By Jack Stubbs
As the Puget Sound region continues to expand and cities continue to evolve with current and underway developments, project teams are increasingly looking to leverage existing infrastructure to create new community-oriented assets.
The same might be said of the in-the-works Grand Avenue Park Bridge Project along the waterfront in Everett, which is Snohomish County’s largest city. The project, on which construction was originally started in summer 2017, began as an infrastructure project but then became a way for the city to provide pedestrian access from Grand Avenue Park to the waterfront, according to Stephen Van Dyck, partner at LMN Architects, who is designing the project. “It started as a utility project since the city of Everett basically needed to connect a sewer and water system from the Grand Avenue Park bluff. [But] the city realized that with a little extra work, they could also bring people across to the waterfront, and that was a big discovery for them,” Van Dyck said.
Along with LMN Architects, the team for the project also includes KPFF, McMillen Jacobs Associates, Stantec, Tres West Engineers, The Greenbusch Group, Landau Associates, HWA GeoSciences, Ott Consultants, KBA and the City of Everett Parks & Recreation.
Construction on the $19.3 million project is expected to be complete in late 2019, and the 275-foot pedestrian bridge will ultimately connect the Grand Avenue Park bluff near 16th St. with a land pointing point on the Port of Everett’s property. The bridge will cross the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad right-of-way and State Route 529, and will also entail certain infrastructural challenges, such as carrying storm drainage and sewer pipelines across a steep slope below the pedestrian bridge itself.
And while the Grand Avenue Park Bridge Project did entail certain infrastructure-related challenges, the project team saw it as a prominent opportunity to create a more positive experience for pedestrians along the waterfront, according to Van Dyck. “We discovered the opportunity to be a bit more inventive with it and solve some of the construction complexities,” he said. “There was a big savings with this project and at the same time it opened up a much more exciting pedestrian experience.”
The materials used for the steel truss of the bridge frame, which will look to preserve views of the Possession Sound and the Olympic Mountains, reflect the history of the surrounding area, according to Van Dyck. “The materials are cost-effective but also referential to a lot of the historic structures around the railroads with an industrial aesthetic,” he said. The design team also created custom-designed aluminum panels that will serve as safety rails.
More contemporarily, the new construction project comes at a time when Everett, like other cities, should be striving to successfully leverage existing infrastructure with new developments, according to Dan Eernissee, economic development director with the city of Everett. “In my opinion, what the city of Everett should be doing is providing the infrastructure for all kinds of development to occur…but the ingenuity of bringing all theses different agencies together to look at this community need that we’ve been talking about for a long time takes a lot of work,” he said.
In terms of the immediate area around Everett’s waterfront, the hope is that the bridge will in the longer-term serve as a template for how positive development can occur, according to Van Dyck. “There’s a huge amount of development that’s happening on the waterfront over the next 10 years or so, and in order to bring all the infrastructure there, the city wanted to connect it via a bridge.”
The Port of Everett, also is looking to capitalize on changes occurring along the waterfront, according to Port of Everett acting CEO Lisa Lefeber. “The Port is in the midst of waterfront redevelopment and creating a neighborhood down there which is a mixed-use development of residential housing, restaurants, public access, spaces and so forth,” Lefeber said. “The opportunity have connectivity between the bluff and the waterfront will enhance that neighborhood.”
The need for more pedestrian-oriented projects has become more acute in recent times, especially as cities like Everett continue to densify, according to Van Dyck. “The project is connecting neighborhoods that are becoming more dense, which is something that we’re seeing. Even in places like Everett, which is still a very vehicular- and car-based city, people still want and expect pedestrian life,” he said. “As the waterfront develops, integrating the needs of development—which can be as simple as bringing water and sewage lines to those neighborhoods while at the same time making pedestrian upgrades—is a win-win.”
The Grand Avenue bridge will look to capitalize on other developments currently occurring along the waterfront, according to Eernissee. “The project is coinciding really well with the improvements that the Port of Everett is making to connect really dynamic single-family neighborhoods,” he said. One such example is the Port’s underway Waterfront Place Central project, which is another pedestrian-oriented project that will look to provide increased economic opportunity along the waterfront.
When fully realized, the 65-acre Waterfront Place project—which will require $85 million in public upland infrastructure from the Port and $550 million in private investment, according to the Port’s web site—is expected to support 2,075 family-wage jobs and private development will generate $8.6 million annually in state and local sales taxes. The mixed-use project, which is scheduled to be complete in mid-2020, will include up to 660 units of condo and apartment housing, a 142-room waterfront hotel, 400,000 square feet of office and commercial space, 60,000 square feet of retail and 3,200 surface parking stalls.
According to Eernissee, projects like the Everett Grand Ave Bridge and Waterfront Place are occurring more broadly throughout the region as greater consideration is given to how to leverage the potential of infrastructure projects. “The redevelopment of the Viaduct in Seattle is a similar kind of project in terms of how we can shape of city by connecting things given a real need for infrastructure and improvement,” Eernissee said. “[The question is how] we can not only provide infrastructure but also make the project something that other people can enjoy and build on,” he said.
The waterfront along Elliott Bay in Seattle is set for large-scale changes in the coming months as a result of Waterfront Seattle’s $688 redevelopment project, which will occur after the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2019. The 20-acre revitalization project includes new and improved public space, improved pedestrian and vehicular connections between Elliott Bay and surrounding neighborhoods; renovated utility infrastructure and new surface streets along Alaskan Way and Elliott Way.
In an increasingly interconnected region, projects like the Grand Avenue Bridge are representative of the fact that greater collaboration between public and private entities is needed to turn these redevelopment opportunities into a reality, according to Van Dyck. “This idea of strategic partnership and finding opportunities to bring different departmental needs within cities together to solve much bigger problems and provide much broader community benefits is something we see with a lot of projects,” he said.
From a practical standpoint, the infrastructural challenges presented by the Grand Avenue Bridge represented a unique opportunity for the city of Everett to put itself more on the map, according to Eernissee, who emphasized how funding for the project was one of the primary considerations throughout. “Everett’s waterfront and single-family areas in North Everett, especially, are an especially well-kept secret. I think it’s actually an undervalued asset, [so] this project will hopefully be one more reason why people will be discovering and investing in Everett,” he said. “The public sector only has so many resources and they have to maximized for the good of the most.”
In the wider regional and national context, considerations around design are becoming increasingly tied to infrastructure- and budget-related concerns—something that bodes well for a growing region like the Pacific Northwest in the longer-term, according to Van Dyck. “We are seeing a new vanguard of civic leadership in Seattle and throughout North America that is more aware. I think we’re seeing more commitment to design being really intertwined in public leadership,” he said. “Unfortunately, sometimes these efforts are lost in budget problems and schedules, but when they’re done well, these projects can provide a much broader benefit to the community, which is where leadership across these cities like Everett and Seattle are looking right now…I think we are a bit of a laboratory here in the Pacific Northwest; it’s a real sea-change of how the region has latched onto high design being a critical part of the cities and their future needs.”