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City of Seattle

January 26, 4:04 PM click here to comment > 11

Revitalizing Pioneer Square: A report back to the community

Pioneer Square is Seattle’s first and oldest neighborhood. It’s a thriving center of our city, with innovative businesses, popular restaurants, an active nightlife, and a home to many. Since December 2009, neighborhood business owners, residents and the City of Seattle have built a coalition to address some of the ongoing challenges facing Pioneer Square and come up with solutions. It’s called the Pioneer Square Commercial District Revitalization Project, and over the past two years, City and Community members have been working to promote the neighborhood’s competitiveness and strengthen the health of its businesses.

In June 2010 the committee finalized “Pioneer Square 2015: A Strategy for Seattle’s First Neighborhood,” a report on community and city strategies for bolstering the neighborhood’s economic health. These priorities include improving public safety experience and perception; supporting residential density and adaptive reuse of historic buildings; supporting infrastructure for economic growth; and building organizational capacity around business advocacy.

Yesterday we met with the Pioneer Square Revitalization Committee and community members to report back on our progress so far and discuss ongoing challenges. We reported on recent accomplishments and projects launched in Pioneer Square:

North Lot Project: Introducing more market rate housing to Pioneer Square has been a priority in the community for decades. The long-planned North Lot redevelopment project will produce 513 units of housing, just in the first phase. Our Office of Economic Development (OED) is investing $1.7 million in equity and $7.2 million in low-cost debt financing via New Market Tax Credits to help move the project forward.

First Hill Streetcar: Access to high-capacity transit has long been a neighborhood priority as well. Recently the City confirmed that the new First Hill Streetcar will serve Pioneer Square with a stop at South Jackson and 2nd Avenue South. Construction begins later this year.

Only in Seattle funding: Only in Seattle is an initiative from OED that supports neighborhood business districts through grant funding, technical training and support for businesses and marketing. To support the Alliance for Pioneer Square’s efforts in retail recruitment, neighborhood marketing during viaduct replacement and Business Improvement District expansion, OED has awarded them a grant of $120,000. Over the past two years, OED has invested $220,000 in the Alliance for Pioneer Square to engage businesses, property owners and residents in strategies to improve safety, brand and market the neighborhood, and develop a business attraction plan.

King Street Station: The City acquired the station in 2008 and has been making continuous improvements to repair the original façade and remove the non-historic renovations. Three construction phases have been completed, including: station roof replacement and clock tower repair; Jackson Plaza rebuilt; and renovations to Amtrak’s new operations and administration areas. Next up is building and clock tower seismic retrofit, mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems distribution, and select interior and exterior restoration including the restoration of the ornamental plaster in the main waiting room. Construction began in March 2011 and will be completed in spring of 2013.

Broadband: Pioneer Square has an active and growing tech business community, and for those companies, access to very high-speed internet service is a must. We’ve been working to improve access to broadband internet service in Pioneer Square. Last May we launched a project to bring broadband to Pioneer Square by laying conduit underneath 1st Avenue South that internet service providers could use to serve nearby businesses. We recently learned that Comcast is in conversation with the owners of 14 buildings along 1st Avenue South in order to gain access to building tenants via the areaways. If successful, Comcast anticipates providing broadband service to 50 new customers.

Artist Space Assistance Program (ASAP): In response to the displacement of the artists from the 619 Western Building artist, the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs is working to provide relocation and placement services for artists and arts organizations seeking affordable studio, live/work, exhibition, performance and/or rehearsal space.

New businesses: Several new businesses have moved in to Pioneer Square recently, including EMC/Isilon, online retailer Blue Nile, game developer Zynga, and Jones Soda.

We also discussed some of the ongoing challenges facing Pioneer Square and what we can do together to address them:

Public Safety: Several recent incidents have focused attention on some of the longstanding public safety challenges in Pioneer Square. We’re taking several steps to protect public safety. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) has deployed four dedicated footbeat officers to Pioneer Square. These are augmented by regular car patrols and bike patrols. Patrol officers are also directed to stop and patrol problem areas on foot. ACT teams have recently targeted the area for buy-bust operations to address drug dealing problems. SPD has worked in concert with the City’s Human Services Department (HSD) and the Department of Transportation to address the encampment issues. Prior to any enforcement action, extensive outreach was done for those persons living on the street to find them alternatives to camping under the freeway, particularly along James and Cherry Streets.

Restorative Justice Pilot: City departments are working with Pioneer Square partners in exploring a program that would bring a special enforcement focus on individuals committing civility infractions. The Municipal Court’s Community Court program can connect individuals cited for low level civility infractions to the Seattle Human Services Department to provide services these individuals may need.

Restrooms: The City is working with a community committee on an analysis of using Fire Station HQ restrooms to provide public facilities. Parks has prepared updated cost estimates for an Occidental Park kiosk/restroom. Both will inform a City and community decision on how to proceed.

Special Events: We’re working with the community to develop ways to better manage tailgating and other community impacts from the sporting events at the stadiums. We’re also identifying efforts that are working now (such as port-a-potties on event days) to see if we can use that model at other times. We’re also looking at other successful models so we can maintain robust, safe, and civil public spaces.

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from Danielle Henry
Time February 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Thank you for your work in my neighborhood. Can you consider parking zoning in Pioneer Square for the current and future residents you are attracting there? All of the parking spots are slowly disappearing due to the viaduct construction. Thanks for considering my request.

-Danielle Henry, High School Teacher, Artist, and Devout Pioneer Square Resident

Comment from paul
Time February 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Pioneer Square is simply an unpleasant place. It feels dark, dirty and unsafe and nothing discussed above will change that any time soon. There are too many bars, too many homeless and no real reason to spend any time in the neighborhood. There are a couple of good art galleries but that is not enough to get even an art lover like me to go there very often. The loss of Elliott Bay Books was huge but even before that Pioneer Square wasn’t worth the visit. More housing will help but somehow the City needs to make walking the streets more enjoyable.

Comment from NickS
Time February 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Regarding the Restorative Justice Pilot, what exactly is a “civility infraction”? Jargon or euphemisms don’t help to communicate a point clearly.

Are you referring to public urination, panhandling, theft, stabbing fellow bus riders with a screwdriver, what?

I’m happy to hear that options for public toilets are being considered, but hoping that whatever is proposed (and potentially implemented) takes into account previous failures including the expensive automated, self-cleaning toilets that immediately became city subsidized drug and prostitution centers. Why not introduce mostly open public urinals, longtime fixtures on Dutch streets? Basic, cheap, and an improvement over the current situation. They offer just enough privacy to get the deed done, and no more.

Comment from J. G.
Time February 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Safe public restrooms would be great. When the poorly functioning self contained unit left, the old fire station rest rooms were not reopened. The alleys have become public restrooms.
Has anyone thought about the City of Seattle using the old Elliott Bay Book Store space for a community center? It would also make a wonderful branch library. I know money is tight but the downtown branch is overflowing and a Pioneer Square branch might meet the needs of the area. With the additional housing a new branch would make sense. Only suggestions. I also think there should be more education to the public regarding panhandling. Small amounts to individuals don’t solve problems and just reinforce individuals begging / drug habits. Think before you give. Give wisely. The campaign should educate and give better options. Also thanks to the Seattle Police Department. I know Pioneer Square can be difficult. They are appreciated.
Thanks for caring about Pioneer Square.

Comment from Ki Gottberg
Time February 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm

The price of parking in Pioneer Square is exorbitant; there are numerous small businesses like exercise/dance studios, counselors, cafes, etc. that need short term parking for regular on-going clients. Why aren’t there some streets with $2 an hour parking such as found uptown on numerous streets? Make it possible for people who need to zip in and out on a weekly/bi weekly basis to get a break-and help these businesses who are trying to draw and keep clientele coming to PS. Not all of us have time to ride the bus to appointments from our jobs elsewhere on our lunch hours. You crow about the big businesses coming to PS, but it is the smallest businesses that are struggling, and they are what add character and diversity to the neighborhood. Beware…will PS will turn into Fremont, with more and more high end boutiques and big business and goodbye funky soul?

Comment from cj
Time February 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm

I appreciate you trying to help Pioneer Square and Seattle. In the short 10 years I have lived in Seattle it has grown run down and sad looking in all the places I have always thought made it special. I remember thinking when I moved here that Pioneer Square was such a cool sounding place, then I visited and it was full of dirty sad people who were drunk or sleeping all over the place. They need a place to go to get rest and help. If that does not happen the same problem will just migrate all over the city in cycles.

Comment from Richard Thurston
Time February 2, 2012 at 10:32 am

As a 20-year business co-owner in Pioneer Square and resident of the neighborhood I was interested to read about the concerns of the Mayor’s office. I welcome your support of increased density and feel that it is desirable to have business and residencies sharing this neighborhood. However, due to ongoing adverse experiences with nightclubs I think that the city needs tougher laws to deal with noise from the clubs; otherwise people who can afford the high rents in Pioneer Square are not going to continue to live here. Instead they will move in and then move out due to frustration with the toothless noise ordinance. They will not stay long enough to form community, without which a neighborhood is just a collection of pretty buildings.

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Comment from jack whisner
Time February 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm

the blog states: “First Hill Streetcar: Access to high-capacity transit has long been a neighborhood priority as well. Recently the City confirmed that the new First Hill Streetcar will serve Pioneer Square with a stop at South Jackson and 2nd Avenue South. Construction begins later this year.” this is nonsense; Pioneer Square is served by high capacity transit in the form of Link in the Pioneer Square and International District stations; HCT has speed, reliability, and capacity; in 2016, Link will extend to Capitol Hill and the UW stadium station and RapidRide will serve Pioneer Square when the AWV ramps are closed; the First Hill Streetcar, if it is built, will not be HCT and will not be important to Pioneer Square; it will be slow local service; it one wants to reach Capitol Hill, Link will be faster and more frequent; if one wants to reach First Hill, Route 3 on James Street will be more frequent and direct; if one wants to reach Little Saigon, routes 7, 14, and 36 will be more frequent.

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