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Seattle City Council approves Seattle Asian Art Museum expansion

The art deco building is getting upgrades—and the museum is getting more space

A stone, Art Deco building with a central, rounded bay with three vertical stained-glass windows. There’s landscaping in the front around a sign that says “SAM ASIAN ART MUSEUM.” Max Herman/Shutterstock

A planned renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, located in Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park, can move forward after gaining unanimous approval from the Seattle City Council on Monday afternoon.

Plans for the art deco building, which was initially built in 1933 (and still has the original heating system), include seismic upgrades, a new HVAC system with cooling and humidity controls, a loading dock, and the freight elevator, for the safety of both the museum’s visitors and its art. The museum’s expansion will include new space for galleries, offices, meetings, and studios.

The whole renovation will cost $54 million, with $21 million coming from the city. The museum’s $33 million will be helped along by federal historic building tax credits and fundraising.

The project has been in the works for years, with a group called Protect Volunteer Park taking issue with the plan to expand the museum’s footprint, claiming it will disrupt the views and original vision of the Olmsted park. By the end of the process, though, the group seemed resigned, with one spokesperson telling the Seattle Times it was a “done deal.”

3,600 square feet of the planned 13,650-square-foot expansion will stretch eastward into park land.

In exchange for a new 55-year lease on the property and some zoning exemptions—technically, Volunteer Park is zoned single family—the museum will provide an estimated $338,725 in public benefits. That includes donation-based admission and signs clearly instructing that donations of any amount grant entry, plus a four free days each month. The museum is also subject to some benchmarks, like hours of operation and outreach programs.

Construction is anticipated to start in February.

Volunteer Park

1247 15th Avenue East, , WA 98112 (206) 684-4075 Visit Website

Seattle Asian Art Museum

1400 E Prospect St, Seattle, WA 98112 Visit Website