Seattle is getting a Waterfront Park with an Overlook Walk connecting Pike Place Market to the Aquarium. This is made possible by the fact there won’t be a gigantic highway viaduct between them.

After the new $4 billion SR-99 tunnel opened, the Alaskan Way Viaduct came down in 2019. A new surface-level boulevard (with a plethora of lanes) will replace it, but still won’t be ready for a few more years (it’s expected to open in late 2021). With years of construction and disruptions, the Waterfront Park is the light at the end of the tunnel. The Overlook Walk is scheduled to open in 2023, with construction beginning in 2021.

Patrick took us on a walk through the 30% designs back in 2018, but the 60% designs show in even more detail the marquee park and promenade we were promised. What comes through in the images is that Seattle will truly have a world class downtown park. I expect it to be heavily used and an instant attraction when it opens.

That said, there are certainly areas for improvement. The overlook walk narrows to a couple 16-foot-wide egresses which could become chokepoints when traffic is heavy. That sets the pedestrian bridge to be a victim of its own success, particularly since it could be far and away the preferred way to reach the waterfront from Pike Place Market–particularly since the new Alaskan Way itself is being designed in a carcentric way making at grade routes less enticing.

While the waterfront side of the aquarium looks promising, the Western Avenue side is pretty unremarkable and closed off to the street. Western Avenue is an afterthought in general, leaving it a car sewer rather than an activated urban street it has the potential to be. Such a large-scale and expensive project totally has the ability to deliver such a transformation. We’re just not seizing the opportunity.

Below are a selection of the renderings so you can judge for yourself. You can also see a full design packet here (PDF).

The Overlook Walk connects Pike Place Market to the Aquarium (and its new Ocean Pavilion) and the rest of the waterfront. (City of Seattle)
The Overlook Walk connects Pike Place Market to the Aquarium (and its new Ocean Pavilion) and the rest of the waterfront. (City of Seattle)
Circulation plan with ADA considerations. The 16 foot access points on each side of the forking Overlook Walkcould be an issue. (City of Seattle)
Circulation plan with ADA considerations. The 16-foot access points on each side of the forking Overlook Walkcould be an issue. (City of Seattle)
Rendering of waterfront with new Overlook Walk, pedestrian bridge, and Ocean Pavilion. Skyline in the background. (City of Seattle)
Rendering of waterfront with new Overlook Walk, pedestrian bridge, and Ocean Pavilion. (City of Seattle)
Designs indicate public art will be displayed along the Overlook Walk. (City of Seattle)
Designs indicate public art will be displayed along the Overlook Walk. (City of Seattle)
Proposed waterfront connections with the new Overlook Walk. (City of Seattle)
Proposed waterfront connections with the new Overlook Walk. (City of Seattle)
View from the waterfront. (City of Seattle)
View from the waterfront. (City of Seattle)
The Overlook Walk's forking staircase creates a unique shelter underneath. (City of Seattle)
The Overlook Walk’s forking staircase creates a unique shelter underneath and wraps around a large tree that serves as a focal point. (City of Seattle)
In a section dubbed the "Upper Landing" the Overlook Walk forks around the signature tree and an amphitheater. (City of Seattle)
In a section dubbed the “Upper Landing” the Overlook Walk forks around the signature tree and an amphitheater. (City of Seattle)
The rooftop of the Ocean Pavilion serves as a park space dotted with plantings and seating areas for people to take in views of Elliott Bay. (City of Seattle)
The rooftop of the Ocean Pavilion serves as a park space dotted with plantings and seating areas for people to take in views of Elliott Bay. (City of Seattle)
The expanded Seattle Aquarium will draw people in from the waterfront. (City of Seattle)
The expanded Seattle Aquarium will draw people in from the waterfront. (City of Seattle)
Less so from Western Avenue, where the Aquarium doesn’t appeal to be visually appealing or set to draw people in or improve the streetscape much. (City of Seattle)
The Aquarium is also planning some shore habitat restoration. (City of Seattle)
The Aquarium is also planning some shoreline habitat restoration and stormwater retention work. (City of Seattle)

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6 COMMENTS

  1. This looks awesome. I really like the park on top of the aquarium. Where do I park my bike? And also where is the Jump bike parking?
    and is their a school bus/tour bus drop off area?

  2. I’m curious why the aquarium is getting so much out of this plan. Seems kinda like a stadium deal. Isn’t the aquarium a for-profit corporation? Did they contribute money to the construction or are they receiving this all for free from the public?

  3. Public Transit along the waterfront would not be good. Too many buses would kill the vibe and make it too busy. Waterfront should not be transit thoroughfare and stopover area. Seattle has plenty of that just blocks away.

    • Read up on the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar line. It provided needed and convenient and unique shuttle service up and down the waterfront. It did NOT make the WF a “transit thoroughfare.”

  4. Public transit along the waterfront appears to have been entirely omitted. I was worried about that when, in the dark of night, they killed the Waterfront Streetcar line~ while offering no alternative, no replacement for access up and down the waterfront. Users can either walk or ride bicycles.

  5. A lot of these stairways/walkways seem to be very narrow for what will become THE main way for tourist to move from Pike Place and the Waterfront. Several spots look like they are just 4 people shoulder to shoulder wide. Not sure how happy people are going to be that a brand new structure is just as packed (and painful to move through) as Pike Place itself.

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