Part three of the Revitalization Committee discusses the Political aspects of Pioneer Square. And who doesn’t like a nice political commentary?
Here’s the clip from Donovan Rypkema:
Rypkema said that “if you’re serious about having a real, lasting, sustainable change in Pioneer Square, you’ve got to go beyond the neighborhood association version to be an economic development business (or you will have this meeting every 8 years).”
Can you talk more about the political piece and capacity?
Rypkema: I’m a strong believer in the voice of residents and neighbors, but this should not be a homeowners association type of situation. It is a commercial district. What has been done organizationally in Pioneer Square is inadequate –the focus is too narrow and the resources have not been there. In order to get support, the organization (in whatever form it takes) need to be more businesslike.
How should we convey this to new City Council Members?
Rypkema: It will be best to engage people with the assessment and be able to say “here’s what you need to do.” You need a specific, actionable plan. The timing of this is fortunate because the Livable South Downtown plan will be coming to the City Council in March. Historic Preservation is also a priority this year for the Land Use Commission. The Council will appreciate a summary of potential programs, incentives and tools that can be used to improve the Square.
The “big guys and institutions” you mentioned as being interested in participating in improving Pioneer Square – who are they?
The City of Seattle, sports teams, some of the big developers in town, the Downtown Seattle Association – they would provide resources if they felt something positive was going to happen. On Capitol Hill, the Chamber of Commerce had previously collapsed, and the City stepped in and helped facilitate a way to reconstitute it. In Pioneer Square I don’t think we will have finalized the organization and its elements – but we can identify the steps. Form follows function. Just as a point of reference, the Plan for Capitol Hill led to what is now a 200-member Chamber and $500,000 in City investments.
It will take more than just fingers crossed to make sure that an organization will be given the tools they need to implement the changes that our neighborhood needs to start improving.
Rypkema was very upfront when he brought up the issue of organizational credibility in Pioneer Square. The Pioneer Square Community Association (PSCA) has been through many ups and downs in its role in the neighborhood. In 2001, the Community Council, the Development Organization, and the Business Improvement Area were all combined to create the PSCA. But even since then, they have gone through restructuring, lots of leadership turnover, staffing turnover, etc. Although there are some terrific people working at PSCA right now, it is just not in a situation where it can take on the large-scale development goals set up by the Revitalization Committee.
The reality is that Rypkema is suggesting a very large scope of work in a very complex neighborhood with a very small budget.
Where do we go from here?
Will the city set up a brand new organization that can take on these recommendations? Rypkema acknowledged that whatever is set up, they’re going to have a hard time building credibility in and outside of Pioneer Square “when the existing organization has lost significant credibility.”
So the jury is still out on what happens next — and it looks like we may not have any answers until mid-2010. In the meantime, PSCA is working long hours to make sure that residents and businesses needs are met and that activities meant to revitalize the neighborhood are on track. And although the Revitalization Committee was set up under Mayor Nickels, Mayor McGinn is continuing the efforts in the neighborhood and OED has stated that this time, it will be different.
In the words of Rypkema, “Pioneer Square deserves to be a political priority of the City of Seattle.”