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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Seattle's Downtown and Waterfront See Exciting Changes and Upgrades

Seattle's downtown and waterfront cores have seen incredible changes in the past two years alone. From new and updated attractions to improved and cutting-edge transportation solutions, Seattle is consistently creating fresh and innovative ways to invite both visitors and locals alike to experience Seattle. Just a few of the new and upcoming improvements include Pike Place Market's new MarketFront, a 360'degree “spacelift” of the Space Needle, and improved public and air transportation in and around the city.

Pike Place Market's new MarketFront, a .75-acre, 30,000-square-foot public terrace and plaza that expands to the western flank of Seattle's historic Pike Place Market, marked its official grand opening June 29, 2017. MarketFront offers panoramic views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, space for 47 new day stall tables for farmers, crafters and artists, as well as 12,000-square-feet of commercial and retail space for artisan purveyors and 40 low-income housing units for seniors. The site's location on the western edge of the market allows future access to the central waterfront development and creates a vital link from the west to the market and downtown Seattle. The site is within the Market Historic District and was part of the Friends of the Market's original plan for Pike Place Market.

Seattle's Space Needle, one of the world's most recognizable landmarks, is undergoing a 360-degree "spacelift." The first reveal of the renovations will be on Memorial Day weekend 2018, showcasing a breathtaking, multi-level, floor-to-ceiling glass viewing experience. Safety “cages” are being removed and replaced with eleven-foot-tall, open-air glass panels. With nothing between guests and the view but seamless glass panels and innovative inclined glass benches, visitors will experience the intense feeling of floating on air above the beautiful Seattle landscape. The renovation will include the world's first and only glass rotating floor, lounge and unique dining experience featuring a never-before-seen downward view of Seattle's iconic tower from 500 feet in the air. Two observation levels, the highest at 520 feet, will be joined by a dramatic, open circular stairway revealing views of the Space Needle's core structure and elevator operations.

LMN Architects is planning a $100 million design for a 50,000-square-foot expansion to the Seattle Aquarium. There will be an additional wing, enabling the aquarium to boost capacity. The new pavilion will be able to host new exhibits that include a 350,000-gallon warm water tank, and a gathering space that will hold up to 200 people. Expansion construction is to be finished by 2023.

Amazon's long-awaited new structure in downtown Seattle, The Spheres, officially opened January 29, 2018. The Spheres serve as collaborative workspace, featuring 40,000 different plants from around the world, multiple water features, paludariums, and more. Another highly anticipated feature of The Spheres is a new restaurant set to open in summer 2018 by Renee Erickson, Seattle native and James Beard award winning chef. To provide a taste of The Spheres, the structure also includes a visitor center on the bottom level called The Understory where visitors can experience a fully immersive look at what The Spheres have to offer. The general public can also now schedule weekend visits to The Spheres, but slots fill up quickly. Learn more at

The University Link extension to Sound Transit's Link light rail opened March 19, 2016. The 3.1-mile extension includes two new stations in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and at the University of Washington, near Husky Stadium. This project serves the three largest urban centers in the state of Washington – downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University District – bypassing some of the region's most congested traffic. Future planned routes with varying completion dates from 2021-2030 include Everett–Seattle–West Seattle; Redmond–Seattle–Mariner; Ballard–Seattle–Tacoma; and Issaquah–Bellevue–South Kirkland.

For the seventh straight year, passenger traffic at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) increased in 2017. With a record-setting 46.9 million overall travelers, Sea-Tac passenger levels increased 41 percent in the last five years, up from 33.2 million passengers in 2012, according to the Port of Seattle. Sea-Tac is considered the ninth busiest airport in the U.S. International traffic continues to grow at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, up 5.4 percent in 2017, which included a 17.1 percent increase in traffic to Europe.

Four new international airlines were added in 2017: Virgin Atlantic to London-Heathrow, Norwegian to London-Gatwick, Eurowings to Cologne, and Aeromexico to Mexico City. Three more will be added in 2018: Air France to Paris, Thomas Cook to Manchester, and Aer Lingus to Dublin.

Airport projects over the next five years total $1.9 billion, including renovation and expansion of the north satellite, a new International Arrivals Facility, a new centralized, high-efficiency baggage system, and the reconstruction of the center runway (completed in December 2015). Airport officials are considering up to $10 billion on future facility upgrades as part of a Sustainable Airport Master Plan, including an estimated 35 additional gates.

A $636 million modernization of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport's North Satellite will include eight new gates with a 240-foot extension of the building to the west, add an upper level mezzanine, more than double the existing dining and retail square footage and offer a rooftop Alaska Airlines lounge with views of the Olympic Mountains. Groundbreaking took place in the first quarter of 2017 with phase one to be completed in 2019 and the full facility upgrade opening in 2021. The project represents an unprecedented working arrangement between the Port of Seattle, which operates the airport, and Alaska Airlines, Sea-Tac's largest airline and the sole tenant of the North Satellite.

The Port of Seattle recorded 1,071,594 revenue passengers through its cruise terminals in 2017 and expects to surpass this in 2018. Each cruise vessel is estimated to bring in $2.7 million for the local economy, bringing total revenue to the region to over $500 million. Seattle Homeport cruise lines in 2017 include Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and the Port of Seattle announced that NCL's newest ship, Norwegian Bliss, will offer seven-day Alaskan cruises from Seattle's Pier 66 beginning June 2, 2018. The 4,000-passenger Bliss will be the largest cruise vessel on the West Coast and in NCL's tradition of decorating ship hulls with signature art, the Bliss will feature art from noted wildlife artist Wyland.

About Visit Seattle:
Visit Seattle has served as the official destination marketing organization (DMO) for Seattle and King County for more than 50 years. A 501(c)(6) organization, Visit Seattle enhances the economic prosperity of the region through global destination branding along with competitive programs and campaigns in leisure travel marketing, convention sales and overseas tourism development. Nearly 40 million annual visitors spend $7 billion in the city and county each year. The economic power of travel and tourism generates 74,000 Seattle area jobs and contributes $718 million in annual state and local tax revenue. For more information, go to

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