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In passing, Smith also complained that Real Change hadn't been willing to meet. She didn’t return phone calls for comment. But if one supposes that Smith's group wants to meet, as she told the mayor, to negotiate Real Change's absence from Pioneer Square, perhaps that explains Harris' statements expressing frustration with the opponents of the move.
"We have made every attempt to get in communication with them to talk about their concerns, early on," Harris said. He added, "They have never agreed to talk to us. They have never agreed to meet with us directly. But their bottom line is that they want us to go somewhere else."
For Real Change, the move to Pioneer Square is motivated by the desire to grow. And one of the key factors for Harris relates directly to one of the concerns raised by Pioneer Square. Real Change did have vendors waiting on the sidewalks of its Belltown office on Wednesday mornings to buy each week's new edition, Harris said.
"One of the great things about our new space is that we have effectively tripled the space we have for our vendors to be inside," said Harris, so they won't be waiting on sidewalks to buy papers at the new offices, 219 First Ave. S. He doesn't think that’s the real issue, though. In perhaps his harshest statement, the sometimes-profane Harris speaks merely of "scapegoating" of the poor.
Pioneer Square has many problems, as an excellent Seattle Weekly article recently described, including an often-cumbersome review process for changes in the historic district and the huge swings in traffic and parking created by the presence of two major sports stadiums. And, without the lively residential atmosphere of Capitol Hill, Ballard and some other neighborhoods, even business at the bars and restaurants tends to be heavily concentrated on weekends.
McGinn pointed to the effects of the sports traffic — good and bad — and noted that the city has a number of efforts to deal with Pioneer Square's funk, which goes back a couple mayoral administrations. Harris cited a personal experience trying to shop in the neighborhood a few weekends back. It was game day at one of the sports stadiums, and he found parking prices at retail-killing rates of up to $30.
In departing Belltown, Real Change devoted an entire issue to the old neighborhood, with warm, wide-ranging articles. On Wednesday (May 26), a brightly colored edition practically shouted its headline: "Hello Pioneer Square! Our new neighborhood."
If the street newspaper's move had changed Pioneer Square, it wasn't apparent late in the morning. Having for the moment forgotten about the dispute, I happened to get off a bus at First Avenue and Yesler Way. As I walked under the Pergola, the Square seemed a little more relaxed than usual, with only one person sitting quietly with a sign seeking money.
In the new edition, Harris wrote excitedly about the move, saying, "None of this could have happened without the love that the people of Seattle have shown." Unfortunately for those who want the neighborhood to move forward, the bear-hug greeting that the paper offered Pioneer Square will be met with an uncomfortable, determined back step by some of the neighbors.
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