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Seattle Waterfront Project in Home Stretch

Doug Trumm

After years of construction disrupting the pace of Seattle’s waterfront, the long-awaited grand opening is finally on the horizon, with prominent civic figures poised to bask in the glory. During the Downtown Seattle Association's [DSA] annual "State of Downtown" event on March 7, the hot topic was the next Spring's debut of the revitalized downtown waterfront park.. Supporters anticipate that the new park, coupled with the Seattle Aquarium, will invigorate the local economy and serve as a major tourist hot spot once completed.

Featured speakers At the DSA event included Joy Shigaki, CEO of Friends of Waterfront Seattle, and Leslie Koch, representing donors for the Elliott Bay Connections project, a collaborative effort to expand park enhancements further north. Both extolled the transformative potential of the linear park, which will link with the upcoming Seattle Aquarium and Overlook Walk, connecting seamlessly to Pike Place Market. This pedestrian-friendly route, along with the new Marion Street overpass, offers an accessible pathway to enjoy the waterfront amenities without contending with the bustling Alaskan Way freight corridor.

“The Overlook Walk [is] the real sweet spot and a selfie spot that’s going to give you the experience of a 360-degree views, the same height as the viaduct, for those of you who are really missing those views driving during the morning,” Shigaki said. “People talk about that a lot.”

The ongoing development of the new waterfront is already yielding results. Pier 62 park opened its gates in 2020, while the revamped Colman Dock ferry terminal and adjacent Pioneer Square Beach Habitat debuted last year. Alaskan Way Boulevard, a fresh addition to the waterfront, and Elliott Way, a new four-lane Belltown connector, now welcome travelers, earning the honorary Lushootseed name "Dzidzilalich" from the City.

Pier 62, managed by Friends of Waterfront Park, offers an array of activities such as giant chess boards and mini soccer fields, alongside scheduled fitness classes, dance performances, and musical events throughout the year. “Over a million people have come to Pier 62, and it has been a reminder of how parks can be transformative that they’re made for and they make for dynamic, democratic cities,” Shigaki said.

Shigaki expressed gratitude to the assembled dignitaries from downtown businesses and nonprofits for enduring over a decade of construction disruptions. The realization of Seattle's new waterfront park required the dismantling of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a towering highway that once bore the weight of approximately 100,000 vehicles daily at its peak. The replacement involved excavating a nearly two-mile mega-tunnel beneath the city, a process prolonged by a three-year setback to repair a malfunctioning tunnel boring machine, then the world's largest.

“Nationally, we’re seeing this trend of reclaiming old infrastructure projects, highways, double-decker highways, railroads, to be able to reclaim the beauty of our cities from what they once were,” Shigaki said. “And Waterfront Park is going to be part of that renewal, but it’s going to be part of the revitalization and part of creating a place that everyone sees themselves in and memories to be created.”

Read full story on The Urbanist

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