(From Mayor Mike McGinn’s blog)
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.
Click here for the January, 2012 Update Report.