Seattle residents push for a car-less Pike Place Market

May 10, 2023, 5:03 PM

Pike Place Market...

People walk past the Pike Place Market, Seattle's top tourist destination on March 09, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. The city has recently struggled with an uptick in homelessness and violent crime. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Cars cluttering Pike Place Market could be eradicated if one non-profit organization — Seattle Greenways — has its way.

Seattle Greenways spokesperson Gordon Padelford stated the organization aims to improve street safety and accessibility, and wishes street cafes — where small businesses spill out into the streets without the dangers of vehicle traffic — could replace the space vehicles and curb parking currently occupy amid one of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions.

According to Padelford, the organization polled over 600 likely Seattle residents in 2021, with more than 80% in favor of a pedestrianized Pike Place Market.

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“The mayor is talking about a downtown activation plan, how to get people to come back downtown and create a welcoming neighborhood,” Padelford told KIRO Newsradio. “And no matter who you talk to, this is always at the top of people’s wish list for that kind of vision. And the good news is, there are really some win-win opportunities for allowing loading and deliveries and emergency vehicles and construction vehicles to access Pike Place while still closing it.”

Earlier this year, construction began on a project expanding bike and sidewalk accessibility along Pike and Pine streets, making them one-way between the waterfront and Bellevue Ave. The project is estimated to cost $17.5 million.

Padelford claimed removing cars from the cobblestone tourist market would be easy.

“Seattle has a tendency to exhaust everyone through endless processes and procedures, and this is one of those opportunities that you don’t need millions of dollars, you just need a handful of cones, maybe some tables and chairs, and you can try out some different options that might work for everyone,” Padelford said. “And if it doesn’t work, you can always change it, or you can take it out entirely. I think the way forward is to have the mayor say, we’re going to try something bold here in this downtown activation plan that people have been wanting for decades.”

The Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA) is actively working with both council members and the mayor’s office on current priorities for Pike Place and future planning, including the possibility of making the area a car-less zone. The PDA, which operates the market, is a non-profit public corporation that was chartered as a result of Seattle voting to save the market from urban development back in 1971.

Cherry trees in front of Pike Place Market are gone

“Everyone involved understands Pike Place is a complex operational ecosystem and needs to be addressed in a way that supports the market’s small businesses,” a spokesperson with PDA wrote in a written statement. “At this moment, the market has endured two years of the COVID pandemic and is entering year three with ongoing challenges. Our market community is still actively recovering and rebuilding. Right now, the PDA’s No. 1 focus is supporting our small businesses, which has been our priority since the pandemic began.”

At the beginning of May, Amazon requested its corporate employees to spend at least three days a week working from the office, according to a memo CEO Andy Jassy shared with Amazon employees. It has immediately translated to increased traffic and congestion both on the streets and in stores.

People around Seattle’s South Lake Union Amazon campus have noted their commutes are getting longer — alongside their lunch lines.

“I see a lot of traffic, it’s backed up from around 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.,” one Amazon employee told KIRO Newsradio.

“Even though it’s only like two miles, it took close to 20 minutes to get here,” another employee said.

The Downtown Seattle Association told KIRO 7 they expect more businesses to start calling employees back to the office, following Amazon’s footsteps.

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“The idea of closing Pike Place is a concern felt broadly around the Market, particularly by those that work and reside here,” PDA’s spokesperson said. “For them, the street is a lifeline; it is how they operate every day and have been for decades. Altering that flow at such a delicate time is not in the best interests of our businesses. Once we get to a place of stability, we will discuss ways for Pike Place to function at its fullest potential with the market community at the forefront.”

The PDA is in the midst of developing a master plan, which would evaluate the best use for Pike Place for both merchants and residents, but acknowledged it is still in the early phase with little details or specifics to share.

“It’s essential that we take the proper time and effort to strategize a plan that supports the market’s role in our city forever,” PDA’s spokesperson wrote. “Similarly, within the master plan, any changes to the street will require studying and research. It’s not as simple as opening and closing. The market is a complex place where when you change one thing, it affects so many other things.”

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Seattle residents push for a car-less Pike Place Market