on the project:

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