Established in 2012, UpGarden is a verdant oasis in the densely urban neighborhood of lower Queen Anne. Seattle Center, in partnership with the Department of Neighborhoods, designated half of the Mercer Garage rooftop as an experimental site for rooftop gardening. Members of the community worked with landscape architects Eric Higbee and Nicole Kistler (of Kistler Higbee Cahoot) to transform the concrete roof into a sustainable, regenerative space for the neighborhood. The design was generated through three community workshops where community members discussed, refined, and prioritized their goals for the garden.
UpGarden is home to 86 plots over 25,000 square feet of concrete. A vintage Airstream trailer stands in for a tool shed; an iridescent purple 1963 Ford Galaxie is filled with plants where the seats used to be. The car is parked at the foot of the Giving Garden, which donates hundreds of pounds of produce to local food banks each year.
Beehives, birdhouses, and pollinator beds attract bees, birds, and other creatures to the roof. Open lawn space doubles as a gathering area for students from local schools, picnickers, or garden workshops.
In October 2019, we received an eviction notice: UpGarden would be replaced with parking spaces for the nearby arena the following winter. We quickly organized a “Save UpGarden” campaign, with lots of support from the community. Our Change.org petition received 1,500+ signatures!
Newly elected District 7 Councilmember Andrew Lewis opted to be sworn into office at the UpGarden on December 31st. There he announced an agreement with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Deputy Mayor Mike Fong to keep UpGarden in place. We were thrilled this neighborhood green space won out over parking spaces.
The UpGarden will remain as a public gardening space until the Mercer Garage is redeveloped as part of the Seattle Center Master Plan. At that point, the community hopes to find a more permanent P-Patch location in the surrounding neighborhood.
In the meantime, the garden has undergone a transformation during the renovation of the garage. Thanks to a Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) grant awarded in 2021, volunteers worked together in rebuilding our plot walls to stop soil from leaching away with the rain water, restored the beds lost during construction and introduced shade and seating areas for the enjoyment of our members and Uptown neighbors.
This time lapse video captured the spring cleaning efforts before the re-dedication ceremony in August 2021.