Building the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders
The Audubon Center at Seward Park is a partnership between the city of Seattle and the National Audubon Society.
With 25 chapters and 18,000 volunteers in Washington State, Audubon has been a leader in the conservation movement for over 100 years. In January 2000, National Audubon Society President John Flicker visited Seattle to select a site for Washington’s flagship Audubon Center. Seward Park was an ideal location for achieving the organization’s goal of empowering diverse young people to lead the environmental movement. It also was a neighborhood underserved by environmental education and out of school activities for youth and families. After Flicker's visit, Audubon Washington initiated a proposal to the city.
In November 2000, city residents voted in support of a parks levy that earmarked $618,000 for the renovation of the Annex and Hatchery buildings at Seward Park. Following this in June 2003, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance supporting a partnership between the City and Audubon Washington. The two parties signed a Development Agreement and a 20-year Use and Occupancy Agreement three months later.
In July 2003, as part of the centennial celebration of the Olmsted park plan for the city, the Seattle Landmarks Board designated the Annex, built in 1927, a historic landmark building. Seward Park is part of the Olmsted legacy and landscape heritage stemming from a formal plan compiled by John Charles Olmsted and adopted by the Seattle City Council in 1903.
In the final negotiations for the project, Audubon accepted responsibility for the estimated $2 million in planning, design, and renovation costs for the Annex building, while Seattle Parks accepted responsibility to remove the former fish hatchery ponds and renovate its buildings.
Pre-renovation design work for the Audubon Center began in September 2004 with a public meeting. In an effort to engage the public and ensure an inviting and welcoming design, three interactive exercises were facilitated in the local community, which included brainstorming and small group breakout sessions. Additional program feedback, received from community surveys and interviews, formed the foundation for the building program drafted by Mithun Architects.
Mithun and Audubon Washington’s pro-bono owner’s representative from Boeing worked with Audubon and Seattle Parks staff to begin schematic design in March 2005. The design was completed in February 2006 and was submitted to the City of Seattle for construction permitting. Upon adoption of this business plan and approval for construction by the National Audubon Society Board of Directors in Fall 2006, construction could begin.
Renovation on the Tudor-style house at the entrance to Seward Park was completed early in 2008. The building re-opened as an outdoor nature education center, and programming at the Center and in the park includes school, youth, community, arts in the environment, and special events. The Center also includes exhibits, an extensive library, a laboratory, and a small gift shop.