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What should Seattle’s waterfront look like? Public event seeks ideas

Early concept of proposed Alaskan Way and the connection to Elliott Avenue and Western Avenue.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)
Early concept of proposed Alaskan Way and the connection to Elliott Avenue and Western Avenue.

With the Alaskan Way viaduct scheduled to be demolished in 2016, Seattle area residents are dreaming up possibilities for connecting the waterfront to the city. For decades, the viaduct has largely blocked Elliott Bay, unless you're driving on it or looking out of a high rise building. 

Tonight, you're invited to weigh in on what the city's shoreline should be. A redesign kickoff party is being held at the Seattle Aquarium from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Besides public input, the event will include a presentation by James Corner, lead designer of the project and principal of Field Operations in New York. Discussions will also incorporate ideas for the new Elliott Bay Seawall. Here are some options currently being floated:

  • build parks
  • add pedestrian and bike paths
  • install public art
  • continue streets that end at 1st Avenue all the way to the water
  • create beaches
  • restore salmon habitats
  • designate canoe and kayak launches

The final design for the waterfront is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. That's around the same time the SR 99 deep-bored tunnel would open, if the project goes through. As KPLU has reported, Mayor Mike McGinn and two voter initiatives oppose the tunnel, partly because it leaves Seattle on the hook for cost overruns. The city will also have to come up with money for parks and other surface improvements. Officials have proposed taxing property owners whose real estate value will likely increase once the viaduct is gone, reports Lynn Thompson of the Seattle Times. The taxes could bring in $225 million. McGinn has also proposed a property-tax hike to pay $241 million of the seawall replacement.

Ken Johnson, who is managing the waterfront redesign for the city, told Thompson the public has a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to have their say:

"This is meant to be very bold, very exciting, something that everyone can be proud of."

Thompson notes that the design-oversight committee isn't interested in hearing Disneyesque ideas, though:

"The waterfront should be a destination, not just for tourists," said Patrick Gordon, an architect who has overseen the design for the past two years.

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.