Bellevue Downtown Park is a 20-acre (81,000 Sq mi) park located in the heart of downtown Bellevue, WA. The park was designed for passive and unstructured use, and as a "respite from the activities of busy urban life." The idea for a park in downtown Bellevue was created from civic and private leadership, which saw the City's potential for shaping its future during a time of rapid growth and development.
In the early 1980s, economic forces were rapidly influencing the character of downtown Bellevue. Its center was emerging as a hub for commercial and business activity, and the city was seen as a desirable residential community. In the middle of this dynamic period of growth, the City Council and community leaders saw the necessity of creating an amenity within the City which would help define its character and provide open space in an increasingly urban downtown core.
An international competition was conducted to select the design concept for Downtown Park. As a first step in formulating a competition program, a survey was distributed to 55,000 businesses and households asking what they envisioned in a downtown park. A majority of the 5,000 respondents indicated a preference for a pedestrian-oriented green space that would remain relatively free of buildings and special interest facilities. A total of 67 entries, each of whom paid $100 to enter the competition, were received from throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. These entries were judged by a jury consisting of local leaders, Bellevue staff, and the chairpersons of the University of Washington's School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
World War One Memorial
The trees located in the center of the park are a memorial to Eastside World War I veterans. On November 11, 1926, the Bellevue Minute Women and Bellevue School District dedicated the memorial. The original monument consisted of a plaque with the names of three men killed in the war, three elm trees, and a 48-star US flag flying on a 65-foot (20 m) pole. The flag pole is no longer present. In 2006, one elm tree died and was replaced after a severe windstorm. The City and private parties are working on plans to restore the aging monument.
Downtown Park utilized a unique funding mechanism, heavily reliant on donations from the community. It was important for the City of Bellevue to demonstrate visible progress on the park construction immediately. Because of this, the park was developed on a pay-as-you-go basis, with fundraising processes running parallel to construction.