By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s Pier 58 made headlines several weeks ago when part of the aging structure collapsed, injuring two construction workers. As the City works to remove Pier 58—also currently known as Waterfront Park—it is ploughing ahead with the design phase of the project. The design of the new Pier 58 will continue to build upon Seattle’s theme “Waterfront for All,” with a specific emphasis on improving community access and use.
“Pier 58 is was built in 1974 and is owned by Seattle Parks and Recreation. It has always been a park where the public can view Elliott Bay and enjoy the waterfront. It is also right between two well-known attractions, the Seattle Aquarium to the north and Miner’s Landing (and more recently their Great Wheel) to the south,” explained Director of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects, Marshall Foster. “…Our community has shared that they want connection to Elliott Bay, great views and great public spaces. Pier 58 provides all of those features, with a particular focus on making the pier more accessible for everyone and creating an inviting space for families.”
Design schemes and plans for Pier 58 center around several elements. The pier itself will feature flexible programming, including an elevated seating are and lawn for leisurely activity, and a viewing area that will provide large, expansive sidelines to the Bay and Olympic Mountains. The existing Fitzgerald Fountain will be restored an integrated into the new pier, as will a plaza and event space. The space will host concerts, outdoor movies and other seasonal activities. A play area specifically designed for children and families will also be added, but is still under development.
“I’m especially excited to have a playground at Pier 58 – to help families have more reasons to spend time on the waterfront,” said Foster, who noted that the playground is his favorite feature of the project.
A new, permanent art installation by local artist and Puyallup Tribe member Qwalsius-Shaun Peterson will greet visitors on the promenade and act as a focal point. Called “Family,” the artwork will be composed of three figures that will look out over the pier and water towards the Kitsap Peninsula, where Chief Seattle is buried. Peterson was chosen by an 11-member panel made up of local and regional Indigenous tribes and representatives of Urban Indians. The ultimate goal of the art piece is to remind the viewer that the waterfront is still Indigenous land.
A number of habitat improvements, such as an open area above the intertidal zones will provide additional light to the nearshore habitat, aiding in the growth of aquatic plants and migration of fish. The pier will also be reshaped to open an additional migration corridor for marine life.
Unfortunately for the public, Pier 58’s structure deteriorated more rapidly than first predicted, and Seattle Parks and Recreation closed the pier in August. Shortly thereafter, crews began removing the pier from the waterside; just several weeks later, a portion of the pier collapsed, injuring two construction workers. City officials estimate that the pier’s removal process will be completed by early next year, and the City hired Orion Marine Contractors—who is also working on SDOT’s Fairview Ave. N Bridge Replacement and the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 Modernization project—to perform the removal. The City plans to pay Orion $4.3 million for the emergency work.
“We have a great team and we are continuing to monitor the pier closely. Our top priorities continue to be public safety, the safety of our construction team and protecting critical infrastructure,” stated Foster.
Foster continued, adding, “Most of our projects are well into design or moving toward construction. We will keep things moving forward while of course keeping safety top of mind as we always do.”
Currently, the design of the Pier 58 replacement is nearing its 60 percent milestone, with submittal scheduled for later this fall. Construction of the new pier isn’t expected to start until 2022 and will take about two years to complete.
The project is part of an extended initiative to revamp Seattle’s aging waterfront through a number of redevelopments and projects spanning from Century Link Field to Bell Street. Most recently, Pier 62, just north of the Aquarium, opened to the public. The pier was redesigned to operate as a 40,000 square foot flexible park space. Features like the “Land Buoy Bells” uses industrial materials and steel tank ends to make a set of five instruments driven by the rise and fall of the waters around the floating dock. The City is also nearing its completion of the Alaskan Way rebuild from South King to Pike Streets. Spanning 17 blocks, the rebuild will provide connections to park spaces, restaurants, stores and neighborhoods, raised street crossings and more than 500 new trees. Its completion will mark another major milestone in the City’s efforts to reconnect Seattle to the waterfront after the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.