Alki Statue of Liberty: 2 more updates

nwartsstatuephoto5.jpgSince our update yesterday featuring the new flyer from the group that thinks it will take too long to embark on a new round of fundraising for what they call the “fancy-schmancy” plaza … here’s what else has happened:

First — That group has set up an e-mail address — libertyhomenow@yahoo.com — as mentioned in the comments below yesterday’s update. No website yet, but then again, we haven’t seen the pro-plaza group’s promised site at sealady.org go live yet either.

Second — Matt Hutchins, one of the architects that has donated his time to the plaza project and appeared at the recent meetings about it, e-mailed us some answers/clarifications to points that have been brought up by plaza opponents/doubters. Click ahead to read the complete text of what he wants to say (he also promises to answer questions here as well).

From plaza project architect Matt Hutchins:

1. Parks has not officially committed to “spiffing up” the pedestal, laying any contributor bricks, etc. – just putting the statue back. In the current budget climate, they have balked at any additional maintenance cost (planting, light bulbs etc.), so I’d like to see a proposal as to what they will do to “spiff up” the area before I’d assume there would be any beautification of the statue’s pedestal or surroundings. With private money, at least we as a community retain control – as opposed to getting whatever the city gives us.

2. Non-profit status is in the works and should be ready soon.

3. The parks department has given the current plan preliminary approval, and there are some issues we need to resolve, however they do not issue final approval until the construction documents and fundraising are complete. Construction documents are about 85% done.

4. Vandalism of the Statue was one of the original reasons for redesigning the pedestal. Putting the Statue back as is does nothing to minimize the future threat of that.

5. A lot of this debate has been in terms of “Liberty now or Liberty later.” The city has scheduled a meeting in a month and a half to listen to comments, and if the consensus if to replace the statue then, we would be looking at her return at the earliest in October. On the other hand, we have been working toward unveiling the finished project around July 4th 2008, provided we don’t have to totally redesign the current plans. The difference is seven or eight months. For an idea that has been floating around for fifteen years, and for a public space that will last for another hundred years, an additional seven months wait seems like a small price to pay.

6. Yes, this project is ambitious, but the Statue deserves a better setting, protection from vandalism, and this project will provide a great public space worthy of the local landmark. The committee is working hard to get the best possible outcome; one that we can all be proud of.

If anyone has questions, I’ll be happy to try and answer them here.

Matt Hutchins
WS resident and Seattle Statue of Liberty Committee member

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6 Replies to "Alki Statue of Liberty: 2 more updates"

  • Jan July 29, 2007 (11:36 pm)

    “3. The parks department has given the current plan preliminary approval, and there are some issues we need to resolve, however they do not issue final approval until the construction documents and fundraising are complete. Construction documents are about 85% done.”

    and…what % of fundraising is complete? I think that addresses most people’s concerns. If it’s private money, who’s accountable for it, and how much is already there. Are there any guarantees that the funding will be there for a “finished project around July 4th 2008”? And if the funding isn’t there, then what? People simply wait for however long it takes? I can see both sides of this…yes, it would be nice to have that “Plaza”. It’s attractive. The pedestal is higher. But…it seems that the finish date is just a date picked out of the air because the money isn’t there. True? and….one last question. Is the Parks Dept. willing to maintain the new plaza and plantings, etc. if the funding materializes, and this is a done project? Will they balk at any additional cost to maintaining it?

  • matt July 30, 2007 (4:46 pm)

    Although I am less involved in the fundraising part, I’ll try and respond as best as possible:

    As far as I know NPA has money left from prior fundraising (around $10,000), but we haven’t seen the precise number because the account still resides within the NPA.

    Libby and Paul Carr are working on cementing the non-profit status with a well-known, reputable organization (to be announced soon), people will be able donate with a certain piece of mind. Once it is announced, I think people will be excited and concerns about the responsible use of any contribution will be mollified.

    Our goal is finishing this project before July so we can have a meaningful unveiling on around the Fourth. The City would prefer we build during the off-season, between Labor Day and Memorial Day, so there is a nice synchronicity between our timelines. There are a lot of variables in play now, between fundraising, community consensus, and Park’s approval, but we need to set the goal to keep everyone moving forward.

    With regards to fundraising, our objectives would be fourfold: (1) continue to take brick donations, since we still have lots of space for them, (2) conduct other fundraising activities, such as restaurant events, (3) target donations from large donors, (4) pursue grants from public and private agencies (including the City of Seattle). Honestly, I am less concerned about being able to raise the money from other sources based on the feedback we have gotten from other sources willing to donate larger sums, but am more concerned about the uncertainty Parks has recently injected into the process by soliciting additional community comment.

    As for the last question, we are working towards a ‘Yes.’ Parks is ultimately concerned about ongoing maintenance, and we have responded by reworking aspects of the design to limit the amount of upkeep, such as changing details around the glass cap, making it easier to mow around the planters, lining up volunteers to take care of the landscaping while it is getting established (the first three years), etc. Lighting the Statue and the glass cap remain sticking points that we are trying to persuade them that the public safety value offsets the maintenance, along the lines of ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ We are very concerned about the maintenance from their perspective and will continue to be flexible about requested changes to the existing design, because it will make it easier for them to give the final approval for the project.

    Keep in mind that right now the Parks Department is used to the asphalt driveway, a small planter at the base, and two wood benches, so any reasonable restoration project would require more attention than it is currently getting. Furthermore, the current asphalt is cracked and buckling around the old base, so a case could be made that eliminating Park’s costs to repair the asphalt in the short term would offset the increase of maintenance costs for the new project, at least for the next couple of years.

    I hope that answers your questions. If not I’ll take another stab at it.

    Matt

  • Bring Miss Liberty Home Now group July 30, 2007 (6:33 pm)

    Matt your comment “am more concerned about the uncertainty Parks has recently injected into the process by soliciting additional community comment.”
    I think that they just want to make sure to do what the community wants. I’m not speaking for Parks, however.
    I’m sure that the Sept. 13 meeting that Parks has called will clarify all these concerns.

  • matt July 30, 2007 (8:10 pm)

    For those that are just tuning in, Northwest Program for theArts solicited comment from the community through several presentations last spring and summer, including a similar Park’s sponsored event, and those comments were the foundation of the Restoration’s design. When we presented the final design and got overwhelming positive feedback, we assumed we’d reached the necessary community consensus and have been working since then to finish the construction documents for Parks.

    Perhaps the consensus has changed since last summer, given the difficulties with the process and the change in leadership, but I hope that community will continue to support the full Restoration, given we have a big group of energized citizens willing to see this project through.

    I am looking forward to the Sept. 13th meeting to look at all the options, and encourage everyone to voice their opinion.

    Matt

  • David & Eilene Hutchinson July 31, 2007 (11:49 pm)

    As one of the attendees at the July 11th gathering of concerned Alki residents, I want to thank you again for making yourself available to answer our many questions.

    My wife and I have lived in the Alki neighborhood for more than thirty-four years. Together with our son, we feel privileged to have been able to enjoy the many inspiring vistas and the variety of activities that occur throughout each year. We have followed the continuing saga of the Alki Statue of Liberty and were delighted when Northwest Program for the Arts announced its plans to recast the Statue and upgrade the pedestal and surrounding plaza. Meetings were held to get community input and modifications were made to incorporate these suggestions into the final plans. We supported this effort with the purchase of two of the $100 bricks in the fall of 2005. At the time we understood that the the money raised in this manner, together with donations from other sources, would pay for the recasting of the statue and construction of the new plaza. We looked forward to the day when the new statue would be installed in an appropriate setting after many years of neglect.

    It was very disappointing to see the projected timeline fall by the wayside as month after month went by with no visible signs of construction at the site. Then we learned of new engineering requirements for the plaza and the financial problems at Northwest Program for the Arts. It seems that the organization and implementation of this project was seriously flawed.

    Seattle has a growing reputation as a city that can’t get things done. Projects are voted on and “re-voted” on. Other projects are cancelled after large expenditures of the taxpayer’s money. The indecision and delays can sometimes seem endless and each year the costs go up. It’s time to demonstrate that the city working together with the local community can make a final decision and actually see this worthwhile project through to completion.

    Life seems to always be a series of choices and compromises – the visionaries balanced by the realists. Fortunately we all live in a country that values both points of view. The vision of this project as we understand it, was to replicate a replica, and do this in such a way that the new version retained the artistic merits of the original while incorporating design elements that would ensure it a long healthy life. This new statue would then be installed in an appropriate setting designed to blend with the current park while being a significant upgrade. The original replica was placed here by the Boy Scouts in 1952, only 66 years after the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor which has become an international symbol of freedom. The Statue should always be a reminder of the best our country has to offer its old and new citizens. We recently took another look at the Ken Burns PBS special on the Statue of Liberty. A similar dispute arose in the mid 1880’s over providing an appropriate base/pedestal for the Statue of Liberty which itself was a gift to the United States from the people of France. Eventually private donations from many citizens funded the construction of the present site on Liberty Island.

    My wife and I hope that this local vision is not snuffed out by a misplaced sense of expediency, while understanding the realistic nature of budgets and timelines. It is in that spirit that we offer the following comments/suggestions.

    1. Priority should be placed on requiring an accounting from Northwest Program for the Arts. How many bricks were sold? (As of 7/31/2007 they are still asking the public to purchase these bricks on their web site). What was the total of donations received? How was this money spent and how much is left? This will establish a current baseline enabling a realistic assessment of the money needed to complete the project. It would also be in the interest of the NPA to clarify the situation and hopefully establish their credibility as they solicit donations for future projects. Without some form of closure for those who have already donated and a demonstration of accountability for prospective donors, it might be difficult to generate additional funds.

    2. Give the Seattle Statue of Liberty Committee-Phase II, organized by Libby & Paul Carr, a fair chance to get on track and see what develops. The city should work with their organization as quickly as possible to avoid further delays with the accompanying rise in costs.

    3. Find a way to address the concerns of those who feel the statue has already been gone long enough. For long time residents who have watched the ups and downs in the Statue’s history, the temptation is to feel enough is enough. They, with good reason, just want the statue back as soon as possible. Would it be possible to bring the new statue back to Alki to be on display for the community while it awaits the completion of its new home? Would the new Alki Bathhouse be a viable site? A small exhibit could be set up displaying the history of the Statue and providing ways that interested individuals could participate in the process.

    Since the initial meeting we have noticed a marked decline in the civility of the discussion on the West Seattle Blog, the Alki Community Group on Yahoo, and The West Seattle Herald. The expression of differing points of view are an essential part of our democracy, but when these opinions stoop to personal attacks and innuendos rather than the sharing of questions and ideas, polarization interrupts any meaningful progress. Hopefully, both sides of this issue can work together to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

    We have had a number of conversations with Paul & Libby Carr. We have always felt that they are sincere and honest in their motives. They moved to the Alki neighborhood about 4 years ago and have become active in our community. Libby was asked by Northwest Program for the Arts to be involved in the unveiling and dedication of the new statue and plaza. When Libby and Paul saw the the project flounder within the past year, they were willing to pick up the pieces and get it back on track. The whole community should be grateful to them for taking on a project that NPA seems to have abandoned and for which no one seemed willing to step forward and assume leadership. Hopefully all of us will find a meaningful way to contribute to this effort.

    We all need to consider what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes. Our local replica represents more than a familiar landmark. Its enduring message is one of a country which welcomes persons of all backgrounds and points of view and allows each of us to openly express our differing opinions. The new Statue deserves to be on display in a new inviting plaza to be enjoyed by all, now and in the coming years.

    David & Eilene Hutchinson

  • matt August 1, 2007 (9:07 am)

    I agree wholeheartedly with your points, especially about importance of a civil, civic discourse.
    .
    The Seattle Statue of Liberty Committee proposed moving the Statue to the Bath House until the project is complete at the last Alki Community Council meeting. I think would be a great short term solution.

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