Seattle's Central Park: What Could Have Been - Atlas Obscura

Seattle, Washington

Seattle's Central Park: What Could Have Been

Explore an alternate history walking tour of the Seattle Commons Project.

When you hear the words “South Lake Union” what do you picture? Is it gleaming skyscrapers? A skyline of construction cranes? Tech workers bustling between high-end coffee shops and ultramodern research laboratories? Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has certainly come to embody the economic boom in Seattle, being the epicenter of the technology-fueled population explosion in the Emerald City. But just over twenty years ago, the future of the South Lake Union neighborhood was up for grabs.

Join Atlas Obscura Society Seattle Field Agent Christopher Blado and Weston Brinkley of Street Sounds Ecology for a journey into Seattle’s not-so-distant past: The failed Seattle Commons project: A proposed redevelopment plan for South Lake Union that was narrowly voted down by Seattle voters in the mid-1990s. Referred to as “Seattle’s Central Park,” the plan would have created a large urban park in the center of South Lake Union, space currently occupied by blocks of skyscrapers.

We’ll tour the area, learning about the various development plans and major land transformations for this neighborhood throughout its history. You'll hear about the political and economic trends that led to the Seattle Commons plan, and its rejection by Seattle voters. And we’ll discuss the future of Seattle’s urban core in the wake of the current population boom.

This program is offered in conjunction with the Crosscut Festival: Big Issues & Bold Ideas. Tickets for Christopher's and Weston's tour can be purchased here.

Additional Details:

  • The tour meets up in Denny Park at 1:00 p.m., and ends at Lake Union Park around 2:45 p.m.
  • This is a walking tour with a total walking distance of about 1.5 miles. Please be ready to walk. Wear comfortable shoes and attire.
  • We will walk rain or shine, so watch the weather and prepare accordingly.
  • Denny Park is served by buses 8 and 62, as well as the South Lake Union Streetcar.
  • Limited street parking is available, but arrive early if you plan on using it.


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Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.