In spite of leaden skies, the winter deluge held off long enough for an enthusiastic group of more than a hundred to gather at the edge of Yesler Terrace in celebration of the new Hillclimb that will connect it with the Chinatown/International District below.
Built along the Tenth Ave. S. right of way, the Hillclimb zigzags down the steep hillside that was, until recently, a tangle of wild blackberry bushes. It now connects these two neighborhoods with a pathway, alternately offering expansive vistas and close-ups of artworks produced by the community.
Barbara Gray, Deputy Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation spoke about the long planning process that led up to this project. She related that planners had envisioned a closer, direct connection between these neighborhoods for decades. “It’s rare for a planner to see a project you have dreamed actually happen,” she said.
Artist Mauricio Robalino spoke about the mosaics that adorn the cement walls of the Hillclimb. The residents of the community participated in creating the designs for the mosaics and then created elements that were incorporated into the 24 medallions. Robalino completed the fabrication of them and oversaw their installation. “The designs were extremely varied,” he said, “and we needed an element to give them some continuity. So we chose the figure of Raven as storyteller. Raven appears in each panel, sometimes large, sometimes tiny.” At the top of the Hillclimb, four larger medallions were unveiled during the festivities. They represent the four seasons. More information about the creation of the medallions is available on the Yesler Terrace blog.
Tam Nguyen, founder of Friends of Little Saigon and owner of the Tamarind Tree restaurant, spoke about the importance of connecting the two neighborhoods and the opportunity it represents. It will be so much easier for people to go back and forth, to visit each other and shop, he said.
Because the new First Hill/Capitol Hill Streetcar has a stop on Jackson near the bottom of the Hillclimb, the International District can become a gateway for commuters to and from downtown.
Festivities concluded with a traditional Lion Dance leading participants down the Hillclimb to Lunar New Year festivities in the Chinatown/International District neighborhood. Construction of the Tenth Ave S Hillclimb was made possible with funding from JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the City of Seattle and the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development. The Hillclimb was opened for visitors as part of Chinese New Year celebrations. It is expected to be open to the public by late Spring or early summer.
Northwest of the Hillclimb, across an expanse of construction in progress, the new Raven Terrace rises on the north side of Yesler Way. Its grand opening was celebrated On Feb. 5, and residents are now in the process of moving in. The handsome new building contains 83 apartments, 50 of which serve as replacement housing for the original low-income units at Yesler Terrace. The new apartment building contains a variety of apartment sizes and is located on bus lines and near the new streetcar stop.
More information about both Raven Terrace and the new Hillclimb is available on the Seattle Housing Authority Website.