Seattle waterfront: What's next?
Reshaping the Seattle Waterfront in a post-viaduct era.
Friday, February 25, 2011 - 13:43
Photo: Doug Brown 37/Flickr
Last Thursday the Seattle Aquarium hosted Waterfront Seattle, a partnership for a new and revised waterfront between Seattle and some of its civic, business and community organizations. The public event kicks off the renovation project of Seattle's waterfront set forth by the city of Seattle and the Central Waterfront Committee. More than 1,000 people RSVPed for the event and more than 900 actually attended, evidenced by the fact that the main hall of the aquarium was shut down due to maximum capacity. The event organizers were prepared, though, with live coverage broadcasting to monitors in the adjacent "Life On the Edge" exhibit, and to a tent right outside the entrance of the aquarium.
The talk started with introductions by Seattle Aquarium CEO Bob Davidson, City Planner Director Marshall Foster and Mayor Mike McGinn. The main speaker was James Corner, an internationally-renowned landscape architect, best known for his work of Staten Island's Fresh Kill Park and New York's High Line.
Corner and his team were in Seattle last fall to survey the city and its waterfront. He presented what his team found in terms of potential and obstacles, and he wanted public input and discussion. Corner's presentation basically explained a neighborhood approach, redesigning the waterfront to fit the individual sections of the city that sit adjacent to it. Corner's presentation was very intriguing to me since I adore the waterfront, take the ferries and volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium.
What was most intriguing — which I was sad wasn't discussed in depth — was the pressing need to replace Seattle's existing seawall to benefit the city and the environment. Cristina Bump, an architectural designer for Mithun (whose Seattle office is Pier 56) and a 2009 AIA Seattle Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship recipient, traveled to four international cities to see how their seawall designs promote natural ecosystems and urban development, and to see if a smart seawall would be feasible in Seattle in a post-viaduct atmosphere.
Why research seawalls? Studies have shown that shore modification throughout the Puget Sound has had a substantial impact on abiotic factors throughout the region as seen in Hood Canal from time to time. An ecologically-friendly seawall in Seattle would revitalize lost habitats for shorebirds and fish. Which could not come in a better time as salmon populations are still unstable and with many other marine animals depending on salmon runs, such as Puget Sound's famed resident Orcas population.
"What makes a great waterfront?" was the question that was posed to the public leading up to the event and during it. To me, a waterfront is only as great as the natural habitat it protects and promotes. I can not see Seattle without a thriving Puget Sound filled with salmon, seals and majestic orcas.
To learn more about the Seattle Waterfront and the seawall replacement project check out: City of Seattle site, Seattle Waterfront (for the historic neighborhood) and Waterfront Seattle (for the organization planning the redesign of the waterfront).
And finally, to learn more about Puget Sound and ways to help protect it, visit these great organizations and resources: People for Puget Sound, Puget Sound Starts Here and Puget Sound Partnership.