Many property owners could shoulder part of cost to build Seattle’s new waterfront

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SEATTLE — We are entering a new phase of the viaduct replacement project.

On Tuesday, Bertha finished her nearly two-mile dig from Sodo to the Seattle Center and paved the way for workers to construct a double-decker highway inside the tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The tunnel is expected to open for drivers in early 2019.

Once the viaduct is demolished, it will pave the way to transform Seattle’s new waterfront.

The waterfront project is expected to cost $700 million, but a portion of that money has yet to be raised.

The city says it has a plan, and if that plan turns into reality, many property owners will have to pay more.

On Wednesday, Q13 News spoke to business owners along the viaduct, some of whom are already fantasizing about the day the viaduct is gone.

“I can hear the seagulls, I can hear the waves,” Copperworks Distillery owner Jason Parker said.

Parker is excited that starting in 2019 he will no longer have to stare at the viaduct just feet away from his distillery.

“We are going to get the direct benefit being right here on the waterfront,” Parker said.

That benefit comes with a price -- property owners on and near the waterfront could be asked to shoulder almost a third of the entire cost to build Seattle’s new waterfront.

“We are prepared to put together the financing plan that will build the promenade and build a park,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said.

It will cost $700 million to transform the waterfront by 2023. About $400 million has already been secured through city and state funding, so $300 million still has to be raised.

That’s where the Local Improvement District, or LID, comes in. The city is hoping they can raise up to $200 million through property owners who stand to benefit from real estate values going up when the viaduct comes down.

“It’s going to have to cost somebody to do all this,” Parker said.

How much extra each property owner will pay has yet to be determined, but Parker is expecting to pay more in rent if LID is implemented.

“This area is going to be worth it,” Parker said.

Many business owners immediately on the waterfront support LID but the question is how many others farther out will get lumped into paying for the new waterfront.

“How far will it go up the hill and how many people will feel like they are getting the benefits, I don’t know,” Parker said.

The city says they don’t have set boundaries yet, that first they want to hear from the public. Officials say all property owners affected will get a chance to weigh in.

The city says in the end they are confident they will have enough funding. In fact, promises of private donations are already pouring in. Families and prominent leaders who want to leave a legacy have promised to help raise up $100 million to see the project through.

“We believe that we will have the support as well as the business and no-profit sector to build that park,” Murray said.

Friends of Seattle Waterfront is working with the city on the project. The organization says they are quietly campaigning right now but they will ramp up efforts after the city’s decision on LID.

So far, private donors have promised to raise $8 million of $29 million to rebuild Pier 62 along the waterfront.