Seattle's Billion Dollar Gamechanger
The waterfront project is one of the most significant changes—if not the most—we'll see in Downtown Seattle during our generation. (At least since the grunge movement.) By the end of the decade, the $1.1B buildout will connect Downtown to Elliot Bay, fundamentally transforming the urban core, according to the panelists yesterday at Bisnow’s Future of the Waterfront event.
The project's impact will be measured in decades, the panelists told the crowd of 350 at the Four Seasons Seattle, because it’ll go a long way toward correcting a deficiency in our city, which hasn't ever had a central park the way a lot of American cities do. (Once you get a central park, Paul Simon magically appears to play there for free.) Though taking inspiration from other places, such as NYC’s High Line park, the new waterfront will feel like the Pacific Northwest. And it won’t be long before the project will be advanced enough for that feeling to come into resolution: 2017 or ’18 at the latest.
Friends of the Waterfront executive director Heidi Hughes says that the next big step for the Friends is a capital campaign to raise $80M to $100M. The org is also busy raising public awareness about the redevelopment and what it’s going to mean for Seattleites and visitors alike. Recently, it opened a space at the base of the steps at the Four Seasons, where the public can learn about the project and events can be held. “We want the waterfront to be alive and inviting and part of people’s everyday life,” she says.
All together, the redevelopment has a high price tag, says Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront manager of design, planning, and public engagement Marshall Foster. The demolition of the seawall, rebuilding Alaskan Way, and the public space elements will total about $1.1B. That’s a doable amount because funding is a leverage of public, private, and philanthropic efforts, such as seawall bond measure, the state’s commitment, and a local improvement district, which is just getting underway with a target of $200M to $300M. Major philanthropy, to the tune of $80M to $120M, will burnish the quality of the public spaces. (If we had to write a thank you note to our grandma for a five dollar birthday check, what do we have to do for someone who donates that much?) The key is that all the of funding components work together.
According to Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority executive director Ben Franz-Knight, the work underway at Pike Place now is a completion of a vision set out for the neighborhood in 1973, but with broad constituent input from our own time. (If it were only ideas from 1973, it would include a statue to McMillan & Wife.) The main thing missing over the years was funding, and now that’s in place. “The waterfront is about connecting the waterfront to Downtown, and Pike Market will be a critical node,” he says. The waterfront will not only be known for its public spaces, but for the economic development opportunities it creates, with about 10 million visitors a year. “It’s a powerful economic engine that will pay dividends for decades to come,” he predicts.
Miller Hull founding partner David Miller, lead designer of the Pike Place expansion, says the design was a complicated process, but it’s come together. Ultimately, maintaining the treasured views from the market proved critical, yet doable, since Miller Hull was able to sculpt the plan so the views wouldn't be disrupted. The waterfront entrance project is over an acre, including retail, parking, social services, and low-income housing. There will be over 30k SF of open public space, and the views will be even better from the rooftop terraces, he says.
Cairncross & Hempelmann partner Matt Hanna, who moderated the panel, is also Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority committee chair. Stay tuned for more coverage of our event next week.