That Gatewood home is scheduled for demolition – but not to be replaced by new development. You might call it “un-development.”
For the past few months, a small sign in front of it has been the only clue it’s set to become a pocket park, aside from this webpage. Seattle Parks owns it because its owner made a “reserved life estate donation” for that purpose. The sign has long promised an upcoming public meeting for neighbors, and now the date is set – 10 am Saturday, August 16th, at the site known as the Watton property after the donating family, 3823 SW Willow. It’s scheduled for demolition a month later, in mid-September; George Watton, who died last January at age 94, bequeathed the money for that, too. He and wife DeLayne Watton (who died in 2007) had lived there since building the house after he returned from World War II in the late ’40s. After demolition, the city will work on site restoration and turf establishment, and promises it “will work with the contractor to minimize the impact to the neighborhood.”
Long before today’s announcement, we had done some research after getting a tip about the site. Donald Harris with Seattle Parks told us that George Watton had said, dating back to 1992, that he was interested in donating his property to the city after he died. The city won’t accept “just any property,” but this one appealed, Harris explained, because “you can see how it could be this great little overlook for the neighborhood.” Mr. Watton’s health went downhill after he took a fall late last year; he had to leave his beloved home and move in with family in southwestern Washington. According to Harris, they said they wanted to start the process of transferring the site, and there was some hope it might be transformed into a park before he died, but that didn’t work out. Mr. Watton did stay engaged with the planning process for a long time, Parks says. His monetary donation to cover demolition and some park development totaled about $60,000, and because of the special type of account it went into, it grew over time. The demolition won’t be simple, but eventually, Harris said, people will be able to go up onto the site and sit and enjoy it.