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SEATTLE-A two-day forum will take place this week at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center to kick-off the process of exploring future use and reuse of both shoreline and abutting inland properties and to attract the public to actively participate in the process.

On Thursday, June 26, the forum will open with a reception and rallying cry from 6-9 p.m. Then on Saturday, June 28 from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. there will be a welcoming by Mayor Gregory J. Nickels followed by a keynote address from renowned architect Michael Sorkin and a panel discussion to expand the dialogue in terms of economy, ecology, transportation and community.

“The key is to find the right balance,” says Dennis Meier, Senior Urban Designer for the state Department of Design, Construction and Land Use. “There are a lot of competing interests and they are all legitimate. I think the real purpose of this is to bring people on board. The panel discussion is to make people aware of the big issues to be addressed.”

Structural damage to the Alaskan Way Viaduct caused by an earthquake in 2001 has been a catalyst to this redevelopment process. Although there are no specific recommendations at this time, the hope is that a plan will be finalized and implemented by 2006 including all the necessary zoning changes. Environmental concerns play an important role in the process too, so the height and size of future commercial buildings may be an issue. One important concern is the future character of the waterfront area—eventually, decisions must be made to reshape the area into more of a tourist destination or continue to keep it a working waterfront. Places like Terminal 46, used as a container cargo facility, could be reused as a cruise ship destination, or another use, for example.

The planning area encompasses the corridor between the Elliott Bay shoreline and 1st Avenue, extending from Myrtle Edwards Park on the north to Atlantic Ave on the south. The study area includes what is known as the “Commercial Core Waterfront Uplands” and the “Commercial Core Waterfront Shoreline” which includes the “Commercial/Retail Zone” from Piers 53 to 57. The old pier structures as they currently exist were built around the turn of the last century. So far, one pier has been historically designated and turned into an aquarium.

In all, the plan will be developed in stages with opportunities all along for the public to get involved in everything from the concept plan, to the policy and framework guidelines on through to the final plan and implementation program. Seen as the “front porch” to the city, Meier says that city officials have already looked at places like Vancouver, British Columbia, as a good example of what can be done to the shoreline area in the future.

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