For most of the year, a 4,500-square-foot plot at the corner of 19th Avenue and East Madison Street sits vacant, awaiting a future as a park still years in the offing.

But for one night, visions of the future green space came to life, as part of an open house that invited nearby residents out for an evening of ambition, as neighbors hope to make the lot a compelling locale in the coming years.

The event last Tuesday evening gave residents the opportunity to see the latest designs for the park, meet the designer, and learn about the project’s progress.

“It really feels like we’re at that last stage,” said Scott Daniels of the project’s steering committee. “All we have to do now is get the money.”

The mostly notable change was the completion of a mural running along the back wall that separates the park from the Hearing, Speech, and Deafness Center. In honor of the legacy of the park’s namesakes — Horace and Susie Revels Cayton, who lived in the neighborhood from the late 1880s to 1940 and published several local newspapers. According to Daniels, that art will likely remain there for two to three years, depending on how long it will take to complete the project.

Karen Portzer is leading the fundraising effort for the campaign, and stressed the importance of having a park in the area as nearby blocks are snapped up by construction projects.

“Basically, because the area’s changing and getting built up and everything, it’s nice to have a little bit of open space in the area,” she said.

Pam Kliment, a planner with Seattle Parks & Recreation, serves as a liaison between the city, and the community working to establish parks that are funded partially with neighborhood matching funds.

While the parks department monitors the progress of the project, Kliment was quick to note that the organization’s role is not as the driver of the project.

“This is community-led, and parks supported,” she said.

Thus far, that support has come in the form of a trio of $25,000 Small and Simple Grants. Right now, the project is currently in the later phases of the application process for a Neighborhood Park & Street Fund grant. In total, the project will run somewhere between $250,000 and $300,000, according to Allison Vasallo, another steering committee member.

The most recent grant will go toward the preparation of construction documents as the park’s design is refined and finalized.

Vasallo said the open house was an important milestone after receiving community input throughout the design process.

“They got very involved, people had strong opinions on how they wanted the park to go about, and the design we have on display today is kind of the culmination of all that input,” she said.

Portzer said it would be hard to put a hard figure on the total number of people in the community that have contributed in some way thus far.

“It’s not like you just have one person, and they run with it,” she said.

However, Kliment noted that as the project moves further along, and changes to the land become more tangible, people become increasingly interested in latching on to the effort. That’s something she sees in this effort.

“You know sometimes when things are going well when people start to join,” Kliment said. “People don’t like to join something that’s not doing well.”

Drew Coombs of J.A. Brennan Associates has served as landscape architect on the project. After engaging with local residents earlier in the design phase, he said that people were looking for a place to gather, along with a small area for children to play.  

“It’s not a huge park, so we can’t introduce an extensive play element, we don’t have enough area,” he said. “But we want to ensure that we’re providing an opportunity for people to maybe meet, maybe gather, a hangout space.”

With both Lighthouse for the Blind, and the Hearing, Speech, and Deafness Center nearby, accessibility for those user groups also meant taking into account aspects of design like the path of the sidewalk, and limiting potential intrusions into the walkway.

Moving forward, the project is expected to be constructed in three phases. In 2016, organizers plan to use the Neighborhood Park & Street Fund for 19th Avenue sidewalk improvements. In 2017, they hope to use a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant along with public support for the remaining design and construction. The final phase, scheduled for 2018, would have planners working in conjunction with the Seattle Department of Transportation on the Madison Bus Rapid Transit project to make further improvements of the right of way along East Madison Street.

While Vasallo admits that the timeline for the project hasn’t been the quickest, she’s happy with the point they’re at currently.

“It’s slow going, but I think that’s how all parks seem to be,” Vasallo said. “Working with all my neighbors and other volunteers, I think we’ve made a lot of progress.”