$45M public-private partnership aims to revitalize Seattle waterfront

City of Seattle

The city of Seattle, the Downtown Seattle Association and the Port of Seattle have announced a new public-private partnership with the goal of delivering waterfront park improvements at no cost to taxpayers.

The Elliot Bay Connections project intends to construct a new pedestrian and bicycle greenway connecting the new waterfront park to the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park, improve existing sidewalks and key crossings, and add native trees and shrubs along the path to increase the Emerald City's urban tree canopy.

Plans also call for restoring and revitalizing Myrtle Edwards and Centennial Parks, including bringing back public fishing at Pier 86.

The private-public partnership's goal is to complete the revitalization project by the time Seattle hosts the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The quadrennial soccer tournament is one of the most-watched events across the globe.

Private funding will guarantee the estimated $45 million cost of construction. Donors to the Elliot Bay Connections project include Melinda French Gates, MacKenzie Scott, the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation and the Expedia Group.

“Elliott Bay Connections advances our decades-long efforts to reconnect the city to the waterfront, ensuring a seamless transition from downtown and safe, accessible pathways to experience the natural beauty of our region,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement.

Harrell also announced that the Friends of Waterfront Seattle organization will receive a $10 million challenge grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an unrestricted $10 million grant from MacKenzie Scott in support of Seattle’s Waterfront Park campaign.

According to the city, the campaign is raising $200 million to finish construction of the city’s waterfront park.

The Muckleshoot and Suquamish Tribes were briefed on the Elliott Bay Connections project, which also intends to restore public access to fishing in Centennial Park. Leonard Forsman, the chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, said providing public access to fishing is part of a tribal priority to educate the public about the importance of preserving water quality.

“The Suquamish Tribe is excited to learn more about Elliott Bay Connections and how the project will improve the shoreline and uplands within our ancestral lands and waters on and adjacent to Elliott Bay,” Forsman said.

The public is invited to provide input on the proposed greenway and desired improvements to the waterfront park in the upcoming fall. Following public input, design concepts will be developed and presented before actual design, permitting and construction proceed.

According to the city, donors will provide funding for a decade to support stewardship, once the Elliot Bay Connections project is completed.