Gold in Seattle Viaduct Removal

/, Policy & Planning/Gold in Seattle Viaduct Removal



It is the opposite of “build it and they will come”-removing the Seattle Alaska Way viaduct has connected the city in a way not seen in decades and  there has been a flush of new real estate interest in the area. Projects that were built before the viaducts were removed now will enjoy unimpeded vistas of the Bay and mountains, plus a shore side park space that has yet to be realized.

As Seattle Times Mike Rosenberg reports “The transformation of an area marked by furniture stores, parking garages and century-old buildings has already begun. In all, about two dozen major projects have launched within a quarter-mile of the doomed section of the viaduct in the past five years, with more on the way.”

Of course many of the projects would have proceeded because of the location in Seattle’s downtown, but viaduct removal appears to be responsible for rising values. As Rosenberg writes “assessed values of commercial property within a quarter-mile of the viaduct have soared 59 percent since 2011, while commercial properties in the rest of the city are up 38 percent in that span, according to an analysis of data from the King County Assessor’s Office.” 

Median building sales prices have increased, as well as rents for office buildings and apartments. Rosenberg calculates that since 2011 a total of $7 billion dollars in property sales occurred within 400 meters of the viaduct, $3 billion dollars more than the cost of taking the viaduct down.

But  the viaducts are being replaced by a controversial tunnel for vehicular traffic, as well as an at grade road up to  eight lanes wide.

The  712 million dollar park scheduled to be completed in four years will change the connection for walkers and cyclists to the waterfront area. A new property tax is being proposed for the area around the old viaduct as a local improvement district property tax. The assessed tax expects to garner 160 million dollars. Property owners in commercial areas will be assessed a median price of $5,900, with an average condo owner being  assessed at $1,900.

The director of the Seattle Historic Waterfront Association calls it best when describing the viaduct as “a physical barrier and an emotional one for residents and the downtown”.

Here is a short video that shows the history of the Alaska Way viaduct. You can see by its sheer size and location how it split Seattle’s access between the downtown district and the waterfront.

                   Image: King5.com


  1. Can’t wait for further detailed design work to be advanced on what will replace Vancouver’s Viaducts once they are gone. Expect the same positive reaction/realization that Seattle is experiencing, refuting doomsday naysayers’ predictions of traffic chaos. And yes, we know , developers and area landowners will reap major benefits but so will all Vancouver residents benefit from the significant added public waterfront parkland to be created in this high density downtown location. I hope the first phase of demolition begins at the eastern portion on the two City-owned ChinaTown blocks either side of Main Street, between Quebec and Gore, which will accelerate implementation of the excellent planning and urban design work that has been done, all of which will contribute to ChinaTown’s overall revitalization and its connectivity to downtown, Southeast False Creek, the rapidly emerging Main Street precinct to the south and the future St. Paul’s Hospital complex to the southeast. A once-in-a-generation opportunity.

    1. The construction approach outlined in the staff report indicated that the Dunsmuir Viaduct would first be converted to bidirectional use, then the Georgia viaduct would be demolished, then the new Georgia Ramp and interim Pacific Blvd would be constructed, then the Dunsmuir viaduct would be removed towards the end, and the final Pacific Blvd shifted over under the current Dunsmuir Viaduct. That implies that the two blocks at the east near Main would not be among the first to be redeveloped, as the ramps will be needed.

      I am also really looking forward to more detailed work to be revealed. This is indeed a significant opportunity.

    2. Indeed .. but a subway/CanadaLine/SkyTrain station or 2 into DTES / ChinaTown would truly help to revitalize that area .. plus a dozen or better 2 dozen W style buildings with a mix of social, at market rental and market housing !

  2. The Viaducts Demolition proposal produces a huge spike in unnecessary carbon emissions for no good reason, for no qualitative gain in a water front park and for no gain in density that could not have been achieved in other ways.

    The previous generation seems to have had enough foresight to build a hospital on the top of a hill and not on a flood plain.

    The previous generation built the viaducts over a tidal flood plain.

    This generation cannot find the wisdom in bridges even when the seas are rising all around them!

    This once in a generation opportunity is a total waste of good transportation infrastructure not to mention the demolition below the viaducts of new Expo roads with all the necessary supporting infrastructure.

    There is no valid equivalency to be made between the Seattle Viaducts and NEFC. They are not the same things.

    1. Yes, let’s keep the viaduct just so motorists can continue to drive over a flooded NEFC neighbourhood while downtown and Strathcona stay high and dry. Rename it The Georgia Causaway. Idea…too brilliant…my eyes!

      1. It was transportation planners that came up with the viaduct idea as a good “motoring” concept. It turns out however, that Vancouver’s Viaducts are not just for ‘motorists’ when we actually observe users who include pedestrians, cyclists, taxis, ride shares, passenger shuttles, light delivery trucks, couriers of various sorts, virtually anything on wheels that does not exceed the load limit.

        The trivializing transportation planner cannot connect the dots between waste and climate change, cannot accept professional responsibility for having assisted in the general destruction of the environment, and never has a proposal for making things better. This appears to be a morally and intellectually bankrupt profession.

        1. Transportation planners came up with multi-lane freeways slicing through cohesive (but poor) neighbourhoods in the forst place, and brought on motordom which is arguably the largest single contributor to climate change.

          Waste is certainly bad for every reason but maintaining something that is a contributor to climate change and is attached to a lifestyle that contributes even more to climate change is a positive thing for the climate. It’s not just the cars driving on the “free” ways. It’s the sprawl, the parking lots the bigger lots and bigger houses filled with more stuff.

          Connect the dot Jolson.

  3. Toronto can learn a lot here .. and even Vancouver

    ==> Where is the proposal to extend SkyTrain or CanadaLine east a few blocks into E-Van / Chinatown / DTES to revitalize that derelict area ?

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