Seattle Foundation Blog

SeaFdn Commits $500K to Equitable Programming in Waterfront Park

Laird Norton event highlights park’s economic, environmental and social benefits


March 12, 2019

By Mary Grace Roske, Chief Brand Officer

Civic park projects nationally – from Chicago’s Millennium Park to New York City’s High Line to San Francisco’s Embarcadero – enhance cityscapes, improve quality of life and serve as a community legacy for future generations. This is the opportunity before us with Seattle’s new Waterfront Park.

To create this vital community hub, Seattle Foundation President & CEO Tony Mestres announced that Seattle Foundation is investing $500,000 to support compelling educational, recreational and cultural programming for people of all ages. “Activating the park in inviting and innovative ways is fundamental to its success and becoming a partner in bringing people together at the new waterfront is a fitting role for us, as the community’s foundation,” Mestres said. 

“Waterfront Park enables Greater Seattle to reimagine what public space can be, and it creates a new place for connections to be made,” he added. “The park will invite everyone to join in creative community-building, founded on the principles of equity and opportunity for all.”  

Seattle Foundation will provide the grant to and collaborate with Friends of Waterfront Seattle, Pike Place Market Foundation and Seattle Aquarium to design the programming, with input from the community and a special focus on creating activities that will attract a broad spectrum of residents.

Mestres made this announcement on March 6 at a Laird Norton Wealth Management Thought Forum titled Game Changer: Seattle’s New Waterfront Park & Beyond, where the author of a new report pointed to specific ways iconic parks can significantly benefit communities. 

The results of the study, Beyond Real Estate Increment: The Value of the Central Seattle Waterfront, A Study of the Economic, Fiscal and Community Benefits of Seattle’s New Regional Waterfront, indicate a big return on investment for Seattle. Keynote speaker and study author Candace Damon, of HR&A Advisors, explained how Seattle’s 20-acre waterfront park, in tandem with other downtown amenities, will play an important environmental, equity and economic role for the city and region. The 26-block park will generate an estimated $288 million in annual economic impact, according to the study.

“Seattle is embarking on this momentous project with equity and inclusivity at the forefront, knowing that a commitment to this focus will also bring great economic, fiscal and real estate market benefits,” said Damon.

Mestres participated in the Thought Forum as part of a panel discussion with Damon, Martha Kongsgaard, Co-founder and President of the Kongsgaard-Goldman Foundation, Beto Yarce, Executive Director of Ventures, and moderator Brian Callanan, host of Seattle Channel’s City Inside/Out.

Seattle’s waterfront park will play a major role in the city and region’s economic competitiveness by attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce, which, with increasing frequency, is able to live anywhere and work remotely.

Cities which make significant investments in shared public amenities like Seattle’s waterfront park outperform comparable cities on a variety of quality of life and economic factors including jobs, wages and output.

The study builds on data which shows 50 percent of new Seattle residents do not believe they will be living here in just five years. It’s estimated that along with other major investments planned for downtown, Seattle’s waterfront park could help retain 10 to 20 percent of that talent which would otherwise leave. The retention of just 1,400 Seattle-based workers at risk of leaving would generate economic output equivalent to the total capital and operation costs of the Waterfront Seattle project ($994 million).

In addition to Friends of Waterfront Seattle, Laird Norton Wealth Management also partnered with Pike Place Market Foundation, Salish Sea Institute, Seattle Aquarium and Seattle Foundation to present this year’s Thought Forum.

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