The Port Angeles waterfront forms a "front porch" to the Olympic Peninsula for scores of visitors arriving daily by car and ferry from throughout the Puget Sound and Vancouver Island. A series of recent public improvements to the city's central business district, such as a transit center, public market, new wayfinding and street upgrades, culminated in a community-wide effort to re-envision the waterfront experience. The resulting design creates an inviting public park that reconnects residents and visitors alike with the city's principal ecological and economic asset.
Site and Program
On the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles is known for its proximity to the Olympic National Forest, and to Victoria, BC a short ferry ride away. The vehicle and pedestrian traffic that occurs in the heart of downtown due to the ferries is a challenge to manage, but also creates a large opportunity to bring business to a stagnant downtown district. The revitalization of the waterfront helps the City capitalize on its tourism traffic and encourages redevelopment of key buildings and empty lots downtown.
The multi-phase design creates an arrangement of connected public spaces. Phase 1 is a terraced esplanade featuring glass-enclosed overlooks serving as windbreaks, which form the centerpiece of an expansive civic park. The full build-out encompasses two beaches, a water feature, space for outdoor sculpture, a memorial to deceased ferry captains, and a meandering trail that is a segment of the Olympic Peninsula Discovery trail.
Phase 1 centers on the iconic Railroad Avenue, a street transformed from its history as an industrial railroad line to a narrowed, planted and paved lane allowing for a mix of pedestrians, vehicles and bicyclists. Rain gardens along the avenue collect and filter water visibly before it reaches the bay. A series of tall LED light columns marks the pedestrian path and becomes part of a collection, over time, of "points of light." Future Phase 2 elements include a "woonerf"-like segment of the street as an extension of the nearby public market, a large hard-surfaced plaza, and renovating an existing beach.
The design team held a series of charrettes with community stakeholders, including property owners, business leaders, citizens, and local tribes—and invited ongoing participation by working out of a storefront office downtown. A project website and displays at city hall encouraged continuous feedback. These efforts resulted in virtually no opposition at the final Council meeting for a high visibility project representing the core elements of its place.
Two artists contributed to the overall thinking of spaces and designed several key project elements: a glass and metal trail marker, photographic scrims for the glass windbreaks, and an arrangement of tiles for certain vertical facets of the esplanade. The entire project was a collaborative effort of architects, landscape architects civil, engineers, transportation planners, and artists, all working in coordination with the tribes, the State Department of Natural Resources, and the Corps of Engineers.