Seattle waterfront receives $45M donation to connect parks

Thanks to a large private donation of $45 million, a new walking and bicycling path will be built connecting two parks on Seattle’s waterfront, with the goal of completing it ahead of the city hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Seattle is one 16 North American cities — 11 of them are in the U.S. — that will host matches in what is considered the largest soccer tournament in the world.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, philanthropist Melinda French Gates and several other city officials and organizations, announced Wednesday a new greenway would be built between the new Waterfront Park to the Olympic Sculpture Park.

The project, called Elliott Bay Connections (EBC), would be entirely funded by private funding managed by the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA). Philanthropists Melinda French Gates and MacKenzie Scott, The Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation, and the Expedia Group are the donors to the EBC project.

“Seattle’s waterfront is a truly one-of-a-kind place with something for everyone: visitors, families, residents, and workers alike,” Harrell said. “Elliott Bay Connections advances our decades-long efforts to reconnect the city to the waterfront, ensuring a seamless transition from downtown and safe, accessible pathways to experience the natural beauty of our region.”

The greenway would total more than two and a half acres of new public space and would work alongside the Alaskan Way Safety Project, which is working to build a protected bike lane on the west side of Alaskan Way.

“Having lived in Seattle for more than three decades, I know we thrive on being so close to nature,” French Gates, said in a statement. “Public parks connect us to green space and water, but they also connect us to each other. This network of waterfront parks will be a shared space for everyone and bring our city together.”

French Gates, who is the ex-wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, remains the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She became a billionaire in 2021 after her ex-husband transferred her $2.4 billion worth of Microsoft stock in May 2021, Forbes, citing filings, notes.

As of December 2022, Scott was the fifth richest woman in the U.S. with a fortune of about $26 billion, Forbes estimated. Scott divorced Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos in 2019.

So far this year, 24 nonprofits have announced they’ve received unrestricted donations from Scott through her Yield Giving fund, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy tally. The gifts total $146 million and range from $1 million to $15 million. Scott has now given more than $14.1 billion to at least 1,621 charities since 2020.

Community engagement will kick off this fall, with the public invited to give input on the proposed greenway and desired park improvements.

This story was originally published on the MyNorthwest website.