Post Alley Park has become an inviting space for everyone
How a nearby brewery owner became the manager of a long forgotten lot
Charles Finkel calls himself the “Park Czar.” He establishes rules for Post Alley Park, and there’s only one posted rule: no smoking. The tiny signs in the park behind Pike Brewing Company remind visitors of that simple rule.
“Every day we come through here and pick up cigarette butts,” he says. “Even though [smoking is] not allowed. As you can tell, it’s pretty clean here.”
Finkel likes things clean. He mentions time and time again that Pike Brewing Co. is “spotless” and “hygienic” and he’s proud of that. That same thinking works its way into how he maintains Post Alley Park. Finkel trims all the trees, he weeds and plants new flowers when they’re dying. He and his wife Rose Ann are in charge of this park.
Post Alley Park is small, modest lot opposite Pike Brewing Co.’s loading zone and rear entrance. It’s a pocket of green space in an area built with brick, cobblestone and a wall of gum. For years, Finkel would look out and see promise of what could be: a safe, clean space for visitors, nearby residents and his employees could visit to take a break.
Instead, he saw a dirty vacant lot locked behind a gate.
“We sold Pike Brewing Co. in 1997 and my wife and I took an eight-year sabbatical,” Finkel says. “When we returned from our sabbatical to repurchase the brewery, this park was locked, rusted, dented, full of trash, ugly and not a nice thing for the neighborhood.”
Finkel discovered that Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), which provides long-term affordable housing to thousands of Seattle residents, owns the park and the residential Ross Manor. He believed this park could provide value to the residents and people walking by, he says.
“There’s no financial gain. This has nothing to do with the brewery,” Finkel says. “We don’t serve beer here – we don’t serve anything here. It’s just a public park that we maintain.”
Finally, after years of negotiating with SHA and the City of Seattle, Finkel got his way. Through a public-private partnership with SHA, Finkel now manages Post Alley Park.
Finkel and his crew open the gates every morning at 9 and close them at dusk. It’s now a public space, open for everyone to enjoy.
Public-private partnerships are long-term contracts between a government entity
and a private organization. The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) and its partners are engaged in a public-private partnership to activate Westlake Park and Occidental Square.
Private organizations (DSA, Finkel and company) bring their expertise, time and dedication in an effort to improve public spaces.
With Post Alley, SHA agreed to invest some money in infrastructure and installed security cameras, which they monitor. There hasn’t been a problem.
Finkel hopes the model put in place between him and the SHA can serve as inspiration for other public-private partnerships.
These partnerships provide benefits to the community in obvious ways. Instead of a vacant lot or a transient park, people are enjoying public spaces that are cared for on a deeper level. As mentioned before, there’s no fiduciary gain in managing Post Alley Park. Finkel manages the park because he cares. He wants his customers and his community to have a place to go.
“A lot of people live in this area,” he says. “Increasingly people live downtown. To have a park in an urban environment, even a small park like this, is very meaningful. I personally would not be happy in my life without a garden.”
People come to these spaces as a small oasis during their busy days to read a book, eat their lunch and get away.