Seattle Asian Art Museum Improvements

Updated: June 9, 2020

Summer 2020

The project is substantially complete. We are working on finishing some exterior work and landscaping.

The renovation and expansion goals include preserving the historic building; improving the museum's infrastructure; protecting the collection with climate control and seismic system upgrades; adding vital gallery and education space with a modest expansion; and enhancing ADA accessibility and the museum's connection to beautiful Volunteer Park.

Public Meetings

2016 Public Meetings

  • Wednesday, October 5, 2016
    Room L2-80, Boards and Commissions City Hall
  • Saturday, October 15, 2016
    Asian Art Museum Alvord Board Room
  • Saturday, November 19, 2016
    Asian Art Museum
    SPR co-sponsored this meeting.
  • Saturday, December 10, 2016
    Asian Art Museum Alvord Board Room

2018 Public Meeting

  • Thursday, March 1, 2018
    Miller Community Center


The Seattle Asian Art Museum was built in Volunteer Park in 1933. The City of Seattle owns the building and the land under it, Volunteer Park.

The museum building underwent the addition of an office in 1947, the addition of a gallery in 1954, the addition of a board room in 1955 and the addition of an elevator in 2007. SPR and SAM entered a 2007 Memorandum of Agreement under which the City accepted SAM's offer to act as its agent for seeking permits and design approvals, and calls for a letter authorizing this and a separate construction agreement.

The renovation of SAAM was a named project in the 2008 Park and Green Spaces Levy, funded in the amount of $9 million. SAAM agreed to raise a like amount to make the project budget whole. The recession made it unlikely SAM could raise the like amount, so SPR used the funding on several much-needed major maintenance projects elsewhere in the park system.

Levy funding for major maintenance projects has been replaced with funding from Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenues. The City's contribution in the current proposed budget includes $14 million in 2017 and $5 million in 2018 to support the improvements.


1400 East Prospect Street in Volunteer Park


With the 2015 agreement, the City committed to provide $11 million for the project, subject to escalation consistent with construction cost increases. The City's financial commitment in 2017 and 2018 to the project, escalated for inflation to the projected construction start in late 2017 and including an additional $5 million, will be $19 million. This $19 million was included in the 2017-2022 Adopted Capital Improvement Program. In addition to the $19 million, the City previously invested $2 million in planning and design work for the project (this $2 million was reallocated in 2007 from city funds that had been committed for construction of SAM's Olympic Sculpture Park).

Renovation and Proposed Expansion Project

SAM has moved forward with the design of the project, which now includes the originally anticipated renovations, upgrades and structural improvements, and an addition of gallery and educational space.  The addition includes an approximate 3,200 square foot expansion footprint further into the east landscape.

SAM began holding public meetings in July 2016. SAM made presentations to the Architectural Review Committee, a subcommittee of the Landmarks Review Board, on May 27, June 23 and August 12. SAM needs a Certificate of Approval from the Landmarks Review Board to alter a designated landmark, which Volunteer Park has been since 1989.  The Landmarks Review Board review process has started; more information can be found at City of Seattle Landmarks.

Seattle Parks and Recreation is a partner in the project by virtue of the Major Maintenance funding in the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy in the project budget, and its status as the owner of the building and the land. SPR will review the project in terms of its design and integration into the park, in terms of project scope to make sure it meets the project description in the levy language, and for an analysis of the possible impacts of Initiative 42. This review is underway.  

ProView, SPR's internal project review team, reviewed the project on September 20. At that time SAM committed to bring back a final schematic design, as the landscape design around the building was in flux and the preliminary schematic plan was no longer accurate.

Attending ProView are SPR staff most knowledgeable about the facility or park and about its users, neighbors, nearby community organizations, demographics, historic landmarks, and active issues. Also attending ProView are the project manager and skilled trade, volunteer coordinator, or other staff bearing some responsibility for or knowledge of the project. 

This project was submitted to Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) for initial permitting review. SDCI held a public meeting to review this application on Thursday, December 15, 2016. Related documents can be viewed online at by searching the project number (3024753) or address (1400 E Prospect St).

Supporting Documents

Other Public Forums

Thursday June 23, 2016
Seattle Board of Park Commissioners
100 Dexter Ave. N, Kenneth R. Bounds Board Room   

Michael Shiosaki, Director of the Planning and Development Division of Seattle Parks and Recreation introduced Kim Rorschach, the Executive Director of the Seattle Art Museum and Sam Miller, partner and Architect for the Expansion project came to provide a briefing on the Asian Art Museum Expansion. 

News media to date on the project:

SAM seeks GC/GM to expand and renovate Volunteer Park Museum 6/2/2016

And what the Seattle Asian Art Museum expansion could look like too 8/28/2016

Seattle Residents Protest Asian Art Museum's $45 Million Expansion Project 8/30/2016

Live from the Seattle Art Museum expansion meeting 9/10/2016

Volunteer Park's Seattle Asian Art Museum shows design for "park lobby" expansion and overhaul 9/11/2016

Council Connection - Seattle Asian Art Museum Expansion is approved 1/22/2018

Seattle Asian Art Museum Community Meeting on March 1 2/16/2018