- The city of Seattle announced last week a multimillion-dollar project to connect and revitalize public parks along its downtown waterfront, which it will undertake in partnership with the Port of Seattle, local organizations and philanthropists.
- Elliott Bay Connections will be entirely funded through philanthropic donations — including from Melinda French Gates — and is expected to be completed by 2026, when Seattle hosts World Cup matches.
- Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement that the project, which will launch this fall with community engagement, “advances our decades-long efforts to reconnect the city to the waterfront.”
The announcement comes as Seattle attempts to revitalize a downtown that, like others across the nation, is struggling to revive itself post-pandemic. The city’s downtown activation plan was announced in June and aims to decrease crime, increase affordable housing and address homelessness, while bringing more community activities and foot traffic to downtown streets.
Elliott Bay Connections “is more proof of the progress being made to revitalize downtown under Mayor Harrell’s leadership,” said Sung Yang, chair of the Downtown Seattle Association board of directors and principal at Pacific Public Affairs, in a statement. The association is the implementation partner on the waterfront project.
Harrell’s plans for downtown, however, have been criticized by some Seattle residents for pushing out people experiencing homelessness.
When completed, the new Elliott Bay Connections project would connect parks along the waterfront with a three-quarter-mile pedestrian and bicycle greenway, adding over 2.5 acres of public green space, according to a press release.
Public fishing access would be restored at one of the existing waterfront parks. Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman said in a statement, “Providing public access to these waters is also a tribal priority as we educate the public about the importance of preserving water quality and therefore helping all of us protect our treaty reserved resources, including salmon and shellfish.”
The project would also improve accessibility and add amenities such as restrooms, signage and play features, according to a press release.
Private donors will underwrite the $45 million construction costs of the project. Along with French Gates, the donors include MacKenzie Scott, The Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation and the Expedia Group.
Additionally, the nonprofit Friends of Waterfront Seattle will receive $10 million in a challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and an unrestricted $10 million grant from MacKenzie Scott to support a campaign to raise $200 million for the completion of a new waterfront park in Seattle.
Combined with this park, slated to open in 2025, the Elliott Bay Connections project will result in almost 3.5 miles of public space running along the waterfront.