Submittals are in from teams that want to redesign waterfront

5 08 2010

A public presentation by the shortlisted teams will be held at Benaroya Hall Sept. 15.

Yesterday was the deadline for teams to submit their qualifications for redeveloping Seattle’s Central Waterfront. The project is one of the most significant civil projects in the city’s history and has received strong local, national and international interest.

The Seattle Department of Transportation won’t release the names of submitters, but it will release the number of submittals, likely later today. Steve Pearce, central waterfront project manager for SDOT, said the project has gotten a lot of interest and is likely to get a lot of responses.

Seattle Planning Director Marshall Foster said he expects to see a balance of submittals from local firms that have been preparing for this project for years as well as from big national and international names. He also expects to get submittals from individual firms and teams of companies.

Foster said this project is the biggest in decades in terms of the opportunities it will create. The budget for design work in phase one, which will stretch over two years, is expected to be about $6 million. The estimated budget for planning and design of the entire project is between $50 million and $70 million.

Mark Reddington, who is a partner at LMN Architects, a member of the Central Waterfront Partnerships Committee and co-chair of the AIA Waterfront Task Force, said the project will transform the city. Once the Alaskan Way Viaduct is gone, Reddington said people will be able to experience the waterfront from most places in downtown.

“It’s huge. It will completely change the organization and sensibility of public open space in the city,” he said. “It really enriches the experience of living in Seattle. Making our main civic space in the heart of the city at the edge of the water will be a terrific way to really capture the spirit of what (the city) is all about.”

Cary Moon of the People’s Waterfront Coalition said the project is drawing interest because Seattle has a national reputation for being progressive, green and intelligent, and this is a chance to reflect that in the city’s downtown.

“I’ve heard some people say it’s probably the most important project happening in the U.S. right now for urban design and public space,” she said. “If we do this right, the whole world will notice.”

One interesting aspect of the project has been the selection process. The RFQ has two tracks: one for urban design and public space design disciplines; and one for project management, engineering, environmental and technical disciplines. Both tracks are part of a single contract.

SDOT expects to release a shortlist of firms for the design track during the week of Aug. 23 and select a design team following interviews during the week of Sept. 13. Marshall said the city will likely choose three finalists.

On Sept. 15 in Benaroya Hall, there will be a public presentation for the public to hear the shortlisted teams and ask questions before a final team is chosen.

Once selected, the lead designer will help choose the project management and engineering team by the end of September. Interviews for those disciplines are scheduled for the week of Sept. 27. Once chosen, the firms must work together in an integrated way. Design work is expected to run until 2015, with construction scheduled from 2016 to 2018.

The Central Waterfront Partnerships Committee helped create the selection process. Reddington, who was on the committee, said the goal is to come up with a system that allows the best teams in the categories of design leadership, management and technical leadership to submit their best work, and for the city to choose them separately.

“It gives a chance for everybody to submit based on their individual credentials in a way that we think is going to be really effective,” Reddington said.

In a typical RFP process, Foster said engineers often form teams and select the designers they want, giving the city fewer proposals to choose from.

He said the way the city is doing the waterfront RFQ is more accessible to the design community and opens up the pool of respondents. “We wanted to focus on their quality and select on experience and philosophy instead of a hastily put together proposal.”

Moon said she is happy with how the process is moving along, and is pleased with the collaboration between city departments, the public and others. “I couldn’t feel more optimistic and positive and hopeful about how the city is doing this and how it’s come together,” she said. “It’s nice there is one good thing happening.”

Either way, lots of people will be watching. “I can’t imagine there’s anybody who’s not interested…” Reddington said.

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