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By Kristin Bentley

For the first time in 40 years, Pike Place Market is expanding on its western side by reclaiming an underutilized surface parking lot on Western Avenue. The new “MarketFront” expansion will create 30,000 square feet of open space with a large weatherproof canopy, 12,000 square feet of local shops and restaurants, an underground parking garage with 300 spaces, 40 units of low-income senior housing, and a neighborhood center with extended social services.

Additional features will include four public art installations, 47 additional farm and craft tables, five new artisan food purveyors, 33 bicycle parking spaces and a brewery. The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) is leading the project with support from the City of Seattle.

“We are absolutely a locals’ market, we depend on their support.”

The MarketFront site is within the nine-acre Market Historic District formerly occupied by the Municipal Market that was destroyed in a fire in 1974. Despite decades of studies and development proposals the site remained undeveloped due to the cost of building over the active Burlington Northern Santa Fe train tunnel running beneath it. It remains the last parcel in the District to be developed.

Funding for the $73 million project comes from the PDA, parking mitigation funds from the City of Seattle and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), a $9 million capital fundraising campaign led by The Market Foundation, low income housing tax credits, grants, PDA equity and debt, new market tax credits and grant funds.

Designed by Seattle-based architectural firm, Miller Hull Partnership, the expansion is a key component to the plans for the new Seattle Central Waterfront that will be completed in 2020, according to the PDA. The new waterfront runs from the Pioneer Square shore, past Downtown Seattle and Belltown, and ends at the Broad Street site of the Olympic Sculpture Park. The existing historic marketplace will not be significantly altered by the expansion. The only changes will be additional doors leading out of the Desimone Bridge to the west, across Western Avenue, and the expansion of the existing parking garage.

“Eventually we’re going to build a connection from our plaza down to the waterfront,” said Emily Crawford, PDA Director of Communications and Marketing. “A bigger game plan here is to connect the waterfront to the market, and the market is sort of the linchpin to downtown. We’ve always been a middle destination between the two.”

Construction began in June 2015 after a groundbreaking celebration and is scheduled to be completed in February 2017 with a grand opening in late spring. The new underground parking is expected to be open this October. “In a way the project is going to open up in stages,” said Crawford. “As soon as the project is done and is safe for people to use, they can go out there and catch the views. There will be a soft opening, then we’ll have a big shindig.” The PDA has pre-leased space to four vendors, including a microbrewery and gastro-pub, artisan biscuit maker, chocolatier and a seafood tapas bar.

In response to Seattle’s growth in the last few years, the key drivers for the project were expanding available parking, building housing for low-income seniors and creating more open public space. The approximate 30,000 square feet of new accessible public space will feature views of Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier and the Seattle waterfront. It will also provide much needed public seating, handicapped-accessible walkways and public event and gathering space.

Throughout the process, the PDA has involved the public. The current design of the MarketFront reflects those comments made during public meetings regarding maintaining views, preserving the traditional character of the market and providing weather protection. “It’s the locals that keep us going,” said Crawford. “We are absolutely a locals’ market, we depend on their support.”