By Kate Snyder
After years of planning, one corner of Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood finally received the upgrade that the site’s owners have been working on for more than a decade. The Mini Mart City Park is a former gas station site turned into a hub for art events and community gatherings. Designed by Seattle-based GO’C, the project received a 2022 Honor Award from the Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, which commended the design team for “creating an architecture that amplifies community and ecological agency.”
Located at 6525 Ellis Avenue South, the site was formerly a 1930s-era, 450 square foot filling station, according to information from GO’C. SuttonBeresCuller, an artist collective based in Seattle, formed the Mini Mart City Park nonprofit organization and purchased the site in 2013 with the idea to turn the property into a park. Plans at that point were developed for a new 1,500 square foot building and 3,000 square foot park.
Based in Seattle, GO’C is an architecture and design studio “inspired by the interplay of rational design and artistic expression,” according to the firm’s website. SuttonBeresCuller was founded by John Sutton, Ben Beres and Zac Culler who have worked collaboratively since 2000, according to the group’s website.
Alongside GO’C and SuttonBeresCuller, the project’s development team also included Métis Construction as the contractor and J Welch Engineering as the structural and civil engineer. The lighting designer was Fixture Studio.
Through the design, the property functions in three primary spaces – a gallery and community center at the front of the building and a storage and utility box at the back of the building with an open-air courtyard in the middle, according to GO’C. The courtyard serves as a multi-functional exterior space for large-scale art installations, movie night gatherings and loading access for the main gallery as well as merges the site’s building and park areas. A 1,000 square foot rooftop level is also designed to provide an elevated space for small gatherings surrounded by drought tolerant sedums, grasses and solar panels.
References to the site’s history as a gas station were also included in the design from the project’s early stages. These elements were incorporated as painted clapboard siding, a large overhanging roof protecting the forecourt, hand-painted signage and divided metal windows associated with old storefronts.
“These are a nod to the past, albeit a transformed past: a new type of filling station–one dedicated to serving art, community and civic engagement,” GO’C’s website states.
The property’s main art gallery space includes a large pivoting window along the south gallery wall that provides a connection to the park and serves as a cafe window during events. The gallery’s exposed wood rafters filter light into the space via a skylight, and the kitchen is tucked into the cabinet wall along the back corner and opens directly to the courtyard through a large window wall.
Below the park and building footprint is a remediation system – including air sparging and soil vapor extraction – that was integrated to clean the residual contaminants from the site’s previous use. Through a display in the utility room, visitors can view the system’s control station and learn more about improving and rebuilding on similar types of sites.
“With over 700 derelict gas stations in the Puget Sound region and over 200,000 nationwide, the project explores the potential of art and architecture as a way to heal an urban problem while simultaneously creating a shared, multi-use culture and community space,” GO’C’s website states.