By Jack Stubbs
Big changes are on the way for one of Seattle’s busiest avenues, the Pike and Pine corridor in downtown Seattle. In a project named the Pike Pine Renaissance: Act One, the city of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront has teamed up with the Downtown Seattle Association to redesign and improve the pedestrian experience along Pike and Pine streets, as well as connect the corridor to the waterfront and the nearby Pike Place Market to Capitol Hill.
The Pike Pine Renaissance, part of the Waterfront Seattle Program, is part of DSA’s larger vision for the city, according to James Sido, media relations and issues management at DSA. “The idea [with the project] is to make it the best pedestrian experience in the country. We’ve been trying to get everyone on the same page about what this project can mean for downtown Seattle,” Sido said.
The project will include improvements along Pike and Pine between First and Melrose avenues in downtown Seattle. The guiding principles of the plan, according to the project description on the Office of the Waterfront’s website are that: Pike and Pine should have a strong and distinct identity; the streets should offer a generous, safe and continuous pedestrian experience from Capitol Hill to Pike Place Market and the waterfront; they should provide a vibrant stage for enjoying city life; and Pike and Pine should be addressed as a whole, and the design enhancements should foster stewardship and activation by adjacent users, property owners and tenants.
The project has been in the works for several years now and marks the next chapter in DSA’s hopes for the city. In 2013, DSA crafted the Pine Pine Renaissance Streetscape Design Vision, with Act One representing the first step in the process. One of the primary aims of the project is to improve east-west connections between the waterfront and the surrounding neighborhoods. Pike and Pine is an important east-west corridor downtown; the downtown stretch offers various shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation options, and is also home to the iconic Pike Place Market, Westlake Park, the Washington State Convention Center and the Westlake Station light rail station.
The Pike Place Renaissance is a progression of the initial vision conceptualized in 2013, according to Jacqueline Gruber, policy and planning analyst at DSA. “What we’re hearing from folks is that it’s a great pedestrian corridor and has some of the highest counts of pedestrians in the city…but there is still more we can do to enhance the [pedestrian] experience and provide more things for people to do. We put forward a vision for what that would look like,” she said.
Another central element to the project is the public-private relationship, with local property owners also involved in the planning and design process. “We saw property owners respond with their own investments, and I think that really turned the lights on at the city and with us as well, about how much we could accomplish if we partnered together,” Gruber said.
The Pike Pine Renaissance project is an elaboration and extension of efforts already being undertaken by certain public organizations such as the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). “SDOT and the city do a great job planning public spaces, but it’s often thought of as the strictly hard-scape improvements on the street,” Gruber said. However, the Pike Pine Renaissance encourages activation of the street space, one of the key elements of the project.
“With the private property owners, we can also talk about how those uses in the corridor will actually activate the public realm, because those are really the uses that bring people downtown,” Gruber added.
In order to achieve their goal, DSA plans to emphasize the public-private partnership at all stages of the process moving forward, by partnering with the Office of the Waterfront, local tenants, residents and property owners. “Now that people have seen this public-private partnership model in action, they’re really curious about what else we can do to activate other portions of the corridor,” Gruber said. A large part of the design and planning process entails collaboration with various private sector partners such as building owners and local businesses in the Pike and Pine corridor, according to Gruber.
An expansive new effort on behalf of DSA, the Pike Pine Renaissance also harkens back to past projects as well, such as the Occidental Square and Westlake Park activations. In September 2016, the city announced a five-year agreement for DSA to manage and activate both Occidental Square and Westlake Park. Westlake Park falls within the Pike and Pine project area—the transformation at Westlake Park might in some ways be a blueprint for the current project, according to Sido. “The turnaround that [we] saw at Westlake Park from 3-4 years ago…it’s a much different experience now. The idea is that you are adding to that space and putting in positive activities, amenities, things that are useful to people…we’ve seen that really take hold in Westlake Park.”
The involvement of local businesses is an important part of the revitalization efforts in the Pike and Pine corridor, according to Gruber. “We also think [the project] is empowering the businesses to bring their uses out onto the sidewalk to create an approach where activities are spilling out onto the street and not just having them contained within the buildings themselves,” she said.
Community outreach and engagement is an important element to the project, according to Gruber. “Beyond the folks that touch the corridor, we’ve tried to engage the community in a variety of ways, and in Seattle there are many pieces to that puzzle,” she said. To encourage community input about the project, DSA has invited Seattle-area residents to a variety of events such as public meetings and pop-up events about the planning process.
The process of adding pedestrian improvements to Pike and Pine began in late 2016 and will continue into mid-2019. In late 2016, DSA formed the project sounding board, a group that consists of property owners, local residents, business owners and urban designers. Community outreach is an integral part of the revitalization process, according to Gruber. “We want it to be visionary, but we also need to make sure that we’re bringing our partners along with us,” she said.
The open house was held in January 2017, and the second, most recent public meeting was held on October 3rd, 2017. There is an online open house portal that is open from October 3rd through October 24th. It is anticipated that a design plan will be completed in mid-2019, with the anticipated construction start date for the project slated for early 2020.
The project is currently being developed in tandem with other projects including One Center City, the Washington State Convention Center Addition, the Third Avenue Transit Corridor Improvements, and the Center City Bike Network.
And while the revitalization efforts around the Pike and Pine corridor are meant to reinvigorate the neighborhood, the Office of the Waterfront and DSA do not want to entirely transform the neighborhood—rather, the project aims to capitalize on the existing characteristics of the corridor, according to Gruber. “A lot of defining elements along the Pike and Pine corridor have been overlooked. We want to bring those out a bit more to strengthen the identity of [those characteristics],” Gruber said.
In the larger scheme, the renaissance and rejuvenation of Pike and Pine reflects greater activity currently occurring in the area, according to Gruber, with other property owners taking notice. “What’s really important about this planning process is that it capitalizes on a moment where there’s a lot of momentum in the corridor. We know that property owners are making large-scale investments in their properties,” she said.
The Pike and Pine renaissance is one of many transforming the corridor. “The Nordstrom flagship store had a large renovation, the Roosevelt hotel is renovating,” Gruber said, adding that “[the project] has created a playbook for those different players to create something bigger than the sum of its parts.”