LOCAL NEWS

Pioneer Square shines after revitalization of Seattle’s oldest neighborhood

Aug 17, 2016, 8:58 AM | Updated: 11:19 am
Pioneer Square...
Tourists stroll through Seattle's Occidental Park on a summer day. (KIRO Radio file photo)
(KIRO Radio file photo)
Visitors play chess in Occidental Park. (Josh Kerns/KIRO Radio) Over 700 Weyerhaueser employees will soon call this new headquarters in Pioneer Square home. (Josh Kerns/KIRO Radio) The view of Occidental Park from across the street in Pioneer Square. (Josh Kerns/KIRO Radio)
Kids play in a new children's playground in Pioneer Square. (Josh Kerns/KIRO Radio) An artists rendering shows one of two Pioneer Square alleys that will soon be resurfaced and serve as a gathering place as well as a passageway for visitors. (Pioneer Square Alliance)

The Seahawks play their first home game Thursday night when they host the Minnesota Vikings in a preseason clash at Century Link Field.

There’ll be thousands of fans around Pioneer Square before and after the game. And if they haven’t been down in there in a while, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by how vibrant, clean, and active Seattle’s oldest neighborhood has become.

From the archive: We’ve lost Pioneer Square

When Mike Klotz and his partner decided to open their upscale Pioneer Square sandwich shop Delicatus, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

It was 2009, the height — or depths — of the worst recession in decades.

And businesses were fleeing the neighborhood.

“There’s a lot of people that thought we were nuts,” Klotz said as we sat out on his patio along First Avenue in the heart of Pioneer Square. “We knew there was a strong daytime lunch business here and we were just watching the way the city was growing and they kind of skipped this neighborhood, and they could only do it for so long … we did have a plan, there was a little roll of the dice.”

The gamble paid off for Klotz and many other businesses and resident who’ve flocked to the neighborhood.

Business is booming

On a sunny morning this week, Pioneer Square was bustling. Tourists mingle with high tech workers, hipsters and the homeless. Businesses are also booming.

“We have over 50 new restaurants alone in the last two years,” said Lisa Dixon, chief operating officer for the Alliance for Pioneer Square.

The business-funded advocacy group has worked its tail off for more than a decade to bring new life, people, and businesses to the neighborhood.

And it’s working — day and night. The number of residents has nearly doubled since the opening of several new apartment and condo buildings near CenturyLink Field.

“We have about 14,000 employees here during the day. We’re not quite to those numbers during the evening and nighttime. But as people feel more comfortable in the area and are able to come down here and visit all the new restaurants and retail and shopping … there’s a lot to do and a lot to see and the doors are open at night now.”

It’s about to get even busier. Crews are putting the finishing touches on the gorgeous new building that local timber icon Weyerhaeuser will call home starting next month.

There were several reasons the company decided to move from Federal Way to the heart of Seattle, according to Jack Evans, VP of communications for Weyerhaeuser.

“Increasingly, companies are finding that employees want to work in urban environments and urban settings. Pioneer has a great history and it has gone through some incredible revitalization in the recent years and we think this is the kind of vibrant, diverse environment our employees will want to work in,” Evans said.

Evans says the company also needs to be in the center of Seattle’s tech industry to attract the best and brightest when it recruits against Amazon, Microsoft and the like for top talent.

Related: Resurgence is real for Seattle’s Pioneer Square 

Just outside Weyerhaeuser’s new headquarters is perhaps the most visible sign of Pioneer Square’s resurgence.

Safety in Seattle’s oldest neighborhood

Occidental Park used to be overrun by the homeless, alcoholics and addicts. It reeked of urine and people did their best to avoid it. But thanks to a unique partnership between businesses, residents, and the city, it’s been transformed.

It’s become a clean, safe and inviting destination.

“We have overnight security, concierges during the daytime, and then all of the continuous activation during the day whether it’s coming out to grab a bite to eat from the food trucks, or playing chess or any of the other things that are offered throughout the day. There’s just stuff to do and people are comfortable being there” Dixon said.

But none of it would have happened if the businesses and residents hadn’t taken it upon themselves and somewhat forced the city to step up and help.

Businesses tax themselves to fund everything from marketing to the private security and people that clean up the streets, even working directly with the many homeless and mentally ill in the area.

“They’ve [city officials] been much more responsive but they’re definitely someone that you have to hold accountable. They’re like a kid. They’ll do the right thing if you tell them what you need and what you want, but if you look the other way they might ignore you,” Klotz said.

But no one is ignoring Pioneer Square now. These days, the biggest challenge for Seattle’s oldest neighborhood is finding space for everyone who wants to be there.

As the crowds line up for one of the sandwiches at Delicatus, Mike says his restaurant-owning friends who told him he was crazy for opening in Pioneer Square are now singing a very different tune.

“Derrick [Mike’s partner] and I have been fortunate enough to go back and be like ‘I told you,’ he beams. “So now they’re the ones reaching out to us asking if there are any spots in the neighborhood open.”

One caveat — it’s still gritty. You do have two homeless shelters down there and plenty of down-and-out people. But it’s become far less problematic, and the crime rate is actually lower than in many other neighborhoods.

“It’s just a great neighborhood,” Klotz said.

Local News

Federal Way gun buyback...
Deborah Horne, KIRO 7 News

Federal Way’s gun buyback runs out of gift cards early

Hundreds of unwanted firearms were turned in Saturday in Federal Way’s first ever gun buyback. Owners received a gift card in return.
1 day ago
Frasier...
Bill Kaczaraba

Lovable radio host Frasier returns, but not to Seattle

Frasier, the lovable but loveless radio host who put Seattle on the map will not be returning to the Emerald City.
1 day ago
Capitol Hill shooting...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Investigation underway after man shot in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood

Police are investigating after a man was shot in the hip in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Saturday morning.
2 days ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Julia Dallas, KIRO 7 News and Bridget Chavez, KIRO 7 News

Redmond police using vehicle-mounted GPS tracking system to track down fleeing suspects

The Redmond Police Department started using StarChase Pursuit in January to safely pursue fleeing suspects.
2 days ago
...
Deedee Sun, KIRO 7 News

Murder of Kent teacher calls attention to mental health crisis in Washington

A Tacoma mom stabbed and killed on Wednesday has been identified as 66-year-old Gail Gese, a teacher at Cedar Heights Middle School in Kent.
2 days ago
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer reac...
Associated Press

Man rescued by Coast Guard wanted in ‘Goonies’ fish incident

A man who was saved by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer at the mouth of the Columbia River as a massive wave rolled the yacht he was piloting Friday was wanted for a bizarre incident in which police said he left a dead fish at the Astoria, Oregon, home featured in the classic 1985 film, "The Goonies."
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Pioneer Square shines after revitalization of Seattle’s oldest neighborhood