Yesterday, the city began its search for an urban design team to develop nine acres of Seattle's waterfront—stretching from S King Street to the Olympic Sculpture Park—once the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down. Design teams from across the nation are now submitting their qualifications to prove they're best suited to create one of our city's soon-to-be greatest public assets. Their qualifications—their fancy-assed resumes, essentially—are due August 4.

We can do better.
  • Billy Oh via Flickr
  • We can do better.
Perhaps this news doesn't excite you. The natural inclination is to get bubbly (or crabby) about development projects once they're shovel ready—once the public can actually see them taking form. Obviously, the waterfront is years away from that stage; construction isn't anticipated to begin until 2016.

But before nine acres of public land are developed, their form must be conceived. This is when the public gets its say—and this is the stage that we're entering now. Not only will Seattle residents be solicited for ideas on what the waterfront should offer the public, first, residents will have a hand in choosing the design team.

"There's been intense interest from the consulting community so far," says Marshall Foster, Planning Director for the Department of Planning Development. "It's going to be an exciting process."

Here's the time line we're looking at: After all the fancy-assed resumes have been submitted next month, city officials and the Seattle Waterfront Steering Committee will cull the herd down to a select few. Then, sometime during the week of September 13, "we'll ask the design teams to present sophisticated, high level public presentations illustrating why they are the right firm to do this work," says Steve Pearce, the waterfront's project manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation. "We're looking at booking Benaroya Hall for this process, or a similarly sized venue. We really want to engage the public."

During the presentations, people will get to question designers about their backgrounds, project experience, and anything else that comes to mind. "Our goal is to see how well the design teams interact with the public," says SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan. He adds that a yet-to-be-determined panel of city officials will be judging the teams based on their qualifications, presentations, and ability to engage with the public.

That's because once the design team is chosen (SDOT director Peter Hahn has the final say), they'll be responsible for running an extensive public outreach process beginning in October. They will hold community meetings throughout the city to find out how Seattle residents want to interact with the waterfront—whether they want nude beaches or dog runs or bocce ball courts or whatever. From this citywide input, they'll draft our waterfront design.

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"We're finally at the point where we’ll be making decisions about what’s going to be built and how people will enjoy it," says Foster. "This is the exciting part, as far as public process goes." Summer is upon us. Fall is right around the corner. This means you need to start daydreaming now about how the waterfront should take shape.

Aside from nine new acres of public space, the team will be tasked with designing the Alaskan Way street replacement, which will relocate the roadway under where the viaduct now stands in order to free up more waterfront space. The construction stage is slated to happen from 2016 to 2018.