Celebrating Great Gathering Spaces

After successfully launching the Great Places in Washington program last year that awarded two Great Neighborhoods, this year’s program recognizes Great Gathering Spaces in Washington State. Awards this year were given to gathering spaces based on their relative size: Small (generally less than 10,000 square feet), medium (generally up to about an acre in size), and large spaces (more than an acre).

Twenty gathering spaces were nominated and evaluated per the following criteria that great gathering spaces must:

  • Be mostly outdoors and open to the public and free of charge at least 12 hours a day
  • Include a variety of functional attributes that encourage human contact and social activity for all age groups
  • Feature definable boundaries while having good linkages to surrounding uses and areas
  • Features design elements and architectural features that are visually interesting and contribute to the use and enjoyment of the space

The Winners

While the committee felt that all of these spaces were winners, four spaces rose to the top:

Small: Second Street Plaza
City of Langley & Framework

Second Street Plaza was developed as part of an adaptive reuse of the former Langley Fire Station and the redevelopment of Second Street. The plaza is connected to pedestrian alleys to adjacent streets. The old fire station is now used as a glass art studio and retail shop that spills out onto the plaza.

Medium: Hing Hay Park
City of Seattle & MIG


Hing Hay, as an example of a park and plaza that punches above its weight, an important cultural resource for Seattle's International District that gathers people in and uses design elements and programming to celebrate an astonishing level of year-round activity.

Medium: Pike Place Marketfront
City of Seattle, Pike Place Market PDA & Berger Partnership

Pike Place’s new Marketfront expansion is a regional resource whose new additions allow locals and visitors alike to look outwards to the stunning views of Puget Sound and the Olympics from multiple levels, enjoy lunch or a book with those views as a backdrop, and connect with the waterfront, the rest of the Market, and downtown.

Large: Eagle Harbor Waterfront Park
City of Bainbridge Island & Walker Macy

Eagle Harbor Waterfront Park is a 5.5-acre park located between downtown and the waterfront.  It serves a dual role of the community. First, it provides an informal setting for passive and active uses while connecting the public to the water’s edge. Second, it serves as a downtown civic space that accommodates public island functions and enhances the local business corridor.


Return to the September/October issue of The Washington Planner