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Ballard Commons Park set to reopen after being closed for over a year

The park has been closed since December 2021, when city officials cleared a homeless encampment.

SEATTLE — Ballard Commons is set to reopen in early 2023, over a year after the city cleared out a homeless encampment at the park. 

Seattle Council Member Dan Strauss, who represents District Six, said the park is scheduled for a grand re-opening sometime in the first quarter of 2023. 

"While I wanted to reopen the park sooner, some important work had not been completed in time for a summer reopening, and I am excited the planning for the grand reopening has begun," Strauss wrote in an update published in December 2022. 

Ballard Commons has been closed since December 2021, when the City of Seattle conducted a homeless encampment sweep. The sweep came after neighbors and businesses nearby voiced their frustrations about safety concerns.

"We don't want to see the homeless encampments, but we also don't want to take away things from our kids," said Chris Poetter, media director for Katsu Burger which is one block away from the park. 

Poetter said he doesn't believe the encampment removal has made the neighborhood much safer, but he has noticed a drop in visitors. 

"The foot traffic just kind of disappeared," Poetter said. "You know we would see families walking their kids, going to the park, stopping by and it just seemed like no one's around." 

The city offered temporary housing for the people at the encampment. Since then, the park has been fenced off as the city worked to make improvements.

"Success is not clearing a park," Strauss said. "Success is getting people inside, success is changing the way our neighborhood looks feels, and operates. I’ve long said that our parks, our libraries, and our buses should not be homeless shelters because we need shelters and housing operating at the scale of our crisis. We need real, lasting solutions tailored to move people inside and, once there, stay on a path toward permanent housing. This is one of my top goals as a City Councilmember, and I am proud to be working with so many different entities to lead this work."

Strauss said there will be an activation plan when the park reopens, to allow everyone to enjoy the park again.

"It was important for the park to take time to breathe, deferred maintenance attended to, and improvements made because we needed to have a clean break from how things have been so that we can build the future we want the park to have," Strauss said. 

Strauss referenced a study conducted by UW that showed having adequate amounts of housing in the city does not solve homelessness completely, but it can reduce homelessness fivefold. Strauss said 2021 was the first year we met the city's benchmark of funding affordable housing at $200 million per year. The city invested another $250 million into affordable housing in 2022, Strauss said. 

He said he doesn't expect that another encampment will pop up in the park once it reopens, but if one does, the city's United Care Team will notify people they cannot camp there and give them other places to access shelter.

There are also talks of putting a playground at the park and redeveloping nearby St. Luke's Episcopal Church into family affordable housing, according to officials.


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