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Dillon is soon to open Bar Sajor, a full service restaurant on the opposite corner. Every day, eager locals can be seen trying to peek into the restaurant's windows, which are now papered over for their full height. All three food- and drink-serving places will have outside seating. Along with the authentically Italian Caffè Umbria coffee bar, Occidental will soon be lined with outside cafes. Despite the weather, we in Seattle love our cafes. But then we are not that dissimilar in climate to Amsterdam, which is chockablock with them.
Another shop soon to open on another stretch of Occidental is Rain Shadow Meats. Run by Russ Flint who has a shop in the Melrose Market near Anderson and Dillon, promises something that Pioneer Square has likely not seen in many decades -- a real butcher shop. Observes Flint, ”I’ve always loved Pioneer Square. In many ways, my business fits perfectly with the traditional businesses that were around when the city began.” In addition to offering select choice cuts of meat, his new shop will include a lunch counter. He sees being open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Already some businesses are beginning to extend their hours due to the new and anticipated population.
And others have been jumping on board as well. Il Corvo formerly in the Pike Hill Climb is opening a café on James Street at the north edge of the district and will be serving fresh, hand-made pasta dishes. Gaba, a sushi place, is opening in a renovated storefront near First and Main Street. The three young owners Mary Chiu, Phil Sinz and Billy Beach have sunk a ton of sweat equity into outfitting the interior. Finally, the Cherry Street Coffee House, which has for many years anchored the north end of the district, will bracket the south end with a new shop on First Avenue South, south of King Street.
All of these entrepreneurs are both very smart and willing to take risks. When people of this caliber begin to invest their own money in what have been considered unusual if not edgy locations, others take notice. It's the Tom Douglas Effect. When that enterprising chef opens a new place, other people say, “Hmm. It's time to think about doing something there.”
Now, we need to see what the new owners of the Smith Tower will be doing with that quirky Seattle landmark. I fondly recall seeing live productions of the original ER in the theatre space at the street level. And, of course, the lot next to Occidental Square is just waiting for a creative infill development by Greg Smith and company.
Unfortunately, for some people, Pioneer Square will always been viewed as a place to avoid. Nothing will likely change those ingrained notions. Nonetheless, Pioneer Square is changing and changing dramatically. Those of us who appreciate the place will simply have it to ourselves.
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