default image for post
Save Our Square
September 28, 2015  |  Business, PI, PSq Revitalization, Residents

by Courtney Crockett

The New Pioneer Square blog may be remiss in its responsibilities for not writing sooner about Save Our Square and the related dust up over a building proposal to replace the Old Seattle Parking Garage on the corner of S Jackson and Alaskan Way S. But it’s okay, this is an ongoing saga that becomes more interesting and important as it continues.

The backstory starts early in summer, when a group of concerned residents formed, Save Our Square in response to a proposed 120-foot-tall residential building at 316 Alaskan Way S. The scale of this development and its fit in our historic district are of key issue and SOS has support from several neighborhood businesses.

In July, following 18 months of debate over the proposed development, the Pioneer Square Preservation Board rejected the design with an unprecedented 7-1 vote against the project. Two weeks later, the city’s head of the Department of Neighborhoods, Kathy Nyland, unexpectedly overturned the board’s decision.

architectural rendering of proposed development at 316 alaskan way south

architectural rendering of proposed development at 316 alaskan way south

Last week, it was determined by the hearing examiner that the Department of Neighborhoods violated its own rules because it did not follow the law requiring a formal written opinion from the Pioneer Square Preservation Board. Rather, the department moved forward based on its own staffer’s written recommendation to ignore the board’s vote.

The Pioneer Square Preservation Board must now first approve then submit its written recommendation for 316 to Nyland, and is on the PSPB agenda for a meeting scheduled on 7 October.

Save Our Square adds to the increasingly important issues pertaining to historic preservation, new development, affordability and livability in Pioneer Square and Seattle overall. The question on my mind is, “Can Pioneer Square be funky and shiny at the same time?”

An article in Gawker How Amazon Swallowed Seattle, gives a personal account of how massive unrestrained development has essentially killed the middle class bastion that once was our wildly imperfect but likeable city.

And in Crosscut City May Dilute History in Pioneer Square, we are reminded of past battles to retain historic Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market which are fiercely relevant today. Knute Berger writes, “The rationale for saving Pioneer Square — promoted by (architect and activist Victor) Steinbrueck and others as early as the 1950s — was to revitalize our first urban neighborhood by protecting its historic character and making it work for art galleries, restaurants, clubs and the homeless. Its renovation has widely been hailed.” Indeed and yet, this success is the reason venture capital and large development projects are drawn to our neighborhood. Literally changing the landscape and figuratively, by pushing out independently owned businesses and resident artists most of whom weathered far more distasteful days than any recent inhabitant can fathom.

For example, the Seattle Times Real Estate Gold Rush Has Club Singing Blues, reveals that Highway 99 Blues Club, a great dive and outstanding blues venue in Pioneer Square since 2004, will not renew its lease this December when new owners will jack up their rent from $4600 to nearly $15,000 per month. Pioneer Square may not win by losing.

SOS and the proposal at 316 Alaskan Way S may be a test case for our neighborhood on how growth, character and community is managed in Pioneer Square. Stay tuned.


Leave a Reply