The Pioneer Square renaissance is through with fits & starts

There are new bars and restaurants, yes, but also the new housing, retail and amenities that drive real city living.

In the thirty-five years that I’ve lived in Seattle, much of it working and living in or near Pioneer Square, I cannot recall so much buzz about the place. A couple of years ago, I wrote about what was beginning to happen in Seattle’s “first neighborhood”. Little did I know that things would take off as much as they have.

Today, cocktail bar Intermezzo Carmine (411 1st Ave S.), with a look straight out of the Left Bank, has finally given Carmine’s Terrazzo a street-facing presence. Down the street, swanky Damn the Weather (116 1st Ave S.) is packed by early evening. Radici (the re-named Tinello) on 2nd Ave S. is bustling day and night, despite not being in the busy First Avenue corridor, and the BRGR Bar on Occidental Park (111 Occidental Ave S.) has reinvented itself with great, inexpensive food and an upgraded interior ambience.

Last week, these were joined by the legendary Taylor Shellfish (410 Occidental Ave S.), which sold out of its stock within hours of opening.

Soon to open is Pizzeria Gabbiano on Main St., a sister restaurant to the Square's beacon of handmade pasta, Il Corvo. That will be followed by GoodBar next door and then, later in the year, Il Boccone — just a couple of blocks to the west. Over at Stadium Place on King Street, Josh Henderson of Skillet and Westward fame is readying sports bar Quality Athletics for a fall opening. Soon after, it will be joined by a Korean restaurant.

The relatively new London Plane is just one of the Matt Dillon joints driving even more neighborhood investment. Image: Sean Conner

This phenomenon is not unlike the older quarters in many other cities across North America. Both Millennials and Boomers — who together make up more than 50 percent of the American population — are discovering that the oldest parts of cities are the most charming, the most diverse, and the most dynamic.

After decades of being basically an employment center, vacant in the evening hours, lower Manhattan is now a thriving neighborhood replete with bustling plazas, promenades, and curb-protected bike lanes. Chicago’s Loop is livelier than it has been in decades. Even downtown Los Angeles is being rapidly transformed with renovations and new construction where there were once vacant buildings and vast seas of parking.

And the Square is coming back with more than just places to eat. Startups and gaming companies pack the neighborhood's upper floors. Spaces formerly plastered with “For Lease” signs are being quickly snapped up.

At right: Pioneer Square's summer farmers market. Photo: Sean Conner.

Henderson is also behind Cone & Steiner foods on King Street, which is soon to stock its newly installed shelves. The TangoZulu import shop, a Port Gamble transplant, on First (110 First Avenue S.) offers an array of handmade baskets and clothing. Clementine’s — a West Seattle women's clothing shop — is relocating into a former gallery space on Occidental. The Hidden Alchemist, a diminutive tea and herb shop, recently opened underneath venerable Grand Central Bakery. Fleurt, a flower shop, will soon open on S. Washington, and Velouria, a Ballard-based women’s boutique known for stocking local designers, has taken space on King Street.

My walks in the evening indicate a continued appreciation for nightlife: Event space Axis (308 1st Ave S) is frequently filled with well-dressed crowds attending an event. Café Nordo is rapidly remodeling the space formerly occupied by Elliott Bay Books into a live performance and dining venue. Some of the older raucous bars such as the J&M Café and McCoy’s Firehouse have been cleaned up and made into family-friendly places for brunch.



Image: Open Street Map


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Aug 5, 10:19 p.m. Inappropriate

This is the third revitalization effort in Pioneer Square in my lifetime - interesting that each time it seems like a brave new world. Each time the revitalization is to combat the same issues (drugs, chronic mental health/addiction, thefts).

Catherine

Posted Tue, Sep 9, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Same with me Catherine- I was born in Providence Hospital quite a few years ago, moved to Spokane at age one, returned at age 14 to see Seattle's "SkidRow" in full bloom. After UW Architecture School, worked down there for a number of architects practicing down there- same "revitalization" story all over again. JG-

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 7:15 a.m. Inappropriate

If you mention "skid road" or "skid row" to any adult in the country, they know exactly the kind of place that you're talking about. That definition was created by the area around Pioneer Square more than a century ago. There's more than 100 years of historical inertia in that area, so each period of revitalization struggles to overcome it.

One of the problems with the area has long been its focus as an entertainment zone rather than as a place for people to live and work. The idea has long been to attract people to the area by offering night time entertainment and sports, but that has traditionally come at the expense of neighborhood services. There's a direct line from the flop houses and saloons and whore houses of the 1890s to the night clubs and shelters of today. It's a part of town where people come to drink and be entertained.

Past revitalization efforts have all focused on bringing more people to the area through attractions like stadiums and art galleries and entertainment or dining venues. The new efforts might have a more lasting change as the focus is on bringing in residents rather than visitors.

talisker

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 9:52 a.m. Inappropriate

The war on cars, and the people who drive them, continues:
"Perhaps its time for some bold thinking. Now that a streetcar is being planned for First Avenue, let’s slow the traffic way down. I mean waay down. To walking speed.

How to do this? Replace the stop signals with stop signs. Every one of them. (Better yet, let’s borrow a bit of creative traffic engineering from the Netherlands and eliminate all signals and signs.) As with Pike Place Market, if you choose to drive through the area, you will quickly realize it's going to be very slow-going."

Thank you, Mr. Hinshaw, for espousing barriers to my visiting parts of my city if I choose to drive rather than take multiple buses and spend hours of precious life getting there. Am I, a north Seattle homeowner, part of the riff raff you and those like you want to keep out of Pioneer Square? And do the business owners down there, all the new restaurants and other businesses, really want to reject my business because --GASP!-- I might drive to reach them? Fine, then. Let it be so. I have, literally, no time for what it will take to get to and from this changed neighborhood, because I'm too busy working to pay the property and other taxes that are helping to create it.

The smugness and arrogance of your attitude is showing, sir.

mspat

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 9:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Many forget that one revitalization of the area that began in the late '60s was sadly reversed after the Kingdome opened in 1976.

AN

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 12:32 p.m. Inappropriate

You mean Goodman Real Estate actually develops properties without displacing hundreds of lower income residents? Bravo.

I agree completely with increased barriers for automobiles in this area.

The fact that some people feel 'entitled' to drive down there is laughable. Apparently, their time is more valuable then the rest of us.

jeffro

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 3:16 p.m. Inappropriate

You set the value for your time, and I'll set the value for mine. I do feel entitled to CHOOSE whether to go there, or anywhere, or not, and how to get there if I choose to go. I choose to drive places for the most part. You're welcome to choose as you wish. And I respect your right to disagree with my feelings. What I don't respect is your sense of entitlement to sneer at those with whom you don't agree.

mspat

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 5:28 p.m. Inappropriate

With the 'war on cars' canard you invited sneers; you want something to justify your defensive attitude. Is there a neighborhood anywhere, with lots of parking or not, that really wants such peevish bitching?
No one is taking anything from you, your taxes are the same as everyone's, you are not being picked on, you are not being bullied, attacked, sneered at, displaced, put out or even being ignored. Although the latter is likely the best.

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 3:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Sixty years of accommodating the automobile at the expense of actual livability certainly won't end overnight but the steps we are taking are good ones. I worked in Pioneer Square for 25 years and lived downtown for probably 20 of those with half of that twenty spent without a car and my experience is one can actually live a meaningful life without an automobile. Walking. Cycling. Public transit. Combined they offer currently options to wallowing in the sort of vehicular traffic impossible to build our way out of. The tyranny of the automobile is coming to an end and I'd have to say it can't happen soon enough.

Posted Thu, Aug 7, 9:38 a.m. Inappropriate

"The tyranny of the automobile is coming to an end and I'd have to say it can't happen soon enough."

Someone should tell these folks: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/us-auto-sales-hit-9-high-may-191716697--finance.html

BlueLight

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 4:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Seattle any more. Do you remember where we parked the car?

jmrolls

Posted Thu, Aug 7, 9:37 a.m. Inappropriate

@mspat, Pioneer Square isn't car-oriented now. There isn't free parking at each business like in North Seattle. You either need to pay to park in one of the lots, or part on the street and use the parking meter. Unless you're able to get street parking in front of the business you're going to, and you're only going to that one business, you're probably going to need to do some walking. And since there are various stores and shops to go to that are on the street as opposed to being in an enclosed mall or shopping center, chances are people are going to do quite a bit of walking. It's already a pedestrian area--believe me, I've worked there for over 8 years. So why not make things easier for pedestrians,since most people who go there will end up being pedestrians even if they come by car?

norahw

Posted Fri, Aug 8, 8:50 a.m. Inappropriate

I agree with you. And just for the record, I do not shp at malls because I don't like them. Instead I do my best to patronize local-based small businesses because that suits my values. Chain anything has no allure for me. I was reacting to the writer's smug assumption that those of us who drive whether by by choice or by necessity, should be stopped. I used to work in Pioneer Square myself. I drove through there Wednesday on my way from my current job to a volunteer obligation in Belltown. There's not much down there that interests me: not a pro sports fan, not interested in spending time drinking with the frat boy crowd, no business down there that doesn't have a more convenient counterpart elsewhere, so it doesn't really matter to me whether they close the entire area to cars or not. I am simply fed up with reading the attacks on cars and drivers. We pay the same, and maybe more, taxes as those who wish us banished. I feel our needs are being ignored in favor of the transit loving crowd. I, too, might like transit, but none of it serves my life, and so far I haven't found a way to change my life so it will.

mspat

Posted Fri, Aug 8, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

I am impressed at how the photographer cropped out all of the homeless men playing chess, making crude remarks and women passing by and arguing with each other. They must have taken it on a day when the junkies were finding refuge from the heat by lingering in doorways or entering office buildings and roaming around. I work here everyday and agree that revitalization is cool. But I have to say all of the places mentioned are REALLY expensive. Its really geared towards young, white, single folks with no kids which I am none of those things. But I don't have to fit in to see the benefits. Even though I won't spend any time there, there is new life and energy and that is a good thing. It has potential to be a nice area. I just hope in he effort to revitalize, someone stops to take into account what happens to what was already there. The homeless, the mentally ill. They don't just go away. They either stay and drive out the new business or they migrate and become a problem elsewhere. I wish all of the businesses well.

mjbg

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 12:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Street parking is hardly an issue only for Pioneer Square. There are parking garages there, and lots off Western, if one doesn't want to use transit to get there. It used to be you could find unmetered parking east of the ID or on Airport Way, but I don't think that is the case anymore.

If you can't stand to have your eye fall on a homeless person, just stay home.

Posted Mon, Aug 11, 5:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Was down there Saturday- saw many changes since I was a young architect working down there. JG-

Posted Sun, Aug 24, 8:59 p.m. Inappropriate

I was there yesterday...I had a business in Pioneer Square in the 90s and I'm not really convinced that things are as bright and rosy as the writer seems to believe. On Saturday, there were some very, very ugly things going on in Occidental Park, with hints of potential violence which could have broken out at any time. My business in the 90s was located near the Compass Mission and they were excellent neighbors. The danger does not come from homeless or poor people per se, not at all...but from the mentally ill and addicted people our society chooses to ignore and dump on the street. All the talk about start-ups and hip shops and trendy restaurants won't mean a thing until we start taking our responsibilites to others more seriously.

TaylorB1

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