In Part 1of this Blog Series we covered how the Seattle waterfront is undergoing an epic change that will forever change the face of the city from the water’s edge.  That change is the replacement of the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep bore tunnel, and the revitalization of the Alaskan Way waterfront.  Condominiums near the south portal of the new tunnel in Pioneer Square were highlighted along with the likely impact on them, both good and bad.

Hopefully, this series will bring some clarity and help folks make decisions about where they might want live if they are looking into buying. Or if you currently own a Seattle condo in the affected areas, if and when you might want to consider selling and moving up to something different or staying put and enjoying what’s to come.

For part 2 of this series, we move north from the South Portal of Tunnel (Pioneer Square and the Stadium District) up to the West Edge and Market neighborhoods. We felt it was perfect timing, as within the last couple weeks the famed boring machine, named Bertha, arrived at the Seattle Waterfront by way of ship.  She will soon be placed in service to start boring the tunnel beneath our city. Isn’t she massive?
Bertha Courtesy of WSDOTPhoto courtesy of WSDOT

For reference:  The West Edge is considered the neighborhood that borders downtown Seattle’s business district on the west “edge” along 1st Avenue with Pioneer Square to its south, and the Pike Place Market to its north.

First off, both of these neighborhoods will have the new deep bore tunnel running directly beneath them in some areas.  Some condo buildings including One Pacific Tower, in fact, have sold underground easement rights to allow for the tunnel to be bored beneath it.  It remains to be seen if any of the underground work will even be noticeable.  But it might be worth the occasional vibration from construction and Bertha to benefit from the future view outlooks, traffic noise reduction once the viaduct is gone, and access improvements to the waterfront.
Map of Market & Waterfront Viaduct Affected Bldgs.jpg

Buildings Most Likely Affected in:
The West Edge Neighborhood

Watermark Tower – 1107 1St Ave
The main benefits for this condo tower will be reduction in road noise from the removal of the Viaduct.  The building already has great views to the west, and that might be improved by no longer having to look at the viaduct traffic.  Additionally the connection to the waterfront will be more enjoyable when you don’t have to stroll under the concrete canopy of the Viaduct.

Colonial Grand Pacific – 1119 1st Ave
In the same block on 1st Avenue is the Colonial Grand Pacific Condominiums.  It will be one of the more benefited condos along the West Edge, in my opinion, as it currently is within maybe 15-20 feet from the Seneca off ramp from the Viaduct.  With trucks and metro buses screeching to a stop and hitting the throttle as they speed away from the stop light, this will be a great improvement once this off ramp is removed.   Especially the north facing units, what an improvement to come for you.
Colonial Grand Pacific 2

Four Season Condominiums – 99 Union St
Reduction in road noise will be the main benefit for this ultra-luxury condominium tower sitting above the Four Seasons Hotel.  Also the pedestrian connection to the Alaskan Way waterfront will be beautified after the viaduct is gone.  
98 Union and 4 Seasons 2

Buildings Most Likely Affected in:
Pike Place Market District    

98 Union Condominiums
Sharing Union Street as the their front door with the Four Seasons,  98 Union Condos take us up to the start of the Market District.  This condo building will have similar benefits to the Four Seasons with less road noise once the viaduct is gone and a quieter and more dust free connection to the waterfront once you descend the stairs down to Western Ave.

Fix Madore Building – 1507 Western Ave
This brick condo building currently sits down below the Market on its west side and in the shadows of the viaduct.  I can only imagine the future benefits once the viaduct structure is removed.  Currently the building’s main entrance is on Western Avenue (facing east), but what a difference it could make if they were able to add another entrance on the west side toward the new Alaskan Way.  If I were on that HOA board, I’d be looking into this feasibility (if they haven’t already started researching it).
Fix Madore 4

Hillclimb Court – 1425 Western Ave
Also located down below and to the west of Pike’s Place Market is this building with unique floor plans, cool two story lofts and an open courtyard.  Currently you need a bull horn in tow if you want to talk to people as you walk to your unit because the main walkways from the elevators to the units are within probably 30-50 feet of the viaduct structure.  This building will have a huge positive affect from the removal of the viaduct, in my opinion.  Same as the Fix Madore Building, I would think a change of the buildings west facing façade and perhaps reworking of their west facing orientations and the addition of a new entrance on the west side would be an amazing opportunity to take advantage of the new Alaskan Way access.  Additionally its proximity to the new “grand promenade” proposed by James Corner Field Operations, who is heading the waterfront’s design, is huge.  This new Promenade appears to run right near the Hillclimb Court Condominiums.
Hillclimb Court 8

Honorable Mentions in the Market District

The following buildings are going to benefit from some view improvements and noise reduction, but the key benefit for these buildings, hence the reason I’m including them, is the potential for improvement to the direct access to the waterfront.  Currently, access is really only via a couple of narrow and scary stair cases or elevators.  Take a look at the proposed design concepts  for the Promenade/Overlook Park that waterfront designers, James Corner Field Operations are envisioning.  What an amazing improvement this will be for these condos located just above the Pike Market.

Market Place North (2021 1st Ave), Market Place Tower (2033 1st Ave), Market Court (2030 Western Ave), One Pacific Tower (2000 1st Ave), Pike and Virginia Building (87 Virginia St)

Buildings Most Likely Affected in:       

Last, we head down to the waterfront.  There are really only two condo buildings that can be close to being considered waterfront in the downtown area.  They are unique because of this. They are in a neighborhood all of their own but still very close to both the Market and West Edge neighborhoods.

Waterfront Place – 1009 Western Ave
This unique condo building is missed by many folks that mistake it only for an office building, but this high end luxury building has the top floors occupied by large condos.  The main benefit for this building will be a reduction in road noise, more enjoyable walks, rides and drives to the waterfront once the viaduct is removed. It will also nearly be a waterfront condo community. Not to mention the views from the units will no longer have the grey concrete and roadways of the viaduct to look at, but rather a much improved Alaskan Way with more walking space, bike trails, and hopefully views of the trolley again if it is reintroduced (this building was discussed in part 1 as well due to it riding the line between Pioneer Square and the West Edge).
Waterfront Place 4

Waterfront Landings – 1900, 1950 and 2000 Alaskan Way
This is a great condo community located basically on the waterfront at Bell Street Harbor.  Not only will the water frontage itself be improved directly in front of this condo building, but a key benefit I see for this condo building is what’s going on behind it, and its access up to the Pike Place Market area.  Having sold units in here before, one thing that needed to be improved is it’s accessibility up to the market.  Currently the only way to the market is up. Steeply up.  It’s either an elevator, which has its drawbacks at night, or up a rickety stair case behind it, or out of the way by going up the hillclimb staircase near the ZigZag.  In either of these routes, you are walking, rolling or riding directly under the dark and noisy viaduct. With the artist renderings here, (Compliments of James Corner Field Operations) you can see the grand plan for the beautiful and open Promenade/Overlook Park, and the improved Alaskan Way that will connect the waterfront to the market directly adjacent to the Waterfront Landing Condos. What an improvement!

Aside from the obvious issues with construction, traffic due to construction and noise from the construction, it appears most of the condo buildings in the West Edge, Market District, and along the Waterfront will benefit greatly from the removal of the two level viaduct.  A negative could be a potential increase in traffic on some of the east/west streets since the connection to the waterfront will be easier from downtown. Also, a new intersection connecting the improved Alaskan Way to Western Avenue near the Waterfront Landing Condos my increase traffic there.   But this part of town is used to traffic from the cruise ships in the summer months and tourists year round.
Map of New Waterfront Courtesy of WSDOT
Photo courtesy of WSDOT

Part 3 of this series we’ll take a look at condos a bit further north in Belltown and up to the new north portal area near Denny.  Big changes coming there.  For more information on the tunnel’s proposed route, its scheduled construction timeline, and a really cool video of the proposed completed tunnel checkout the links below.

Click here for a video simulation of the new tunnel
Click here for a map of the tunnel route and for more general information about the project


By Marco Kronen with Seattle Condo Review: A guide to Seattle Condos and Downtown Seattle Condos exclusively for buyers and sellers.