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Banks a lot: new park sprouts up

American Marine Bank president Rex Townsend stands in front of the park between AMB and WAMU, as work gets under way. - Ryan Schierling/Staff Photo
American Marine Bank president Rex Townsend stands in front of the park between AMB and WAMU, as work gets under way.
— image credit: Ryan Schierling/Staff Photo

American Marine Bank and Washington Mutual break ground on a

terraced garden between their buildings.

Small parcels between two banks on Winslow Way each served a purpose, but a different one.

The American Marine Bank side was an outdoor staircase to take customers down to the lobby, below street level. The Washington Mutual side was a mini-park, with a switchback pathway connecting Winslow Way to a rear parking lot.

Both were functional, but neither was what you might call a significant community asset.

That’s about to change. As part of AMB’s expansion plan, the two banks have pooled their property, and are building a joint mini-park between the buildings that they hope will turn into a community gathering place.

“This was a cooperative effort to come up with something that would add benefit to the whole community,” said AMB president Rex Townsend.

Construction got under way last week, and is expected to take two months.

Jackie Scherer of AMB, a retired vice president who is managing the expansion project, said that neither bank’s property, by itself, could provide much public use.

“With the steps on our side and the pathway on their side, there wasn’t enough room for people to assemble,” she said. “By combining the properties, we are trying to make this a people place, a gathering place for the whole community.”

Planned by Weisman Design Group of Seattle, the park will feature what AMB project architect Dennis Kirkpatrick calls “a series of terraces that cascade from Winslow Way down to the rear parking area.”

The stairsteps connecting the plazas will be usable as seating, Kirkpatrick said.

Each terrace will contain an area for landscaping, and the margins alongside each bank will also be landscaped, partly with plants salvaged from the site before construction.

On the west side, adjacent to Washington Mutual, there will be a sloping pathway usable by people with impaired mobility.

The concept for the park was born more than two years ago, Kirkpatrick said, when AMB was planning its expansion.

“We had a meeting with Washington Mutual, looked at the property between the banks and said it would be great if we could put the two properties together and really do something.

“We put a budget together and they agreed to split the costs.”

The park/plaza will not only be a significant amenity in and of itself, Kirkpatrick said, but will be “a nice gateway to the waterfront,” providing another means of access from Winslow Way to Eagle Harbor and Waterfront Park.

Ross Thomas, vice president and branch manager of Washington Mutual, said that bank’s old park area had some functional issues.

“Keeping people on the path was a problem – they wanted to cut through (the plants),” he said.

Thomas said the project not only benefits the community, but was a good example of teamwork among two businesses and the city, which gave the project an enthusiastic endorsement.

“The fun to me has been working well together,” he said.

Community Events, April 2014

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