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Originally published July 5, 2013 at 4:47 PM | Page modified July 5, 2013 at 7:23 PM

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City, waterfront businesses reach $15 million deal on seawall work

The city of Seattle will spend up to $15 million to compensate waterfront businesses resisting construction of a new seawall. The businesses have now agreed to close temporarily to make way for the project.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The city of Seattle will set aside $15 million to compensate businesses disrupted by the reconstruction of the waterfront seawall, under an agreement announced Wednesday.

In exchange, the affected businesses will drop their appeal claiming the city’s environmental review of the Elliott Bay Seawall Project was inadequate and that construction permits should not have been issued.

The businesses on the piers had banded together, calling themselves the Seattle Historic Waterfront Association, because they feared the project as conceived could effectively ruin them. Some 4 million people visit the waterfront each year, making it a top tourist destination. Bob Donegan, president of Ivar’s, said more than half of them are estimated to visit between June and September.

Under the terms of the deal, most of the businesses on Piers 54, 55, 56 and a part of 57 agreed to close between October 2014 and June 2015 to accommodate the construction work. The Great Wheel, Argosy Cruises and the Seattle Aquarium will remain open.

The closures gave the city more leeway in its construction plans. With the businesses closed, elaborate bridges and walkways won’t have to be built to give people access.

“By eliminating the need for those, that’s a huge cost savings,” said Angela Brady, waterfront program manager for the city’s Department of Transportation. The city hopes that, in turn, leads to time savings.

The $335 million project had been scheduled to last through 2016. Brady could not provide an estimate of “the potential savings in time as a result of the agreement.”

“We just know that by being able to shut them down, we’re going to be able to move more quickly through the construction,” she said.

Donegan said that while the $15 million fund will not fully compensate the businesses for their losses, it’s a “fair deal for the parties. The good news is it will save the waterfront businesses.”

The $15 million is a cap. An independent auditor will determine how much each of the 15 affected businesses is entitled to.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a 2012 bond measure that provides most of the funding for the project. The seawall had been weakened by the Nisqually earthquake, and there was concern that another earthquake could lead to a collapse.

Maureen O'Hagan: 206-464-2562 or mohagan@seattletimes.com

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