Seattle’s Waterfront: Creating a Public Legacy that Works for All

LNWM’s 2019 Thought Forum, held March 6 at The Sanctuary in downtown Seattle, gave everyone in attendance a glimpse of the challenges and tremendous rewards of a well-planned public space. The focus: the transformation of Seattle’s waterfront, featuring a new 20-acre park (from Pioneer Square all the way to Belltown) and the new development around that. In the audience were LNWM staff, clients and guests, community leaders, and members of our partner organizations for the event: Friends of Waterfront SeattlePike Place Market FoundationSalish Sea InstituteSeattle AquariumSeattle Foundation – all advocates, champions and leaders in shaping the future of the waterfront.

Carla Wigen, a Managing Director at LNWM, in her opening remarks noted that as Seattle is growing more dense, parks are not just a nice amenity, but an important component of a healthy community. “Parks can also be a key element of a city’s brand, weaving natural landscapes into the urban core.”

The Waterfront Seattle Value Study

The evening’s keynote speaker was Candace Damon, Vice Chair of HR&A Advisors, a firm that guides public-private real estate and economic development strategies with the aim of revitalizing urban spaces. Seattle’s new waterfront will “fundamentally change how you experience the city and what it means to think of yourselves as Seattleites,” she said. “Seattle’s Waterfront Park will be programmed to be inclusive throughout its length,” meaning it will open up social and economic opportunities for local communities that do not currently exist.

Since 2011, Candace has worked with the City of Seattle and Friends of Waterfront Seattle to advance this new vision for Seattle’s waterfront. She was commissioned to conduct the Waterfront Seattle Value Study, findings from which she shared for the first time at the Thought Forum.

Panel Discussion
Just because a public space is designed well doesn’t mean it will be well-used by the community. A panel discussion moderated by Seattle Channel’s Brian Callanan focused on how the Waterfront can be turned into a successful public space for all, given our city’s challenges with homelessness, graffiti and other socioeconomic issues. How do we ensure that the park is welcome to all, while also making sure laws and park rules are enforced to ensure everyone’s enjoyment?

The panelists: Candace Damon; Beto Yarce (Executive Director of Ventures, a non-profit that provides wide-ranging support for low-income entrepreneurs); Martha Konsgaard (President of Konsgaard-Goldman Foundation); and Tony Mestres (CEO and President of Seattle Foundation). They discussed what is in the works to make Seattle’s Waterfront Park more inclusive: attracting new communities to host events at the park, serving the people who live near the park, allowing for economic empowerment by serving as an incubator for small businesses, and having commitment to health and safety, through existing programs such as LEAD. During the discussion, Tony Mestres announced that Seattle Foundation will fund $500,000 of new programming at the Waterfront.

Creating Opportunities
It’s been important to Laird Norton Wealth Management to invest in the community we’ve been proud to be a part of for more than 50 years (see our Community page for some of our recent initiatives). Our parent company, Laird Norton Co. (LNC) is also heavily involved in supporting local initiatives. LNC first identified Ventures as a nonprofit partner in 2017 through the LNC Nurse Log Project. Over the past two years of its partnership with Ventures, LNC has donated nearly $60,000 to the organization as well as participating in several volunteer events including the annual InnoVentures program and last year’s Super Business Saturday event, where LNC employees provided business guidance to Ventures entrepreneurs in areas that included business basics, tax, marketing and accounting.

The Next Five Years
At LNWM’s  2015 Thought Forum four years ago, again in partnership with Friends of Waterfront Seattle, we previewed plans for the new waterfront park and heard about lessons learned from The Highline in Manhattan. At our 2019 Thought Forum March 6, we gathered to discuss how the new park can engage and work for everyone in our region. Four or five years from now, we hope to gather again for the opening of this amazing new park – a legacy project for future generations.

How will we know if the new Seattle waterfront itself is a sucess? Candace Damon’s answer is simple: if when we go there, it feels like no other place on earth — it is uniquely Seattle.

NOTE: The LNWM 2019 Thought Forum will premiere on Seattle Channel, 5 pm March 13. Read our recap of the Thought Forum.