Efforts to reclaim formerly contaminated and publicly inaccessible sites for new sustainable developments are popping up along the shores of the Puget Sound, from Tacoma and Bremerton in the south to Bellingham and Port Townsend in the north. These new projects aim to achieve LEED gold and LEED platinum, with visions to restore marine habitat and provide public access and economic vitality to the urban waterfronts.
A recent article in the Daily Journal of Commerce described the projects occurring along the Puget Sound Shores:
The city of Tacoma successfully reclaimed Fort Wells, a former Superfund site. The waterfront development underwent an extensive cleaning and remediation effort. The area now supports water-dependent and water-oriented uses including maritime business, education and recreation facilities, residential buildings, museums, and retail and commercial buildings. The increased use of the area both ensures that members of the public can enjoy the waterfront, and helps offset the high costs of cleanup and restoration.
The Center for Urban Waters is on target to become Tacoma’s first LEED platinum building. The 50,000 square foot, $23 million environmental lab and research facility opened last spring and is the first new project on the east side of the Foss Waterway.
The building acts as a hub for research on urban waterfronts, houses offices and labs for the city’s Environmental Services science and engineering group, and houses both the University of Washington’s Environmental Studies group and the Puget Sound Partnership. The Puget Sound Partnership is the state-sponsored group charged with developing a long term plan to clean up the Puget Sound.
The building has numerous sustainable features and a goal of achieving “net zero” energy use. The building minimizes runoff and filters water with rain gardens, a green roof and ground level cisterns. These on-site water treatment systems provide up to 50 percent of the building’s water for toilets, and 100 percent of the building’s water for irrigation. The porous pavement on the public walkway allows water to filter into the earth. Several intact dead trees were placed to attract migratory birds to the area. There were also trees placed in the water to provide habitat for marine mammals and fish.
The Northwest Maritime Center recently made its debut in Port Townsend. The building, which was 15 years in the making, serves as the new home for the Wooden Boat Foundation and as the center for maritime education and the craft of wooden boats. The two-building, 27,000 square foot, $12 million project is the first LEED gold building on the Olympic Peninsula.
The site had a long history of industrial use. It was originally the home of a sawmill, and was later used as an oil terminal and tank farm for decades. Cleanup of the site included removal of over 2,400 tons of contaminated soil.
Over 60 percent of the site is open to the building, in an effort to provide the public with the opportunity to enjoy the shoreline. The new dock also provides moorage for large visiting vessels. The unique heating system uses the temperature differential between nearby seawater and ambient air instead of a traditional gas heat pump. Water source heat exchanger plates were installed under the new pier to use the temperature of the Puget Sound to efficiently heat and cool the two buildings.
The buildings include sustainably harvested woods throughout the structure. The new dock includes stainless-steel panels that reflect sunlight back into the water, which helps migrating and juvenile fish. Over 3,000 square feet of eelgrass was planted to provide nursery grounds and protection for fish, shellfish and marine mammals.
Just north of Richmond Beach, the 61-acre, $1 billion Point Wells project is the most ambitious waterfront development in the making. Once completed, the project could add up to 4,500 new residents over a 20-year period. This would more than double the population of Richmond Beach.
The project site, which is currently inaccessible to the public, served as an oil tank farm for decades. The site, however, has great potential with a shoreline that stretches three quarters of a mile. Environmental cleanup and shoreline and habitat restoration is estimated to cost $20 to $30 million.
Construction of the project, which could begin as early as 2016, is expected to occur over a 15 to 20 year period. It may add up to 3 million square feet of mixed use buildings. The developer has planned several amenities for residents and guests, including a community center, a boardwalk and bike trail, a public transportation hub (including a Sounder station), a large beach plaza, amphitheater, p-patch opportunities and abundant open space and wetlands.
The sustainable features will include on-site sewage treatment and construction of a biomass plant fueled by agricultural waste brought in via train. The wastewater management system will also include a water system to collect rainwater to use for toilets and irrigations. The site aims for a 96 percent carbon emission reduction, from 1,100 tons per year to 25 tons per year.
These three projects are examples of the transformation of the Puget Sound shoreline that will continue for years into the future to help reclaim urban shorelines and provide a healthy, sustainable urban environment.