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Pioneer Square to 'Real Change': Move along

Welcome to the neighborhood? Not quite. The only welcoming party is one the paper threw for itself.

(Page 2 of 2)

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.

Joe Copeland is political editor for Crosscut. You can reach him at Joe.Copeland@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, May 27, 8:26 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, some Real Change vendors have become welcome fixtures in the neighborhoods. A few have also shown themselves to be violent criminals (see http://www.sgn.org/sgnnews14/page1.cfm). But all this is besides the point - the issue isn't about where vendors sell their papers, it's about whether it's legal and desirable for Real Change headquarters to be located in an area that is zoned for retail.

If Real Change didn't tug so effectively at Seattle's liberal heart strings, the issue would be clear cut and Real Change would never have been allowed to move there. Pioneer Square needs successful retail operations that bring in retail customers - that's why the space in question is zoned for retail. Non-retail operations like Real Change simply don't bring in shoppers, and Real Change in particular doesn't even bring in a workforce with expendable income. With the loss of Elliot Bay Books, Pioneer Square is understandably trying to rebuild a critical mass of shops and restaurants to make it a destination. Real Change contributes nothing to this mission.

The question is, does Seattle apply its zoning laws equally to everyone, or does it play favorites?

Sean

Posted Thu, May 27, 8:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Sean, I think you may have missed this part of Knute Berger's writing for Crosscut.com about the double-standards of enforcement of Pioneer Square's historic preservation guidelines:

"Seattle Weekly started as a paid newspaper in the Square, selling newspapers through newsstands, contractors and vendors. No one tried to kick the Weekly out with such arguments. And what about Pioneer Square game and software companies that license their content, are they now wholesalers too? The whole thing seems more like harassment."

Trevor

Posted Thu, May 27, 8:39 a.m. Inappropriate

Let's ALL spend our time assisting Pioneer Square in getting City Hall to provide REAL economic incentives for building owners and retail tenants who have been put at a disadvantage in the downtown marketplace by overlay legislation that is outdated and used as a punitive hammer unlike any other part of town.
If we want to have the District flourish, let's help those who we count on to do the flourishing by understanding their hardhips, and counterbalance those negatives with positive fixes.

Let's get the City Council and Mayor off their duffs and get the ideas flowing for direct help and appreciation.

Arthur M. Skolnik FAIA

Posted Thu, May 27, 12:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Trevor -
Thanks for pointing out the article, but the examples of the Seattle Weekly and the software companies completely miss the mark. Pioneer square has an abundance of cheap office space that is not zoned retail, and that's where all these companies are/were located.

If Real Change were renting office space, there wouldn't be an issue. Instead, they chose to occupy a space that was built and zoned for a restaurant, bar, or retail shop.

Sean

Posted Tue, Jun 1, 10:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Full disclosure - I've been a supporter of Real Change for a long time and a fan of Tim Harris'. I rented the first space in Belltown - that was shared by a range of do-gooders, agencies and me looking for a creative space. Heck -- at one point the space in Belltown was the home of the Micah Community - our only storefront location -- my daughter was baptised there. But I have also worked in Pioneer Square or on the edge of it (and also in Belltown) in my various careers. Since 1991 I've worked in the Smith Tower - and now the KC Courthouse.

I regularly try to shop and eat in Pioneer Sq. I cried as hard as the rest when it was clear Elliott Bay Books was moving . . . it was always my place of refuge from a 'hard' work day -- starting with my first job working for Don Miles -- on Second Ave - facing the firehouse.

Pioneer Sq. waxes and wanes just like the other neighborhoods in Seattle. The latest statistics I had read -- there are more businesses than ever (although not as many of the big 'architecture firms' like NBBJ?) in the PS. But it still seems to me to be lots of creative enterprises and employees/people who will support retail and restaurant businesses in the Square.

However, the small-minded attempts to keep out Real Change out of neighborhood are really beyond the pale. I think its reprehensible. IF its a retail operation they want -- then I think Real Change should just license a few more saleable items (in addition to their newspaper). . . . . and start selling them out of the front of their office/retail space. I for one would be proud to wearing a t-shirt, carrying a mug, sportin a pin or a trucker's hat that says "REAL CHANGE".

If the businesses and the neighborhood organizations don't get it . . . that the reason you have start-ups and artists and others that have always been attracted to the PS area for the history, the cheap rent and access to a creative community . . . . . then they should move elsewhere.

But I'm also with Skolnik -- lets fix the regs if its stifling more of this type of endeavors. I want a Pioneer Square that thrives, not just survives!

mtsier

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