Seattle will transform its waterfront with sweeping project when viaduct comes down

SEATTLE — Once the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down, an ambitious, sweeping project to create a new Seattle waterfront will begin.

An elevated walkway will guide pedestrians from Pike Place Market to the water, and parks and open walkways will take the place of the elevated roadway.

Linda Mitchell, who’s lived a couple of blocks from the waterfront since 2004, is looking forward to a lot of improvements in her backyard.

“The waterfront is going to be so amazing,” she said. “I’m looking forward to big sidewalks and lots of greenery and parks, and just a real strong connection to the city. I’ll take my dogs there and we’ll walk there every day.”

In addition to a WSDOT renovation project at Colman Dock, depicted in a video from the Downtown Seattle Association, more than $700 million will be spent transforming the rest of the waterfront.
Work is already underway rebuilding Pier 62 with solar-powered LED lights, space to host events and a floating dock next to it.

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“I remember going to concerts on the pier back in the day and we haven't had that for so many years,” Randy Hurlow said.

Hurlow has lived downtown for 25 years and his balconies will finally have a waterfront view when the Seneca Street off-ramp comes down.

“For me, the most exciting parts are: one, connecting the waterfront to the rest of downtown, which we haven't had for 60 years,” he said, “(and) two, the connection to Pike Place Market.”

Pike Place Market is currently separate from the waterfront; people need to take stairs or an elevator and cross the street to get to the water. But a part of the waterfront project called Overlook Walk would create a sweeping walkway from the market over the ground-level Alaskan Way and allow people to walk down to the promenade.

KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked Mary Bacarella, executive director of Pike Place Market, how it feels to be embarking on this waterfront transformation, with Overlook Walk in the center.

“It’s amazing,” Bacarella said. “It’s going to be expansive. It’s going to be the entrance to the waterfront.”

The market has 15 million visitors a year, all of whom will now be able to walk down to the promenade or up from their cruise ships with ease.

“The downtown of our city will all connect together,” she said. “The flow will now go both ways, and it’ll just be easier for all of us to conduct our business and enjoy this part of the city.”

Overlook Walk would flow onto the roof of the Seattle Aquarium's proposed Ocean Pavilion, which would include a 300,000-plus gallon tank viewable from outside.

It will transform the face of our city, Mayor Jenny Durkan said, creating an iconic “front porch.”

“I really believe, decades from now, people will look back at this being one of the most important things Seattle's done,” she said.

Durkan pointed out the quiet in the area now that the viaduct has been closed. She said the quiet and the parks will attract more people, rather than vehicles.

“It’s not just a place that is locked away for the people who happen to be lucky enough to live and work there,” she said. “It really is for all of Seattle and for the people who visit people of Seattle.”

“How do you make sure it’s for all of Seattle?” Sheldon asked.

“I think one is, you’ve got to make it accessible, so we’re going to work really hard to make sure that everybody can get here. So we’re going to improve transit in and out of Seattle, not just with light rail, but making sure people can get there,” Durkan said. “I think having events that are accessible and not out of a price range and just making it a place where people want to be.”

The work will be funded through a combination of private donations, public money and a waterfront tax on commercial and residential property owners.

Mitchell looks forward to a new view, though she admits there will be a lot of construction before she can finally see it.

“It’s just a sea change for the city of Seattle,” she said.

Click here for the latest information on Seattle's Waterfront.