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June 2010

CityLink Seattle

Theater Commons Opens to the Community

The grand opening of Theater Commons and Donnelly Gardens culminates almost two decades of planning to create a more open and welcoming north entry to the Seattle Center campus. Through a partnership between Seattle Center, Seattle Repertory Theatre and Intiman Theatre, the 1.6 acre outdoor redevelopment project embraces sustainable design throughout and offers an attractive mix of landscape and hardscape and provides visitors with pleasant tree-lined pedestrian path.

Supported through a mix of private and public funding, with a significant contribution by the Kreielsheimer Foundation, Theater Commons transforms a surface parking lot and service road into green and multi-functional public space, with improved visibility to the theaters on both sides and better views into the heart of the Center. 

The central feature of the space, Donnelly Gardens, showcases Native adapted Cascadia plantings, complemented by a series of bio-retention ponds. Terraced seating and an impromptu performance space anchor the south end of the site, while a new pedestrian-friendly vehicle turnaround and accessible parking court creates a more hospitable – and dramatic – north entry. Creative garden lighting mimics the moon as a nod to evening activity in the area.

The Donnelly Gardens at Theater Commons honor civic arts leader Peter Donnelly. Commemorative signage dedicating the Donnelly Gardens is integrated into the south terrace steps. Until his death in March 2009, Donnelly was a passionate and visionary leader in the Seattle arts community for more than 45 years. He was the first managing director of the Seattle Repertory Theatre, which performed in the Intiman Playhouse before moving its current home. He led efforts to fund, design and build the Bagley Wright Theatre.

Theater Commons temporarily houses a visual and sound installation, Windfall, by artists/collaborators Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo. A thousand cast-iron wind chimes mounted in newly planted trees resonate, inviting visitors to enter and explore the space. Like the adjacent Gardens, Windfall honors Peter Donnelly. The installation will remain in Theater Commons until September 15, 2010.  It was commissioned with Seattle Center 1% for Art funds administered by the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.

Theater Commons is an first phase project of the Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, created by a 17-member citizens committee and adopted by Seattle City Council in 2008. The plan calls for almost $600 million in capital investment at Seattle Center over the next 20 years in support of the Center’s mission and goals to delight the human spirit and bring together our community. For more information on Theater Commons, the Century 21 Master Plan and all of the attractions, activities and spaces at Seattle Center, visit

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