Bellevue bills itself as a “city in a park.” It was difficult to argue with that on Wednesday when City leaders officially celebrated the completion of the latest phase of Downtown Park.
A postcard setting that typifies the “city in a park” moniker, Downtown Park is a 22-acre felt green sanctuary that sits in the southwest shadows of downtown’s towering glass and steel skyscrapers.
The park dates to the early 1980s, when the City of Bellevue acquired the land from the Bellevue School District. A master plan for the park was developed, and voters approved a levy in 2008 to help pay for the $20 million project.
While the City completed phased improvements as funding became available, visitors have enjoyed elements of the unfinished open space for many years (it is a popular location for watching 4th of July fireworks). Still, Downtown Park as envisioned was never fully completed: a circular, tree-lined pedestrian promenade and a water canal that border the park were only three-fourths complete, and a popular playground was too small and became outdated.
That changed last summer when the City moved forward on construction of Downtown Park’s latest phase.
On Wednesday, local residents and visitors were invited to experience Downtown Park’s latest incarnation and its new amenities. For starters, the canal and tree-lined promenade that ring the park are now finished, the circle complete. The park now also includes a grand entrance and water feature at the south end, ample plaza space, comfortable terraced seating, navigable stairways, and landscaped accessible paths.
Children of all ages and abilities now can play at Inspiration Playground, a partnership project between the City of Bellevue and Bellevue Rotary Club that doubles the existing play area, and includes many interactive play features: tactile sculptures for touching and climbing, a music plaza that encourages visitors to create and respond to sound, and the central “Whimsy Plaza.” The project also added a new changing table to the restrooms near the playground, and expanded the playground’s adjacent parking lot after the parking lot near 102nd Avenue Northeast was closed to complete the circle.
“Finishing the circle completes the 35-year vision of beloved Downtown Park,” said Mayor John Stokes, who joined city councilmembers and park advocates during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 28 to mark the completed improvements.
Bellevue Downtown Park is located at 10201 NE Fourth Street. More information is available online here.
NOTE: This story was updated to more accurately reflect the square footage of Inspiration Playground’s play area, as well as restroom and parking facilities.