Elevating utilitarian infrastructure to a thoughtfully designed community asset, the Grand Avenue Park Pedestrian Bridge highlights the value of rethinking public realm design. The bridge will transform the Everett waterfront, establishing a new connection between the uplands Grand Avenue Park and the developing waterfront district. The project will fulfill a decades-long goal for a convenient, non-motorized passage to the waterfront, which has grown to feature a 66-acre mixed-use development, the Everett Farmer’s Market, and the largest public marina on the west coast.
The challenge for this project was how to resolve essential engineering infrastructure and transportation functions as seamlessly as possible. By deconstructing the elements of the project—functional, aesthetic, and environmental—and reimagining the parts, the design team developed a solution that preserved the view while greatly minimizing the intervention into the steep, 75-foot-high hillside. The new design integrates accessible pathways into a sloped truss, eliminating the need for the uphill elevator and saving significant costs, all while elevating the pedestrian experience through a whimsical play of space, light, and structure.
Integrating vertical circulation above, around, and within the truss, two ramps create a playful pathway, acting as switchbacks to reduce the grade change and frame a series of dramatic views to Whidbey Island, the waterfront, and the Olympic Mountains. The ramps bring pedestrians through a varied sequence of spaces that interact with the structure, beginning above, then cantilevered outboard over the highway, and finally bringing them within the truss itself.
Along the pathway, a sequence of viewing platforms offers multiple experiences of the surrounding landscape. Recalling the hard-working vernacular of a railroad overpass, the weathered steel trusses of the bridge’s frame have been strategically positioned to echo the ramp volumes and sectioned over the active railway to allow for ease of installation during construction. Stormwater overflow piping—the initial impetus for the project—all but disappears beneath the pathway, reinforcing the bridge’s ability to elegantly solve simultaneous challenges. Hillside stormwater and sewer lines will also be replaced as part of the project, and the potential for a future water main crossing is incorporated into the bridge design.
While the project is driven by performance and practicality, the design affords opportunities for artful intervention. Custom-designed aluminum panels serve triple duty as safety rails, lighting reflectors, and as a bespoke visual element. The panels feature a waterjet-cut geometric pattern that is as minimal as possible at eye level to facilitate views, while becoming more dense in proximity to pathway lighting where it serves as a reflector. The geometric pattern is repeated on the base of the tower where it is sandblasted into the concrete to further animate the structure. By embracing a creative pragmatist approach, the solution addresses both functional and aesthetic demands, weaving urban infrastructure into the life of the city and becoming a catalyst for continued community revitalization.