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Friends of the Market Newsletter

May 2015

Ceremonial groundbreaking of the MarketFront project has been reset to Wednesday June 24th, at 1:00 PM. We now know the completion of this connection of the Market to the Central Waterfront, with new businesses, a brewery, farmers and crafts, needed low-income housing, public parking, and a grand viewing plaza of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains is certain to happen.

All the complications and setbacks, with Bertha, the crumbling viaduct, the waterfront and seawall construction, as well as normal political lethargy over funding, have eased into the past. PDA managers, architects, contracted construction firms, and city leaders are lacing up boots and grabbing shovels to “turn some earth.”

Come join Friends of the Market, the Pike-Up Team from the Market Foundation, and others on June 24th in the Desimone Parking lot off Western Avenue for this once-in-a-lifetime event!

The new Atrium Kitchen in the Economy Market Building is becoming a feature of mid-day activity for Market visitors and regular hangers-on. More and more frequent cooking demonstrations (free) and classes (pre-paid) on all days of the week are surrounded each day by Market users holding small meetings, studying students, laptop devotees, newspaper readers, resting tourists, and dozens of others using the scores of tables and chairs. It is becoming as communal a place as any great library reading room, but with coffee and nosh allowed.

Friends should be sure to make an effort to experience the Atrium on your next visit to the Market.  See for yourself what good planning and design can do for a space designed in the 1970’s, which has finally realized its original function in the twenty teens.

 


Post Alley Passages


City Talk

Many American cities are currently engaged in visioning and planning efforts to create and maintain a healthy city life. Often they take inspiration from European and Asian urban centers – especially regarding transportation infrastructures like roads and bridges, and automobile congestion, trains, buses and pedestrian amenities.

In mid-April, the New York Times travel section featured “bustling streets” with cafes, bars, galleries and shops in ten European cities.  The common denominator was what they termed ‘favorite streets’, those with food and drink service and places to sit and schmooze. Such streets also have been called ‘living streets’, or ‘shared streets’, but the Dutch term, woonerf seems to win out. Defined as “a street or square where cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and other local residents travel together without traditional safety infrastructure to guide them.”

Passages thinks a woonerf sounds like Pike Place. And the Market district also has the woonerfian upper Post Alley, from Mr.D’s porch north to the Pink Door restaurant. Post Alley has eating and drinking places and deliveries and trucks in more or less comfortable co-existence. (The Market Historical Commission refused a “Livable Street” award from a national non-profit urban studies organization in the 1990’s because they required a brass plaque be imbedded in an entrance to Post Alley. The Commission thought Post Alley spoke for itself.)

Not everybody cares to share the streets with cars and trucks.  For years Dick Falkenbury, prominent Seattle champion of the city-wide Monorail, urban guide and author of Rise Above It All has ranted about traffic on Pike Place. Similarly, long time waterfront condo neighbor and world traveler, Jack VonKinsbergen, has dismissed arguments about the need to resupply businesses from the street because there are no adequate loading docks. The growing use and popularity of “shared streets” in America and Europe do not mollify  either of them.
 
“Bikes, Cars, and People Co-Exist on Pittsburgh’s Shared Streets” is the heading for Tanya Snyder’s usa.streetsblog.org article on shared space. Her lead paragraph contains this phrase, which could also describe Seattle: “…emerging as a leader in progressive street design with the help of a new mayor who is committed to biking, walking, and public space.” Pittsburgh has a Market Square with restaurants and shops bordering a street paved with cobblestones, no curbs and pedestrian space where slow moving traffic concedes “it isn’t going through here quickly.” Merchants resisted efforts to ban traffic entirely and “fought the idea of a pedestrian mall.” Take that Northgate and Southcenter! Interestingly, Ray Gastil, formerly (and briefly) Seattle’s planning director, has been Pittsburgh’s planning director since April 2014.

Seattle, too, is looking at some areas to adopt the shared street concept. A recent article in CityLab featured (along with several European cities) our Bell Street Park, calling it a woonerf “that turned four blocks into a 56,000 square-foot area that will encourage pedestrians, cyclists, and automobiles to share the space. The city took out curbs, leveled the pavement, added street furniture, and removed car lanes.”  Josh Feit, in Seattle Met, wrote that the goal was: “creating eddies where people can gather around food trucks, gardens, and play equipment.”

South of the Market, in Pioneer Square, concepts have been advanced to turn some alleys west of First Avenue into living streets, with cafés and shop entrances. When Weyerhaeuser completes its new headquarters building on Occidental Park, we look forward to the kind of positive energy that new pedestrians and park users bring to public spaces. The resurgence of residential units in the area can give balanced morning, noon, and nightlife to the Square.

Last month, a multi-agency force of city, county and federal law enforcement personnel launched a “9 1\2 Block Strategy” to purge the downtown core of drug dealers, their dependent customers, and shoplifters who hawk their wares on the streets. Homeless people will be assisted to social services. Those arrested, when possible, will be diverted to a Law Enforcement Diversion (LEAD) program. The ACLU commented, “We’ll be watching to see that it enables people to receive needed mental health and drug treatment services, and that it isn’t pursued in a counterproductive way that locks people up for minor offenses.” The affected area is Union Street to Fourth Avenue, including Westlake Park, Olive Way/Stewart Street to First Avenue, back to Union. 

Notice this new Surge Strategy does not include the Pike Place Market. Why?  Because we have a 24/7 security force that is present, visible, helpful, and inhospitable to ‘surge targets’. Market people know that many of those “targets” are and have been regulars in the aisles, passages, and restrooms of the Market. The security staff will be pressed to repel newer discharges from the surge in the district.

Within the “surge” perimeter on Second Avenue, in front of the Eitel Building, the Pronto bike share program will install another rack of 50 cycles to rent, just one block from the 50 stall rack on Third Avenue adjacent to Ross Dress for Less. Readers will recall that some months ago Mr. Ben halted efforts to put just such a rack of bikes next to the Information Booth here in the Market. Pronto has dozens of stands around the core of the city and is doing just fine without the Market.

Construction continues in the half block west of the “Bon Garage” (now Macy’s Garage) and is rising from its completed parking pit, nearing street level. At First and Stewart, the 39-story hotel/residence structure is over five stories and climbing.

There is a lot happening in town in 2015. The city is implementing a new City Council structure, leading an effort to ‘clean-up’ downtown with realistic action, (not Sidran Laws), and the Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders are looking good. Down here in the Market, we are trying out a new response for comments about Pike Place and Post Alley:  “It may be crowded, but it’s our woonerf.”

 


Post Alley Passages written by Paul Dunn, fessdunn2@gmail.com

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