City Hall

City Chooses Waterfront Design Team; No Private Development Planned for Waterfront

By Erica C. Barnett September 21, 2010

The city has chosen james corner field operations (not a typo) to serve as the lead designer on the downtown central waterfront, officials with the city departments of transportation and planning and development announced today. New York City-based field operations was widely seen as the flashier of the two leading contenders for the contract to overhaul more than 20 acres of waterfront space when the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down, the other being Seattle-based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.

Field Operations is responsible for several high-profile projects nationally, the highest-profile being New York's High Line Park (pictured), a linear park situated on a former elevated rail track. The firm is also working to turn what used to be the world's largest landfill into a 2,200-acre city park on Staten Island.

During his public presentation last week, Corner---a native of Manchester---said he wanted to integrate the waterfront's "gritty" industrial feel into his waterfront design. "We found the work James Corner did to be compelling and relevant to the waterfront," said SDOT central waterfront project manager Steve Pearce.

Asked whether the city's current waterfront "guiding principles"---which say that city-owned land that will be opened up on the waterfront must remain public---will inhibit development (and effectively force the design team to propose a linear park), DPD director Diane Sugimura said, "That's one of the challenges: How do you make this a real urban area for all the people of the city ... and something that's not just a big park." However, Sugimura said, "At this point we're not looking at private development per se," although the waterfront design could include things like pavilions with restaurants inside.

City council member Sally Bagshaw, who headed up the city's waterfront planning committee, was more adamant. "I've heard many people ask, 'Are you going to allow giant condominiums and hotels along the waterfront?' The answer is, no, and that is something I've been working to prevent, frankly, for years," Bagshaw said. "We believe the [existing buildings that now face the viaduct] will turn toward the waterfront. ... We do not want this to become Miami Beach. This is Seattle: We want to see the water and touch the water."

The project will be funded in part by new commercial parking taxes and in part by the city's general fund budget, which Mayor Mike McGinn will introduce on Monday.
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