175-Foot Waterfront Ferris Wheel Gets City Approval
One thing James Corner’s plans for Seattle’s waterfront redesign didn’t include was a mention of the possibility of a 175-foot Ferris wheel at Pier 57. Marshall Foster, Seattle’s planning director, mentioned to me that Hal Griffith’s Ferris wheel project was still working its way through permitting, back in early November, and now Project #6261693 officially has city approval: Notice of Decision.
Here is what’s envisioned:
The Applicant proposes to install a sky wheel on the waterward end of the pier. The wheel foundation consists of eight legs radiating from a central axle. The wheel is approximately 175 feet in diameter and will be positioned in a generally perpendicular orientation to Alaskan Way. The structural legs will be mounted on steel plate foundations that tie into steel trusses mounted above the pier support. The wheel will support approximately 41 gondolas, which will be fully enclosed, and air conditioned, obviating the need for open-able windows and preventing any falling objects. The waiting line will be managed using portable fencing. The Sky wheel expands existing recreational uses at the site.
Several comments, the city says, were received and most were supportive, which warms the heart. Seattle has been Ferris-wheel-less since the departure of the Fun Forest from Seattle Center grounds. Pier 57’s Griffith hopes that the Sky Wheel will help the waterfront attract visitors during the construction accompanying the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which will continue through 2016.
“Pier 57 was built in 1902 as a rail-loading facility for a sawmill. It now houses pirate-y trinket shops, seafood restaurants, an antique carousel and other draws that exude touristy whiffs of Yukon’s gold-mining era,” says Seattlepi.com. To his credit, James Corner’s waterfront plans don’t call for sweeping all this lower-brow amusement away. In fact, he’s adopted an “embrace and enhance” strategy, suggesting that the collection of piers host a number of enticements:
The “hot tubs” would be in the Pier 62/63 area, which Corner suggests would benefit from an outdoor roller rink surrounded by food trucks, with an adjacent beer garden. Besides the tubs, there might be a pool with retractable roof, floating platforms for seals, and a kayak launching area. You might reach Piers 54 to 57 via the University Street art walk, passing through stormwater-filtering gardens to a promenade along view spots, looking down the gaps between piers. Stairs act as a grandstand for nature views, or street performance.