The Big Garden

By Gene Duvernoy

Keeping this place we live a place that we love takes the skills of a master gardener.

The historic Wayne golf course is a 90-acre island of green in the heart of Bothell.
Photo by: Danny Ngan

Walk down any street in any town and ask the locals what defines their community. Most likely they will get it right—with far better odds than the guide books and apps.

In Seattle you’ll hear “Pike Place Market” nine out of 10 times. All the more stunning, then, that we almost lost it. Thirty years ago many people saw it as run-down and blighted and were ready to call in the bulldozers. What a relief that people like Victor Steinbrueck took a stand and not only saved the place, but pumped new life into it. Today not only is the Market the spirited center of downtown, but a powerful economic engine, too. And that will be even more so when the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down and the Market becomes the keystone of a revitalized waterfront.

In our Pacific Northwest, we take our land and landscapes seriously. We get that the consequences of a reckless land-use decision can reverberate for decades. We try to do things right.

It’s like gardening, but writ large. As a community we try to put the right kinds of things in the right part of the plot; everything where it can flourish best. We aim to cultivate a harmonious diversity rather than a drab monoculture. We try to create the conditions for long-term vitality.

Fuming gardeners. Sounds bucolic, right? Often not. Sometimes people don’t agree about how a piece of land could best be used. Visions clash. Tempers flare. Money becomes an issue. This is where Forterra steps into the garden. We’re practiced at getting people to talk and find shared values. And we’re accomplished in the art of the possible and reaching terms that everyone can feel good about.

Keystone lands. Over the last 25 years we’ve done 400 different land transactions. That adds up to 250,000 acres and $500 million in value. The projects range from the small to the large, from the spectacular to the hardly noticed. What they have in common is this: like the Pike Place Market, they help give a neighborhood or region its character, its definition, its organizing principle.

In Forterra’s early days, we were focused on big, iconic wild landscapes outside the cities. We make no bones about still caring about such places (see sidebar). But over time we’ve come to see that other lands undergird beauty and sustainability, too. That can mean working lands like family farms, or urban lands for parks, arts centers, community gathering places or even affordable housing. Like any ecosystem, like any garden, the parts thrive best when they thrive together.

Double keystone: parks and housing. Recently Forterra bought the Wayne Golf Course in Bothell. Working with local allies, we plan to turn it into a 90-acre urban park, replete with a stretch of the Sammamish River restored and alive with salmon. The park will undeniably be a keystone part of the emerging, dynamic, more urbanized Bothell, including a large concentration of affordable housing right in the downtown core—just minutes from the park on foot or bike via the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Think about it. That housing is just as much a keystone as the park, creating the basis for a strong, resilient, cohesive community where everyone, regardless of background, can find a home. When we find great lives in such vibrant urban communities, we can break our habit of encroaching into farms and wildlands. It’s a twofer.

This is why Forterra is starting to pursue property throughout Puget Sound that can be turned into graceful, affordable housing and other features characteristic of welcoming, inclusive neighborhoods. In this, we’re excited to be teaming with new partners like El Centro de la Raza.

Plaza Roberto Maestas, across the street from Seattle’s Beacon Hill Light Rail station, will feature 112 units of affordable housing, office/retail/restaurant space, classrooms, a community center and a Latino-style outdoor plaza. Forterra and nonprofit El Centro de la Raza plan to work together on similar future projects.
Plaza Roberto Maestas, across the street from Seattle’s Beacon Hill Light Rail station, will feature 112 units of affordable housing, office/retail/restaurant space,
classrooms, a community center and a Latino-style outdoor plaza. Forterra and nonprofit El Centro de la Raza plan to work together on similar future projects.

The great part about gardening is that each season you can get better. That’s what Forterra is striving for, together with people like you, in this glorious, complicated garden called the Pacific Northwest.

Join us. Bring your intelligence, your hope and your grit. Together we can help this place flourish for everyone.

 

Keystone Property

Teanaway Community Forest

Teanaway Community Forest

Protected with Forterra’s help in 2013, the Teanaway Community Forest is a stunning 50,241-acre landscape at the headwaters of the Yakima Basin watershed. The forest contains abundant hiking trails and nearly 400 miles of free-flowing streams and prime habitat for fish and wildlife. By safeguarding the area, farmers and ranchers will have a more dependable source of water as climate change advances.

Seattle Opera House Education Center

Seattle Opera House Education Center
Seattle Opera House Education Center

Committed to making urban parks like Seattle Center as interesting and magnetic as possible, Forterra has teamed with Seattle Opera to envision and secure property for a new building next to McCaw Hall. Swathed in soaring glass, it will house administrative offices and the costume shop as well as rehearsal space. In addition the Opera will use the space for education, dramatically increasing programs for diverse schoolkids from across the region.

Riverbend Farm

Riverbend Farm

In a back-from-the-brink save, Forterra kept a farm near Arlington from being turned into a suburban subdivision. Already a road had been paved and utilities installed. With Forterra’s action, the land will return to farming, and the development pressure lifted off neighboring berry and pumpkin farmers.

 

 

  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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