An 18-foot-tall jellyfish is coming to Seattle’s downtown waterfront.
Work began Monday on the city’s new Pier 58 park, which will feature scenic views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains, a tree grove, an elevated lawn, a plaza for events and a marine-themed playground with a jellyfish-inspired structure for kids to climb up, balance on and slide down. It’s slated to be completed in 2025.
The project is part of a massive, decadelong waterfront revamp that’s already included the construction of a new seawall, the deconstruction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the digging of a 2-mile Highway 99 tunnel.
The new pier will be located between the Great Wheel and the Seattle Aquarium, in the same place as the old Pier 58, a wood-plank park with benches and telescopes that partly collapsed in 2020.
The city initially planned to remove the old pier in 2022 but ordered an emergency demolition when officials discovered the pier had started peeling away from the land. The part that collapsed during the demolition was supported by steel-encased concrete piles that had been corroding for years. Trees, a concrete terrace and a bronze fountain crashed down when the piles gave way.
A digital system set up to monitor the pier’s movement sounded an alarm seconds before the collapse, helping five workers escape. Two workers were tossed into the water but somehow suffered only minor injuries.
Responding to the collapse and cleaning up the wreckage, which involved sending divers into Elliott Bay and retrieving the 4-ton fountain from the water, helped boost the demolition cost by more than $1 million.
The city is paying a contractor $34.5 million to construct the new Pier 58 and to remove another old pier, located elsewhere on the waterfront.
The Pier 58 work will mostly be staged from barges in the water, with intermittent sidewalk impacts, according to the Seattle Office of the Waterfront. Once the workers remove the last piles from the old pier, they’ll use a vibratory pile driver to install about 120 new steel piles. Then they’ll build the deck with concrete and install the park landscaping on top.
The new pier’s design includes an open-water section. Like elsewhere along the waterfront, a semi-translucent walkway between the pier and the land will allow sunlight to reach the water and migrating juvenile salmon.
The Pier 58 park will connect to a promenade that’s currently being built, alongside a new Alaskan Way. Work began in June on a pedestrian bridge stretching over Alaskan Way between Pike Place Market and the waterfront, where a new Seattle Aquarium pavilion is under construction, as well.
The bronze fountain from the old Pier 58, which was designed by the late Seattle artist and architect James FitzGerald, has been restored since being salvaged from the water and will be incorporated into the new park, as will a new sculpture by Coast Salish artist Qwalsius Shaun Peterson.
Downtown parents told the city they wanted a play area, said Angela Brady, director of the waterfront overhaul. “There’s never been a playground on the waterfront, as far as I know,” she said. “We’re super excited about that.”
The city knew there were problems with the old Pier 58 for years. When it began to break in 2020, officials used an emergency policy to bypass a public request for bids and approved a removal plan in a matter of weeks.
Pacific Pile and Marine, which wasn’t invited to handle the demolition work in 2020, was selected in June to build the new Pier 58. The company’s contract also includes the removal of dilapidated Pier 63, which is located between the Seattle Aquarium and Bell Harbor Marina. Pacific Pile and Marine recently replaced adjacent Pier 62, a wide-open park space.
CORRECTION: Qwalsius Shaun Peterson’s name was misspelled in an early version of this story.