As workers prepare to bore a tunnel near Seattle's waterfront to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, city planners are seeking public input on how to reclaim the waterfront as public space.
At the last of a series of five public meetings, attendees proposed some outlandish ideas, such as a floating island in Elliott Bay and a brothel on one of the piers.
But first, there was a panel discussion. Seattleites gathered in the downstairs meeting room of Town Hall Seattle March 14 to hear six people speak about the Waterfront Seattle Project. The theme of the evening was decidedly culture-centered: What makes Seattle Seattle and how can the future waterfront make everyone happy?
Panelists included Shauna Causey, President of the Social Media Club Seattle; Dana Arviso, Executive Director of the Potlatch Fund; Charles Mudede, writer for Seattle's "The Stranger;" Sunny Speidel, President and CEO of Seattle Underground Tour; Knute Berger, Crosscut writer; and Katya Anderson, Seattle Youth Commissioner.
The panelists shared strong and unique opinions about what the final project should look like.
Causey talked about her experience of Seattle's sense of community as it relates to technology. Her concerns were for the perhaps fragmented talent pool that Seattle offers and the lack of talent retention as compared with that of the Silicon Valley.
Arviso praised Seattle's status as a city that boasts one of the country's most visible urban Indian populations. Her organization, Potlatch Fund, secures grants for Native culture and arts and encourages nonprofit development. One of her major hopes for the Seattle Waterfront Project was to increase the amount of visibility for Seattle's urban Indian population. She expressed some concrete ideas for doing so, "A Native Advisory Committee that could put some input into this project would be great. There's always a need for Native artists to create and display and sell their art."
Speaking to the lasting legacy of the waterfront project, Berger said, "There's a tremendous opportunity to recognize our creative cultural heritage for locals and tourists. There will be a lot of structures over at the waterfront that will need names. These might be Native American names, for instance."
Speidel urged Seattle not to overdefine things early on. "Focus on being welcoming to all different populations and welcome them in ways that make them feel valued and at home," she said. "And maybe don't try to overdefine what happens. People find their way to things that are good."
After the discussion, attendees drifted to various tables set up with large maps of the project plans and Post-it notes to write down their ideas. A woman at one table expressed concern that the new plans wouldn't sufficiently accommodate bike trails. People also jotted down ideas for special projects.
The Waterfront Seattle Project is still in its design phase, and construction of the first public spaces won't begin until late 2012. The major part of the construction will take place once the bored tunnel opens and as the viaduct comes down. The projected end date is 2019.