Mayor Mike McGinn intends to approve a glass museum exclusively displaying work by Dale Chihuly on Seattle Center grounds, according to sources speaking to The Stranger.
The move would be controversial, for sure, as many have decried the museum as an abuse of public land for a private enterprise (the museum would cost over $12 to enter and would be run by the privately owned Space Needle company), but others say it's a boon for north downtown. The museum's arrival would also help the Seattle Center, operated by the cash-strapped city, collect an estimated $500,000 in annual rent.
But the glass museum isn't the only new tenant McGinn wants on the 74-acre campus, says Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw. The city received several applications for the Arcade Pavilion site at the base of the Space Needle—the leading contenders being the glass exhibit and radio station KEXP, which needs new studio space. Now McGinn and Seattle Center director Robert Nellams are reportedly exploring ways to usher in both.
"What Robert is trying to do is work out an opportunity so that there's more than just an either/or solution," Bagshaw says when asked about the proposals. "Yes to Chihuly, yes to KEXP, potentially yes to others as well."
The mayor's staff has met with representatives from Chihuly and KEXP, says mayoral spokesman Aaron Pickus, and "we're hoping there will be an announcement by the end of this year."
Bagshaw adds that Nellams has discussed putting KEXP "elsewhere on campus," meaning that the Chihuly museum would likely take over the Arcade Pavilion, and that she is "honoring and supporting his efforts."
Tom Mara, executive director of KEXP, wouldn't comment on the mayor's plans.
In 2008, a committee recommended the Seattle Center open up the 1.5 acre space for lawns. But after the Space Needle company's lucrative offer and hardball lobbying, that committee unilaterally switched its recommendation in September to a Chihuly museum (with no recommended alternatives). Thousands of e-mails and phone calls, both for and against a Chihuly museum, have flooded city hall. The city council must approve the mayor's final contract with Seattle Center.