All of the Above: What’s Behind the Revitalization of PSQ

The Washington Shoe Building with cranes at Stadium Place in the background

I’m the first to say that I’ve got the best gig in town.

People seem most intrigued by the “retail recruitment” aspect of my work for good reason. What’s not to like about being the neighborhood matchmaker? I get to connect brilliant retail and restaurant businesses with fabulous spaces in our beautiful historic district. Beat that.

It’s not about filling vacant street level spaces with whomever is ready to sign a lease. Far from it. It’s about finding those quality, intriguing, and relevant retail businesses that will make Pioneer Square an even better place to live, work, and visit. The recruitment strategy developed in 2012 with the help of community stakeholders suggested guidelines for a particular mix of restaurants, retail, and services. It also recommended leading the recruitment effort with food. 26 new storefront businesses opened in Pioneer Square in 2013, 15 of them restaurants. More are scheduled to open in this summer. Not a bad start, right?

What kinds of retail businesses are great candidates? Sometimes it’s an existing business ready to expand or try a new concept. Other times it’s a new venture that’s been the dream of someone working behind the lines for someone else. Sometimes it’s someone I’ve personally invited to take a walk around the neighborhood. Others find their way here all on their own. My goal is to generate a buzz about all that’s happening in our business district. When creative entrepreneurs are ready to “set up shop”, we want them to think about Pioneer Square. Regardless of how they get here, my job is then to help new businesses understand the vision of the neighborhood, help navigate the waters of administrative permits and approvals, connect them to whatever resources might be useful, introduce them to other businesses, and help them spread the word.

As the story of Pioneer Square’s revitalization gets more attention, I’m often asked “what was the real turning point?” Was it the restaurants? The apartments at Stadium Place? The tech companies? The King Street Station renovation? The streetcar? The waterfront? The stadiums? The ….?

Of course, you know the answer. It’s all of the above. And it takes time. Stadium Place, for example, was over ten years in the making. No one program, including the retail recruitment and business development program that fills my days, stands alone. If the Alliance for Pioneer Square hadn’t partnered with so many community stakeholders to weave a sustainable infrastructure based on a comprehensive neighborhood plan, the changes we’re buzzing about wouldn’t stand a chance.

For instance, if it hadn’t been for those long-fought battles:

  • The streetcar route would have ended in the Chinatown/International District.
  • Metered parking would still go until 8:00 PM.
  • After losing those hundreds of parking spaces under the viaduct, there would have been no mitigation dollars to subsidize short-term parking in four neighborhood garages to be cheaper than street parking – and fund free parking for First Thursday.
  • There’d be no marketing of the neighborhood. (Think maps, social media, and those awesome bus ads!)
  • There would be no advocate at the table to make certain our interests are represented in talks about the waterfront, street civility, transportation and public transit, parks, historic preservation, stadiums, housing, etc.

We’re not done. Not even close. We’ll continue to move things forward, welcoming all who care about the future of Pioneer Square to be part of the effort. I’ll continue to watch for cool retail to complement the anchors who have been here for decades, as well as the newest kids on the block.

I welcome all ideas and suggestions about possible retailers – or other kinds of cool uses – that you think might add to the magic of Pioneer Square. What have you seen in another neighborhood or what did you see during that trip to Florence, Prague, or Nashville that would be perfect here? I want to know. The coffee’s on me.

Oh, and be sure to sign up here to join me at the neighborhood Spring Clean on April 19.

Director of Business Development

Update to the Neighborhood March 2014

Kristen Honeycutt Photo Co.-021Staff

Delighted to announce new staff joining us this month. David Yeaworth, formerly staff to Seattle Councilmember Sally Clark will be joining us as the Deputy Director of the Alliance. His work will focus on the pedestrian realm and coordination across the various construction projects in the neighborhood. Liz Stenning will be returning to the Alliance to work on our subsidized parking program including developing strategies for managing the neighborhood parking supply. Both positions are being paid for by grant dollars. Please join me in welcoming them to the team.

Street Civility

Our work on street civility and public safety has picked up pace with the new administration. Two pilot projects, LEAD (law enforcement assisted diversion) and the MDT (multi-disciplinary team) will begin providing outreach and intervention (services and/or legal intervention) in Pioneer Square. These pilot projects are the result of the Center City Stakeholder process where business and human service interests working with the police and prosecutors ensured funding for all of downtown. We are developing a system for social referral from neighborhood stakeholders; we will be looking for all neighborhood members to assist with referrals.


The International Sustainability Institute received federal funding to re-surface Nord Alley. We have been partnering on a master plan in the design for alley resurfacing and there is already money to finish one alley. We also received city funding to get the medians south of King Street lit and to repair all the broken light pole panels across the neighborhood. This is in addition to the funding for curb cuts, crosswalk painting, and tree trimming that has been occurring the past few months.


Stay tuned, there will be many opportunities to become informed and involved. Thanks for your support and see you in the neighborhood.


Leslie Smith

Alliance for Pioneer Square

Executive Director

Update on the Center City Initiative

Police horseVia the City of Seattle:

The Mayor’s Office and the Evans School have convened a series of meetings under the rubric of the Center City Initiative, going back to last November, that have included a wide spectrum of downtown stakeholders. The purpose of these meetings has been to have open and frank conversations about how to improve public safety downtown and to effectively address needs of people in crisis living downtown. CCI is a groundbreaking collaboration among neighborhood leaders, business leaders, social service providers and civil rights advocates, all of whom agree that public safety & public order are priorities that can best be achieved by coordinating law enforcement efforts with targeted human services investment in a way that is smarter, more comprehensive, more strategic and more effective than past approaches.

These conversations have advanced several important policy and operational changes:

Park Rangers: In June we added two new Park Ranger positions and also focused their work on known hot spots – Cal Anderson, Westlake, Occidental and Victor Steinbrueck parks. The added capacity and new focus means that the Rangers are able to have a more permanent presence in these four key parks. We are also working on an effort as part of the 2014 budget to provide dedicated SPD resources able to back up the Rangers whenever needed.

Police Enforcement: Since taking over the West Precinct over a year ago, Captain Dermody has focused on data driven policing and getting more officers out on the street. Proactive emphasis patrols have already been focusing on known “hot spots”. Last week we announced $400,000 in additional resources that will be used to augment this work through more violence prevention emphasis patrols. In the West Precinct this will mean 2 to 3 officers each week out on the street focusing on known trouble areas. We will also be prioritizing police resources in our 2014 budget.

LEAD Expansion: The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program has been in effect in Belltown going on 2 years thanks to private grant funding. Through LEAD, officers are able to divert individuals who are causing problems or who need help into services and case management. SPD is able to work with other outreach workers to identify and prioritize known challenges. And instead of cycling individuals quickly through the criminal justice system, officers are able to give them a more productive path that is then monitored by a case manager. LEAD is a partnership between SPD, the City Attorney, the King County Prosecutor, the Mayor’s Office, the King County Sheriff, the Department of Corrections, the ACLU of Washington, the Public Defender Association, and community partners including the MID, the Downtown Seattle Association and the Belltown Community Council, as well as downtown social service providers. We are now looking at expanding LEAD to cover all of downtown.

Multi-Disciplinary Team: In preparation for LEAD expansion across all of downtown, we have set up a multi-disciplinary team that includes HSD outreach workers, SPD, the Park Rangers, and the MID Ambassadors. This group is now meeting weekly to strategize about addressing the needs and issues of individuals who have posed public order issues, with an initial focus on Westlake and Occidental Parks. Follow up will include outreach, service provision and, where appropriate, using traditional law enforcement tools in a way that is coordinated by all involved law enforcement agencies. We are working with Councilmember Sally Bagshaw to fund service dollars in the second quarter supplemental that will help stand up this work prior to LEAD expansion.

Failure to Respond: The City Attorney has agreed to file failure to respond charges on a case by case basis to provide a level of criminal justice accountability for repeat low level offenders who have received citations for behaviors such as sit/lie, public urination, and drinking in public. Captain Dermody has developed a priority list of repeat offenders and that has been submitted to the City Attorney. It is expected that the multi-disciplinary team will help prioritize these and other individuals for failure to respond citations if that is deemed the most effective way to change the individual’s behavior.