Last week, the Mayor (along with the Alliance for Pioneer Square) hosted a stakeholder meeting to talk about what has happened in Pioneer Square in the last 6 months. This is the second meeting that serves as a follow up to the “Pioneer Square 2015 plan.” (apparently I just live tweeted both meetings, never did a follow up post).
The mayor’s blog has a summary of what was said in the meeting, and what are considered recent accomplishment, including:
First Hill Streetcar
Only in Seattle Funding
King Street Station
Artist Space Assistance Program (ASAP)
Public Safety (still needs serious help)
Restorative Justice Pilot (the first I’ve heard of it)
Restrooms (yes, this is moving forward! I’m on the committee making it happen)
Special Events Management (also needs serious attention still)
So that was the summary part of the meeting. THEN we got to the good part where the group (made up of city officials, business owners, and residents) was allowed to ask questions. The topics that came up included:
- staggering nightclub hours
- increased graffiti problems
- the tolerance the city/police seem to have for bad behavior during sporting events
- sending hundreds of more buses through the neighborhood due to the viaduct coming down
- restorative justice for those who urinate in public in the neighborhood
- and the major problems with drugs and loitering in Fortson Square
A lot of the answers from the Mayor were along the lines of “we’re aware it’s a problem, and we’re looking into solutions.’ Here’s the thing: if I weren’t more involved in neighborhood groups, that statement would concern me. But I know that there are incredibly hard working staff members at the Alliance and other dedicated volunteers in the neighborhood that serve on so many committees that are already battling these problems and are actually coming up with solutions. At the beginning of the meeting, Leslie Smith of the Alliance, mentioned that this neighborhood has never had so much attention and support from city officials as we do right now. So let’s capitalize on that and continue to speak out for what this neighborhood needs to make it even better than it is now.
Along those lines, can I just end this post with a comment from “Paul” on the Mayor’s blog?
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.
If you would just indulge me for a moment to defend my neighborhood from this very short-sighted comment. Pioneer Square is made up of fascinating residents, unique businesses, and amazing historic architecture. We had a snowstorm that shut down the city. Instead of staying inside by the warmth of the fire, locals headed out to the restaurants who stayed open to show their support. We walked over to Carmine’s (who had just passed away) through an empty neighborhood, and joined a full, bustling restaurant, when it seemed the rest of the city was empty. That’s the type of neighborhood we live in.
And on our walk home, a random person ran up to me and handed me a piece of record art, then ran away — no explanation, nothing on the record that says who the artist is. That’s how unique this neighborhood is.
We have business owners, like Mike and Derek from Delicatus, who have an incredibly busy lunch crowd, and use that business to stay open for the residents in the evening, even if it can seem slow at times. There are numerous other business owners who also live in the neighborhood who dedicate their free time to committees that have accomplished things like getting portapotties set up throughout Pioneer Square on gameday, or changing the type of confetti that’s used, or researching the best options for restrooms in the neighborhood. That’s the type of neighborhood we live in.
There is a resident who single-handedly took on the alley behind their building to activate it and make it more friendly to walk through. [And that's not even part of the group and organization that are doing this to all the other alleys in the neighborhood.]
We have the art walk, we have a summer market, we have tech mixers, and business mixers, we have art galleries, and Sounder fans who march through the neighborhood (peacefully), we have unique businesses, and small business owners, and struggling artists. We have the Storefront Seattle program, and the Underground Tour. We have walkable streets, activated alleys, gorgeous ivy covered buildings, and an ideal brick park for family, engagement, and wedding photos. This is the neighborhood I choose to live in.
Those of us who live in this neighborhood, and those that choose to open and keep their businesses in this neighborhood are the people that we want here — we’re just waiting for the rest of you to stop judging this book by its cover and recognize the good that is down here already. Change will come to this neighborhood, but it will be slow, and it won’t ever really change the feel of Pioneer Square. We will always have the homeless in our neighborhood. But that’s ok — because as housing is added and more businesses open, this neighborhood will find a balance that works a little better.
And then the rest of you will see what we see.