According to the city's official bidding site, the Seattle Center currently has 63 bidders proposing ways to use the Fun Forest site (after an open bidding process for the space was called to generate more ideas than a controversial Chihuly museum). Don't get too excited—this number reflects everyone who has registered (but not necessarily submitted a bid) and includes contractors who are bidding to eventually execute the chosen proposal.
Still, it indicates a healthy level of public interest in the space: In contrast, a separate portion of the Fun Forest site only received eight bids earlier this year, according to Seattle Center spokeswoman Deborah Daoust.
One registered bidder caught my eye: KEXP, Seattle's much beloved community public radio station. Executive director Tom Mara says that the station doesn't have a specific proposal right yet—but it may submit one before bidding closes in roughly two weeks (June 4 at 5:00 p.m., to be exact). Such a proposal would involve relocating KEXP's offices to the Seattle Center. "We're at more than capacity," Mara says. "And as we think about building a new home, we're exploring what significant community impacts a move could generate." The short move from Dexter Avenue North and Denny Way, where KEXP's current trident-submarine-like studios are located, to the Seattle Center would make them more accessible to foot traffic and put them in a better position to host concerts, with the Vera Project, the Experience Music Project, and green lawns sprawling in every direction.
But this time, Mara stresses that it's still just "a fascinating possibility that is being discussed internally."
Another proposal, issued by Seattle Museum of Mysteries co-director Charlette LeFevre, would convert the existing Fun Forest arcade into a "Northwest Mystery House," complete with a mystery walking tour. "Seattle Center used to have a mystery house," says LeFevre. "We feel our proposal is more aligned with the vision for Seattle Center than a Chihuly museum."
Meanwhile, Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin sent out an email yesterday tackling concerns about whether or not the proposed Chihuly museum is really a good use of public space. While he says some concerns could be addressed by siting it away from the Fun Forest site—which is slated to be used as open space, according to a Seattle Center planning process—or moving it to a "privately owned space on or near the Seattle Center," Conlin remains noncommittal.
However, his concerns—which also included showcasing a rotating selection and "not a static show for a single artist"—mirrored those raised by city council member Sally Bagshaw when she saw the Seattle Center's rough draft of the call for public bids, according to her office. Seattle Center's one concession to her concerns, judging by the guidelines for bids, was to widen the proposal criteria to "accept proposals for revenue generating activities as well as those that return substantial public benefits."
In his email, Conlin notes that "the Council would have to adopt by ordinance the contract for any proposal that the Seattle Center wanted to accept." While Conlin is currently on vacation, his office says he is very reluctant to approve a plan at odds with open-space plans set forth in the master plan. With bids rolling in and council members still voicing concerns, the onus is on Chihuly Museum backers to prove their proposal is a good fit—the best fit—for the space.