May 8, 3:05 PM click here to comment > 26
The Center City Initiative: making downtown Seattle streets more safe, inviting and vibrant
Downtown Seattle is the economic engine for the entire region. It is the center for entertainment, music, food, theater – for Northwest culture. It offers great shopping from international names to local gems. Even on a cold, rainy day, you will find people and activity bustling along on city sidewalks. This is why employers choose to locate in Seattle. People want to be in a place like this.
But we have work to do. Like other neighborhoods around the city, downtown is facing some tough challenges. Some of these are area-specific. Pioneer Square, for example, lost a lot of retail stores in the first days of the recession and is still working to rebuild a thriving retail core. Third Avenue is still evolving to better incorporate the flow of high bus volumes. We continue to work with Belltown to find a healthy balance between a vibrant nightlife scene and the needs of a residential neighborhood.
There are also some challenges common to all of downtown – primarily concerns about public safety and street disorder. These are not new. The intersection and concentration of homelessness, mental health needs, chronic inebriation and drug sales and abuse has long been a fact of life downtown and has long created tensions and challenges that the City and other agencies and stakeholders have worked to address.
There are familiar patterns of behavior that have developed. This includes long established open air drug markets. The police have had success disrupting these markets, but they tend to move for a while and then work their way back. If you take the time to watch, you will see much of this on display in and out and around the McDonald’s on the corner of 3rd and Pike. But it’s not just there. We see it in parts of Belltown. In Pioneer Square. In the Chinatown/International District. It makes people feel uncomfortable and unsafe. It can lead to violence.
That’s why we started working groups last year in Belltown and Pioneer Square. These groups included every City department that could contribute to solutions: Police, Parks, Human Services, Transportation, Law, City Light and Public Utilities. They also included strong representation from stakeholders in each community. The external stakeholders in each case have helped us define an aggressive work program to address a range of challenges – from public safety and human services concerns, to better lighting, to improved trash, litter and graffiti clean-up.
In the beginning of 2012, we expanded those working groups into a broader Center City Initiative that now includes a working group in the Third Ave and Pike/Pine corridor, as well as in the Chinatown/International District. These working groups have been meeting with community stakeholders to develop work plans for 2012 and beyond.
These work plans are based on strong partnerships – partnerships between City departments, between the Mayor and Council, between the City and King County/Metro, with the Downtown Seattle Association and other stakeholders, with the Department of Corrections and the courts. Strong and sustained partnerships offer our best hope for making real progress.
These challenges have been with us for a long time. We won’t solve them overnight. But we are in it for the long haul. Stay tuned for updates; we’ll be informing you of our progress regularly, here on our blog.
Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn