Seattle’s largest civic campus and most centrally located swath of public open space has a new leader, following city council’s unanimous approval for Marshall Foster to become the head of the City department that oversees the Seattle Center. Foster had been selected by a City search team after serving for nearly a decade as the first head of the City’s Office of the Waterfront and Civic Ventures, where he shepherded Seattle’s role in the redevelopment of the central waterfront for over a decade.
Marshall takes on the leadership role of overseeing the 74-acre Seattle Center campus just as the department expands its footprint, taking over operations and maintenance responsibilities for the public spaces that make up the new waterfront. That scope includes the entire pedestrian corridor, Pier 62, the Pioneer Square habitat beach, and the under-construction Overlook Walk and Pier 58. The Seattle Center’s waterfront team includes a dedicated staff that will ultimately move into a permanent operations center close to Alaskan Way.
Andrew Lewis, chair of the council’s public assets committee that considered his nomination, called Foster “an incredible nominee with a broad depth of experience and a track record of working very closely with the legislative branch on a number of different projects in a variety of capacities.”
“The Seattle Center is a very unique place, and I don’t think there’s any city cabinet-level position like it in other parts of the country,” Lewis said. “Especially at a time when we are expanding the reach and the programming, I think it’s important that we have a nominee of the caliber of Marshall Foster running that office.”
The Seattle City Council’s unanimous vote to confirm Foster came at the same meeting that it approved — with one vote of dissent — a resolution moving forward with a public-private partnership to re-envision the Seattle Public Schools-owned Memorial Stadium at the heart of the Seattle Center campus. The City’s partners on the project, in addition to the school district, include the forces behind the $1.15 billion Climate Pledge Arena project. That proposal will reinvigorate the east portion of the Seattle Center’s campus, long dominated by parking.
Foster was the City’s first director at the Office of the Waterfront, which was created in 2014 to be able to fully grapple with designing and implementing the new Alaskan Way corridor and the numerous associated projects following the demolition of the highway viaduct in 2019. Tasked with securing funding for it all, Foster became the public face for a program that provided an incredibly bold vision for how the City might transform one of its most iconic and popular destinations.
Faced with realities like a longstanding agreement with the State of Washington around how many lanes specific segments of the rebuilt corridor would need to be, constraints around funding the project via a Local Improvement District (LID), and other logistical challenges, the project taking shape right now undoubtedly falls short of what many people hoped it would become. But with the vehicle-oriented elements of the project given first priority in construction, the City hasn’t really been able to fully assess the public space improvements.
Source : The Urbanist