By Jack Stubbs
Changes are coming to Seattle’s waterfront.
On December 4th, construction on Pier 62 Rebuild project began, signaling the official commencement of the Waterfront Seattle Program, which will transform the city’s waterfront on the edge of Elliott Bay and capitalize on the planned removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the rebuild of the Elliott Bay Seawall. The rebuild project—which will enhance the public space, provide easier access to the waterfront and help support the marine environment—is expected to be completed in late 2019.
The rebuild is part of the The Waterfront Seattle Program, which spans the waterfront from Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood to Belltown. The program—which is comprised of a variety of projects—includes the creation of twenty acres of new and improved public space, improved connections between central city neighborhoods and Elliott Bay and new utility infrastructure, according to Waterfront Seattle’s web site.
The Waterfront Seattle Program also includes the rebuild of the Marion Street Bridge; the construction of Overlook Walk, a public pathway connecting the waterfront to Pike Place market; the Pike/Pine Renaissance Project, a revamping of the prominent Pike/Pine corridor in downtown Seattle; the restoration and reinstallation of the historic Washington Street Boat Landing (WSBL) Pergola; and the Seawall Project, a replacement and renovation of the aging seawall along the waterfront. The larger Waterfront Seattle Program has a potential completion date of early 2023.
The Pier 62 Rebuild groundbreaking marks the first step in its evolution and also signals a milestone for Waterfront Seattle, according to Marshall Foster, director of the office of the waterfront management team. “[We] set out to create a waterfront with a public park as its focus, and we’ve stayed true to that commitment,” he said. The rebuilt public park will be one of the first projects open to the public.
As part of the project plans, Waterfront Seattle will replace the aging wooden support piles with steel ones and will also replace the old timber deck with a textured concrete platform—two alterations that will improve the structural safety and integrity of the pier and the marine habitat below. Additionally, Waterfront Seattle will install a new railing, build a floating dock for public use, add utilities to support public events and install solar-powered LED lighting into the deck.
According to Foster, one of the core elements of the rebuild project is that it will become a flexible public space for the community to enjoy. “The Pier 62 Rebuild will bring back this treasured public park space for the community,” he said. “The project will enhance the public space…and allow us to once again host public events on the pier,” he added. The rebuilt pier will become a central gathering place, with views of the adjacent Elliott Bay, the Olympics and the Seattle skyline. Other features of the flexible public space include public art—a commission from artist Stephen Vitiello—and a floating dock, which will allow visitors closer access to Elliott Bay.
Another central considerations of the rebuild is the preservation of the marine habitat, according to the project web site. When Seattle’s waterfront was developed, many of the habitat features associated with the native intertidal habitat were lost—infrastructural changes are geared at supporting marine plant life. The project plans include the addition of light-penetrating grating into the deck, which will increase sunlight access to the water below. The Pier 62 Rebuild project will add to benefits implemented in the Seawall Project, which improved habitat features for marine life.
Waterfront Seattle is led by the City of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront and works closely with civic leaders, stakeholders and the broader Seattle public to create a “Waterfront for All,” according to the organization’s web site. The project was aided by non-profit organization, “Friends of Waterfront Seattle,” which raised $8 million to support the renovation, and will play an active role once the Pier is complete.
The Waterfront Seattle Program will take place in phases and includes various partners for each individual project. The rebuild is a multi-faceted project that required collaborative engagement at every step of the process, according to Foster. “[The project] is an excellent example of multiple public agencies joining forces with private philanthropy to work for the public good,” he said.
The recent groundbreaking comes after roughly five years of community engagement and planning, marking the latest chapter in a much longer saga. In July 2012, Waterfront Seattle presented both its Design Summary and Strategic Plan for the Waterfront Program to the Mayor of Seattle and the City Council for review. In July 2016, the organization presented its updated project plans for the Pier 62 Rebuild project to the Seattle Design Commission.
The recent groundbreaking on the pier is only the beginning of Waterfront Seattle’s larger objectives planned for the edge of Elliott Bay, according to Foster. “The start of construction on Pier 62 means Waterfront Seattle’s vision is becoming a reality,” he said. “This is the first of many improvements we’re breaking ground on, and it will be the first piece of the new waterfront to open to the public.”