Impatient for “The Big One,” Pier 58 decided to follow the West Seattle Bridge’s lead and started slipping in to the sound. Seattle Parks and Recreation was alerted to possible acceleration of the pier’s deterioration when a waterline failure was reported on August 5th. The next day, Seattle Parks and Recreation closed Pier 58 after staff confirmed that the pier had shifted several inches.

Major Jenny Durkan approved emergency dismantling of Pier 58 on August 14th. Later in a August 26th press release, the City announced that in one to two weeks, removal of Pier 58 would begin. Emergency work is exempt from bidding, so Orion Marine Contractors, Inc was quickly hired to perform the work. The City expects to compete removal in early 2021.

These actions are based off the recommendations of Seattle Structural, the engineering consulting firm that completed the structural assessment of the pier. Sometime before August 14th, the firm recommended that the entire pier be removed within 90 days in a report that has yet to be publicly released.

Seattle Structure also conducted the 2011 and 2016 inspections of Pier 58. Since 2000, there’s been observation of the deterioration of creosote-treated timber pilings that provide the vertical load-carrying capacity and lateral resistance of the pier. In both reports, the firm noted that one or more piles was certain to fail by 2021, resulting in the sagging that we see today.

Barnacle covered wooden pilings rise from Elliott Bay with the wooden pier overhead speckled with green mildew.
2016 photo of general condition of wooden pilings (Courtesy of Seattle Structural)

Replacing Pier 58

Pier 58 was constructed in 1974, and was set to be replaced as a part of the City’s Waterfront Seattle Program. Construction of a replacement is expected to begin in 2022, with no plans to expedite construction. However, removal of the old structure has certainly been accelerated.

Removal of the pier will largely happen from the waterside, limiting impact on businesses. Removal will also involve salvaging furniture, art, and the Fitzgerald Fountain that will reincorporated into the new Pier 58, which is nearing its 60% design mark.

The $4.3 million removal is already funded in the City’s capital improvements budget, as a part of the broader project. The Pier 58 project is expected to cost $65 million, which is broken down into $27 million from the Local Improvement District (LID) tax, $27 million form philanthropic partners, and $11 million from City funds.

A triangular shape pier sports a green lawn and trees near the landside, while the tip is mostly empty with spots for fishing.
Early concept of pier 58 redesign. (Courtesy of Waterfront Seattle)

Expected to open in 2024, the new Pier 58 will have a new public plaza, children’s playground, a lawn, and trees. It’ll be designed to improve salmon habitat and migration corridors. With the viaduct long gone and substantial construction, expect a transformed waterfront in 2024.

Article Author
Shaun Kuo portrait
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Shaun Kuo is a junior editor at The Urbanist and a recent graduate from the UW Tacoma Master of Arts in Community Planning. He is a urban planner at the Puget Sound Regional Council and a Seattle native that has lived in Wallingford, Northgate, and Lake Forest Park. He enjoys exploring the city by bus and foot.