Archive for March, 2012

Families: What would keep you in downtown Seattle?

March 30, 2012  |  PI, Residents  |  No Comments

Kids at the Seattle Square Market

Last night, I participated in my first “focus group,” hosted by the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA). It brought together parents and soon-to-be parents who live in downtown to explore what works and what doesn’t work when living downtown with kids (of all ages). Although we don’t have kids yet, we are going to this July (!) and plan on staying in Pioneer Square for as long as it makes sense.

My group was made up of four individuals with kids (ages 6, 3, 3 and 2), two individuals who are expecting, and one individual who is studying families in downtown areas as part of her profession. The group was also diverse in terms of those who would send their kids to private school vs. public school and those who have nannies vs. those who use daycare.

We started out discussing why we love downtown. Everyone in the group agreed – we love:

  • being in the center of everything
  • easy access to the theater and museums
  • good transportation options
  • walkable neighborhoods
  • feeling connected to people in your building and owners of shops you frequent
  • the diversity of the people that surround you
  • not having to drive/commute
  • the many daycare options downtown (but long waiting lists!)
  • amazing programs for kids (children’s museum, SAM, sound bridge, aquarium, etc.)
  • feeling like your kids are more cultured/sophisticated (know their way around downtown)

And then we hit the topic of challenges to living downtown as a parent:

  • Hard Impossible to get strollers onto buses (but easy on light rail!)
  • No “safe” open spaces/parks/playgrounds to connect with other downtown parents
  • While there are some parks (SLU, Denny, proposed Westlake park), they don’t keep kids entertained for very long due to lack of a good playground structure
  • People wanted playgrounds not just parks – and playgrounds for kids of different ages
  • Lack of public schools (or knowledge surrounding public schools if you live downtown)
  • Variety of housing types that allow for more space (i.e. cities like Vancouver offer townhouses at the base of big apt/condo buildings)
  • Lack of programs downtown specifically targeted to downtown families (i.e. YMCA doesn’t even offer kids swimming lessons!)
  • Difficulty connecting with other parents and families who live downtown

Surprisingly, public safety was only briefly mentioned, but no one in our group seemed to have a problem with it. I guess when you live downtown, you’re not one that struggles with the perception vs. reality problem because we just understand the reality.

As we went longer into the meeting, three of the four people who already had kids (PSq, West Edge, and Retail Core) admitted that they were either planning on moving in the next two years or were currently trying to leave. The two major reasons were lack of good school options downtown, and lack of a community playground that connected parents with other downtown parents.

The most interesting part of this meeting, however, was at the very end, when we went around the table and each person stated the one major thing that would have to happen that would keep them downtown with kids. I thought that based on how long the conversation was focused on schools that it would rank highest, but people actually voted for the community playground. They felt that if there was a sense of community downtown and a connection with other parents, that they would make public/private schools work when their kids hit age 5. Although I don’t have kids yet and may change my mind once I do, I voted for the school as the one thing that needed to happen, and two others voted for “school with a playground attached” as a (cheating) compromise.

So for those of you in the square with families – do you agree? What would keep you downtown? Or cause you to leave?

Exciting new mixed-use project adjacent to Occidental Park

March 29, 2012  |  Announcement, PI  |  No Comments

The website is now up for a new mixed-use project in the heart of Pioneer Square. This exciting project features retail, residential, office, and even some parking (rare for our neighborhood):

According to their website, here are some key features:

  • 130,000 SF of Class A office space on floors 7-11
  • Signage and naming opportunities provide excellent branding
  • Pursuing LEED Gold Certification
  • Highly efficient 26,000 SF floor plates
  • Rooftop deck with sweeping views of Elliott Bay and Mt. Rainier
  • Convenient in-building parking with 120 stalls
  • Onsite bike racks, showers and locker rooms

This will be yet another great additional of residential housing to our neighborhood and will serve to add more “eyes on the street” and a great activation of that space. As a sidenote, if you’re a company looking to relocate to Pioneer Square in the next couple of years, this will also be a fantastic space to consider.

Ride Free Area Open House this Thursday

March 28, 2012  |  Call to Action, PI, Politics  |  No Comments

The Ride Free Area for transit in downtown Seattle is scheduled to be eliminated on Sept. 29 of this year. King County Metro Transit is working with other transit agencies and the city of Seattle on an implementation plan to address operational changes for buses and transportation assistance for low or no-income people who use the Ride Free Area to travel to essential services downtown.

The four agencies are hosting a public open house on March 29 from 4-6:30 p.m. at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson, Seattle. At the open house, we will outline some of the options being considered and gather comments in preparation for finalizing the implementation plan.

The comment period for the implementation  plan closes April 6.

You’re Invited to the Last Pile Party!

March 28, 2012  |  Event, Fun, PI  |  No Comments

If you’ve graciously (or not so graciously) put up with the ruckus from the infamous Pioneer Square pile driver these last couple of months, you’ll be thrilled to know that the ruckus will not only conclude on Friday but will end with a bang!

As a thank you from Daniels Real Estate, the development company behind the North Lot project, neighborhood residents, business owners and employees are invited to a Last Pile Party at FX McRory’s on Friday March 30th, 2012 at 3pm. Drinks and appetizers will be provided.

What: Last Pile Party
Where: FX McRory’s
When: Friday March 30th, 2012 at 3pm
Why: To thank Pioneer Square residents, business owners and employees for their patience and sense of humor during the North Lot pile driving!

Take a look back at some of the humorous memes that came out of rattled Pioneer Square residents and workers over the months – and also check out a short video about the North Lot (a.k.a Stadium Place) development which is being heralded as an unprecedented project expected to bring real opportunities to the neighborhood in the future.

Pioneer Square in the News

March 26, 2012  |  News, PI  |  No Comments

Public potty breaks in Pioneer Square out of control, neighbors say (King5)
People living and working in Seattle’s Pioneer Square are increasingly concerned about a rising tide of public urination and defecation.

Pioneer Square has a ‘potty problem’ (PI – Big Blog)
Note to everyone down there in Pioneer Square: Toilets are usually round and have handles or buttons that flush. They don’t look like sidewalks, alleys or the sides of buildings.

Human waste on the rise in city streets, alleys (PI)
The numbers are as staggering as they are disgusting. Since 2007, clean-up calls for urine, vomit and fecal matter have jumped an astounding 130 percent in Pioneer Square alone.

Artists bring life to empty storefronts (Seattle Times)
A Seattle-based program called Storefronts is offering property owners a chance to let low-budget creative types temporarily take over their empty space. That may not revitalize the neighborhood in one fell swoop, but it’s bound to help.

Weird but true (NYPost)
So that’s why it’s called the birthplace of grunge. Seattle officials are seeing a huge increase in the amount of human waste — urine, vomit and fecal matter — showing up on city streets, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In the city’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, calls for cleanups of such waste have jumped 130 percent since 2007.

Seattle mulls removing parking mandate from new construction (KOMO)
The city says look at Pioneer Square. A huge project is being built in what used to be the north parking lot of CenturyLink Field. The city required no parking but the developer is putting in 800 units anyway.

CBRE group takes over iconic Smith Tower (DJC)
As expected, a group connected to CBRE Capital Markets took ownership of the iconic Smith Tower at a foreclosure auction Friday. CBRE acquired the notes on the mostly vacant high-rise last fall. CBRE, the sole bidder on Friday, bid nearly $36.8 million for the 42-story tower and the two-story Florence Building next door, The Seattle Times reported.

No one interested in buying Smith Tower?

March 23, 2012  |  Business, PI  |  No Comments

The Seattle PI reports today that there was an auction held for the Smith Tower (whose owners recently defaulted on their loan with the building), and that no one actually decided to bid on the property, even though it seems there was a lot of interest:

At 10 a.m. Friday, Parkes started reading pages of legal verbiage. Five minutes later: “Is anyone here interested in buying this property?”

Silence. So Parkes launched into another few minutes of verbiage, ending with the declaration that CPUSI Co-Investment Cayman, LLC, acting on behalf of itself and the other debt holder, had set a minimum bid of $36.795 million.

“Are there any other bids,” Parkes asked again. Nope.

So the tower reverted to CPUSI.

All I know for sure is that as the viaduct comes down, the north lot is built, and if they convert the top half to condos, it would be an amazing place to live and I would be one of the first to sign up.

Nord Alley Welcomes New Business: Back Alley Bike Repair

March 22, 2012  |  Alley, Business, PI  |  No Comments

Nord Alley welcomes a pioneer in business, Back Alley Bike Repair which opened February 14th in time to service bicycles in preparation for the annual Chilly Hilly Ride around Bainbridge Island. Owned by Benjamin Rainbow, Back Alley Bike Repair (BABR) offers non-intimidating customer service-oriented expertise for all of your bicycle needs as well as an expanded retail selection, custom builds, purposefully built bikes aimed at urban cyclists in a warm hospitable setting.

Formally JRA- Downtown, the bicycle shop moved from 311 3rd Avenue S, to its new location The Nord Building, 314 1st Avenue S, under new owner, Benjamin Rainbow. As the first business with a Nord Alley-facing entrance, BABR will share the Nord Building with the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Feet First, OneEnergy Renewables, and building owners, the International Sustainable Institute.

BABR will celebrate Nord Alley’s revitalization and the cycling community of Seattle with a Grand Opening on March 1st, coinciding with First Thursday’s Art Walk of Pioneer Square. In conjunction with an offering of food and beverages, BABR will feature an Art Installation in the alley curated by the International Sustainable Institute, friends of the Bicycle Alliance, and Back Alley Bike Repair.

“I am incredibly thrilled to be the first person in the pool for the social experiment that is activating the alley. It’s about cities, It’s about people, It’s about connecting people to their city,” Rainbow says, “Ultimately, I am inspired by the work the ISI [International Sustainable Institute] had done and continues to do. When they approached me about opening a bike shop in the [Nord] alley, I had to say yes. It was a no-brainer.”

Benjamin Rainbow, a native of Minneapolis and 5 year resident of Seattle, will bring 15+ years working with bikes, urban planners, non-profits, and artists to establish what he hopes will be a true gem in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. Julian Aristeo (Service Lead), a Seattle native and former service lead at Gregg’s Cycle, currently #1 in the world of Bike Polo, brings a unique energy and informed perspective to everything he does.

Back Alley Bike Repair is an urban cycling emporium, offering a quality selection of durable goods and professional world class service in a unique parlor setting. Rainbow says, “I want it to be a place people go to feel inspired about cycling and a place they’re eager to share with their friends.”

Construction Begins Wednesday on Post Avenue

March 20, 2012  |  Announcement, Construction, PI, Viaduct  |  No Comments

The Seattle Department of Transportation will begin a street construction project In Post Alley this Wednesday, March 21. The southbound lane and the west sidewalk on Post Avenue, between Columbia Street and Yesler Way, will be closed for approximately three months, until the project is completed.

During construction, pedestrians will be detoured to the east side of the street and parking will be temporarily removed. The contractor will maintain access to all residences and businesses.

The construction crews will be working in an areaway under the sidewalk. At this location, as in other older parts of Seattle, a new street was built at a higher level over the original street, leaving a space between the two levels of sidewalks called an “areaway.” The aging structure supporting the top sidewalk at this location needs to be reinforced to better withstand the force of a major earthquake. In this case, the crews will reinforce an old street wall and replace a section of the sidewalk.

This project is being funded by a grant provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

For more information: Jeff Bertram, (206) 684-5194,

Media contact: Marybeth Turner, (206) 684-8548,

City of Seattle seeks candidate for Pioneer Square Preservation Board

March 20, 2012  |  Announcement, Call to Action, PI  |  No Comments

The city of Seattle invites residents to apply for the open architect position on the Pioneer Square Preservation Board. Individuals who have an interest in the historical preservation of the district are encouraged to apply.

The 10-member Pioneer Square Preservation Board reviews land use, new construction, changes of use, facade alterations, signs, and street improvements within the Pioneer Square Preservation District. Members serve a term of three years and are eligible for reappointment. Applicants must reside within the city of Seattle and should send a letter of interest and resume by March 22, 2012.

The goals of the board are to preserve, protect and enhance the historic character of the Pioneer Square Historic District. The board is composed of two district property owners, two architects and one of each of the following – retail business owner, attorney, historian/ architectural historian, human services representative, member-at-large, and a young adult appointed through the Get Engaged Boards and Commissions program.

Board meetings are held 9:00 a.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. In addition, board members may be asked to serve on an additional committee which also meets twice a month.

To apply, email your letter and resume by March 22 to (reference Pioneer Square Preservation Board in the subject line). To submit a paper copy, address it to: Genna Nashem, Pioneer Square Preservation Board Coordinator, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, P.O. Box 94649, Seattle, WA 98124-4649.

Pioneer Square in the News

March 19, 2012  |  News, PI  |  3 comments

Pioneer Square plagued by potty problem (MyNorthwest)
All that green beer, corned beef and cabbage from the weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is making for a disgusting day of cleanup in Pioneer Square. Businesses and residents alike say they’re sick of dealing with the growing problem around the neighborhood.

The Sounders Dynamic Duo (PI – Sounders Fan)
The day started off pretty ominously, with near freezing temperatures and heavy wet snow falling over much of the city. But by afternoon the sun had come out and the temperature had risen significantly. Pioneer Square was awash in green, but it was hard to tell if those were Sounders fans or St. Patrick’s Day revelers.

Released sex offender arrested in Seattle (Seattle PI)
A sex offender is back in custody one week after his release from Washington’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. John J. Callahan was arrested Monday afternoon outside a mission in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

Violent sex offender arrested one week after release (KOMO)
Seattle police arrested John J. Callahan, 40, outside the Bread of Life Mission in Pioneer Square Monday afternoon after he violated the conditions of his release, said Chad Lewis, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Corrections. Callahan, a level-three sex offender, crossed county lines without permission, Lewis said, and also failed to report to his community corrections officer.

Mario Batali’s Dad Makes the Best Meatballs (Petaluma)
Located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square district, you can easily find it by following the meaty smells or the line that flows outside the door at noontime. A special board out front advertises the delicacies for the day. Today, there was an intriguing Chambotta soup, which means garbage in Italian.

Could staggering ‘last calls’ in Seattle bars make late nights safer? (Q13 fox)
At 2 a.m., bars all over Seattle close. What results is a problem called the “push out.” That’s what occurs when hundreds of rather drunk people emerge on the street at the same time – it’s especially prevalent in neighborhoods like Belltown and Pioneer Square.