Washington Park Arboretum Environmental Education Center Pre-Design Study

Updated: March 4, 2020


Thank you to everyone who participated in the public process to date. View the meeting presentation and other documents below.

The preferred option for the Environmental Education Center predesign is Option #2: Linear.

Linear plan rendering
Option #2: Linear - Site Axon

The three images below, copyright Plomp
Artist’s rendering looking south along the path of water collection.
Artist's rendering looking south along the path of water collection.

Artist’s rendering looking southeast at the new café space from Arboretum Way.
Artist's rendering looking southeast at the new café space from Arboretum Way.

Artist’s rendering looking south from the environmental education classrooms.
Artist's rendering looking south from the environmental education classrooms.

Project Overview:

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), in equal partnership with the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UW), and the Arboretum Foundation (AF) are engaging in a pre-design study for the building of a new Environmental Education Center at Washington Park Arboretum. This new facility will allow the current youth and adult education programming to expand by nearly double those currently served annually. The desired goal is to serve 20,000 children and adults annually from diverse communities across the region.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Washington Park Arboretum Environmental Education Center Pre-Design Study

The purpose of the pre-design phase is to undertake an in-depth study to define the final scope of the project. The pre-design phase scope of work includes, but is not limited to: Development of a business plan, defining program elements and space allocation, site analysis, concept level location siting options (three), preliminary building designs for the new facility - LEED Gold, marketing product of at least three renderings, parking study, permitting requirement identification, building and construction cost estimates, and construction timeline.


2300 Arboretum Dr E, Seattle, WA 98112


Funding is being provided by the University of Washington and the Arboretum Foundation, and includes $200,000 for the Pre-Design Study. SPR will manage and coordinate the Pre-Design Study. 

Subsequent planning, design and construction work will be outlined in future agreements. This future work is not funded. The University of Washington and the Arboretum Foundation will be fundraising.


Pre-Design Study Phase: January 2018 - November 2018

Community Participation

Public Meeting 12/5/2018

Background Information

A. Goals and Principles

A common set of goals and principles for the Environmental Education Center include the following:

  • Provide welcoming and safe opportunities to play, learn, contemplate and build community
  • Promote responsible stewardship and understanding of the land and the environment
  • Integrate well with the other buildings and outdoor spaces nearby
  • Broaden the opportunities at the Arboretum for all communities while fulfilling the Master Plan goals of educating 20,000 students each year in non-academic classes
  • Accommodate a range of educational programs within and related to the Arboretum:
    • education programs for pre-kindergarten through high school students
    • youth education programs outside formal school contexts
    • family programs, higher education and adult education programs
    • professional education, volunteerism and educator training
    • general visitor education
    • education for special populations

B. Background

In 1934, the City of Seattle and the UW agreed to create an arboretum in the heart of the city; six months later, the non-profit AF was formed to help raise private support for the Arboretum's mission and operations. These three entities continue to partner in support of the Arboretum and its programs.

SPR owns most of the Arboretum land and buildings, and maintains the infrastructure, including buildings, roads, trails, and turf. UW owns, manages, and maintains the plant collections, including trees and shrubs, both native and ornamental, and operates the child, youth, and adult education programs, including the Fiddleheads Forest Preschool, the youth environmental education programs, summer day camps, Pro-Hort classes, and family nature classes.

"The Washington Park Arboretum is a living plant museum emphasizing trees and shrubs hardy in the maritime Pacific Northwest. Plant collections are selected and arranged to display beauty and function in urban landscapes, to demonstrate their natural ecology and diversity, and to conserve important species and cultivated varieties for the future. The Arboretum serves the public, students at all levels, naturalists, gardeners, and nursery and landscape professionals with its collections, educational programs, interpretation, and recreational opportunities."  -Mission Statement, 1996

The Arboretum has exceeded its capacity to host these outreach classes in the current space provided. The greenhouse building is aging and was never intended to house these types of classes, and the learning environment needs to be safe and welcoming to students of all ages. In addition, UW is a self-sustaining program and the rental of the facility is crucial to its funding model.

UW and the AF will spearhead a fundraising effort to raise capital and endowment funds for the proposed Environmental Education Center, as well as support for its educational programming. Under a long-term lease with the City of Seattle, the UW will manage the new facility and operate its educational programs.

1. Location - Washington Park Arboretum is in the Central East section of the City of Seattle, due east of Lake Union and due south of the University of Washington and the Montlake cut, which connects Lake Washington with Lake Union. A private golf course, Broadmoor Golf Club, lies immediately east of the arboretum.

Arboretum Environmental Education Center Location Map

Arboretum Environmental Education Center Location Map Details

1. Landmark, Historic Designation and Existing Conditions (e.g. landmark and historic districts, Olmsted Parks, land use/zoning overlays, significant trees or other plantings)

Landmarks - SPR initiated work in the Arboretum in 1920. Frederick Leissler, Seattle Parks and Recreation Landscape Architect, created a plan in 1934, which was later augmented by the Olmsted Brothers in 1936. The Works Progress Administration, ca. 1938, built many elements in the Arboretum. The Washington Park Arboretum Historic Review document, published September 2003, prepared by BOLA and Karen Kiest, contains an assessment of the site that identified various historic landscape and built elements that would potentially be subject to Landmarks review and approval.      

Master Planning History - The Seattle City Council, the UW Board of Regents and the Board of Directors for the AF adopted the Arboretum Master Plan in May 2001 (City Council Resolution #30317). The Master Plan, Renewing the Washington Park Arboretum, was funded largely by the AF. Its adoption was the culmination of seven years of analysis and public outreach. The Arboretum Botanical Garden Committee (ABGC) is the legally mandated advisory committee for the Washington Park Arboretum, established by the Arboretum's enabling ordinance in 1934, and is comprised of nine members appointed by the UW, City of Seattle, Governor of Washington, and the AF.

In 2003 an Implementation Plan for the Washington Park Arboretum Master Plan was written, providing significant additional detail on the intended development and purpose of the Environmental Education Center, as well as describing the partnership and the shared vision for the proposed new facility between SPR, the UW and the AF. Unless otherwise stated, definitions contained herein will have the same meaning as provided in the Implementation Plan.   

3. Recent & Future Park Improvements Implementation of the Master Plan has been underway since its adoption. Over 30 projects are identified in the Master Plan. Recent projects include: traffic calming and new lighting on Lake Washington Boulevard, construction of a new bicycle and walking trail (Multi-Use Trail) running north-south, construction of a primary foot path (Ridge Top Trail), renovation of the Japanese Garden entry structure, renovation of the South entry - Pacific connections, improvements at the Graham Visitors Center, and construction of the New Zealand Forest in the Pacific Connections Garden.  

C. Resources and Links

• The Arboretum and Botanical Garden Committee (ABGC) - http://depts.washington.edu/wpa/abgc/
• Washington Park Arboretum Historic Resources Strategy - Final July 10, 2006; pg 48

Parks and Recreation

AP Diaz, Superintendent
Mailing Address: 100 Dexter Ave N, Seattle, WA, 98109
Phone: (206) 684-4075
Fax: (206) 615-1813

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