What’s New With Seattle’s Waterfront

“A city [is] remaking itself,” says the City of Seattle’s Marshall Foster

Picture Seattle. Are you thinking about waterfront landmarks such as Pike Place Market or the Great Wheel? Hold on to this image, because the waterfront is undergoing a major renovation.

Marshall Foster, director of the city of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects, spoke with AAA Washington about what visitors and residents may expect this year as the waterfront transformation chugs along toward its 2024 completion date.

Marshall Foster, director of Seattle's Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects, pictured in front of the Alaskan Way Viaduct before its removal.
Marshall Foster, director of the city of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects, poses in front of the Alaskan Way Viaduct before its removal to make way for a massive waterfront redevelopment.

Is the project on track?

“The project is on track. What visitors are going to see in 2020 is a lot of construction. We will be building out the new surface street: Alaskan Way gets completely rebuilt from the stadiums on the south end all the way through downtown and all the way up the hill into Belltown. That will be underway throughout the year. During that time, the public will still be able to visit the waterfront. It will be open with several lanes in each direction, providing access to all the historic piers, all the businesses and the Great Wheel. The last thing that is exciting is we’ll be reopening a first piece of the waterfront, which is our concert pier.”

What impact has the construction had on visitor experience and businesses?

“In 2018, we saw initially about 6.7 million unique visitors to the waterfront, which is down about 3 percent from 2017. Most of that [decline] is attributable to the construction. The waterfront has been in a constant state of transformation for about six years now, and we’re actually quite happy to see how many people continue to come to the waterfront despite the construction.”

An illustration of Seattle's redeveloped waterfront featuring a soccer pitch on a dock with the skyline behind it
An illustration of Seattle’s redeveloped waterfront (Rendering courtesy of seattlewaterfront.com)

And some are coming to see the construction?

“Part of what is drawing people down there is the feeling that this is sort of a city remaking itself.”

What’s the vision behind the waterfront project?

“With the Alaskan Way Viaduct down and being replaced by the tunnel, it gives the city the opportunity to reclaim its front porch on Elliott Bay, to really have a great public park that will be a defining feature of visiting Seattle.”

What inspired the design?

“We wanted to be one of the places that you have to see while you’re in Seattle, whether you’re visiting from Kent or you’re visiting from across the world. We’ve designed it to be a destination park … like Millennium Park in Chicago, the High Line in New York or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.”

An illustration of Seattle's redeveloped waterfront looking out on Elliott Bay
An illustration of Seattle’s redeveloped waterfront (Rendering courtesy of seattlewaterfront.com)

Want to Visit the Waterfront?

The Seattle Aquarium, Pike Place Market and fresh seafood are among the biggest crowd-pleasers along Seattle’s evolving waterfront. But the area’s greatest attractions are the views that have opened up after the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s removal. Read our Getaways guide to the Seattle Waterfront, check for AAA Washington member discounts and look into lodging if you’d like to stay the night.

–Written by Rania Efthemes
 
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.
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