Parks and Gateways

Parks and Gateways Cover image

The Parks and Gateways Project is comprehensive study and action plan for Pioneer Square’s Parks and primary neighborhood entrances. The goal is to have a full system of parks and public spaces that are inspiring, active, and inclusive for all.

Jackson Hub:

The Pioneer Square and Chinatown/International District neighborhoods come together at the intersection of S Jackson St between 3rd and 5th avenues. This area also serves as one of the busiest and most vital transportation hubs in the city. The adjacent open spaces and pedestrian connections in this busy corridor lack pedestrian amenities and essentially cut off both neighborhoods from each other, and other major destinations (waterfront, stadium district and downtown). To better connect these communities, the neighborhoods are reclaiming this area through a holistic approach to public space and pedestrian improvements.

The Alliance for Pioneer Square, SCIDpda, and Historic South Downtown are partnering to explore improvements to the public realm in the Jackson Hub area. The project adds to existing work from the Pioneer Square Parks and Gateways Project, builds off of the South Jackson Street Connections Report, and commits to a full schematic design for the parks, plazas, and streetscapes in the area.

Active Projects
Parks and Gateways Background

Active Projects:

King Street Station Plaza and Union Station Square:

While these two spaces are both distinct, in many ways they operate as a unit. One major problem is naming. Union Station Square is actually a triangle, and sits across S Jackson St from King Street Station Plaza. Be careful not to confuse Union Station Square, with the Plaza in front of Union Station (the other historic railway station) just east on S Jackson St. By the end of 2017, there will be two conceptual designs for these spaces. “Conceptual Design” is code for 10% design, an initial milestone in the design process. These will be funded to 30% design through the Jackson Hub Project with Seattle’s Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) and Historic South Downtown.

Occidental Square:

The successful partnership to activate Occidental Square has reaped such positivity in the neighborhood. The transformation of this space is profound, yet physical edits, and small procedural changes can always help to enhance the use and effectiveness of the space. In the works are two new structures in the park. The first is a children’s playspace. It will be sited toward the northern end of the park. There is a significant lack of children’s play equipment downtown and this will help to meet the demand. The second is a new pavilion and kiosk to replace the existing kiosk in the park. The pavilion will be sited on the southern end of the park, near the existing kiosk. Desired timelines are to get both playspace and kiosk in the ground by as early as 2018! Stay tuned!

Pioneer Square Park:

In 2017, schematic plans were developed for Pioneer Square Park. “Schematic Plan” is code for 30% design, a key milestone for design reviews and feasibility studies. Moving forward consists of elevating and fine tuning the single design for the park. Ultimately it is this design that is planned to get constructed. Check out preliminary views of the design:

Fortson Square:

Fortson Square is a small leftover triangle on he SE corner of 2nd Ave and Yesler Way. Small improvements to this space are funded as part of the large anonymous donation received at the end of 2016. Adjacent property owners, tenants, and constituents of Fortson Square were engaged to identify near term action items to make the space more enjoyable. Thus far the space has undergone a full scrub down. In the pipeline are murals on the Quintessa and Harbor Lofts buildings, and some artistic lighting created in conjunction with Chief Seattle Club.

City Hall Park and Prefontaine Place:

At 1.3 acres, City Hall Park is the largest green space in the district, and the second largest in the greater downtown area. While Third Ave divides Prefontaine Place from City Hall Park, with a rich tree canopy and abundant greenery, both parks serve a major need for rest and relaxation in the area. Prefontaine Place hosts a dominating transit tunnel entrance, and is a major gateway into the neighborhood. While no planning process is guiding a future for City Hall Park and Prefontaine Place, minor maintenance and beautification efforts are always on the docket.

Parks and Gateways Project Background:

Pioneer Square’s parks fall short of meeting neighborhood needs. For years, our spaces have suffered from neglect and attracted unsavory behavior. Attempts by the City to mitigate unwanted behavior has resulted in the reduction or removal of seating and minimal softscape or other park amenities. As Pioneer Square transforms into a vibrant, historic neighborhood, our parks need a revamp that is just as transformative and vibrant.

The Parks and Gateways Project was grant funded in 2014 through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Large Project Neighborhood Matching Fund. Outreach and plan development occurred through 2015, and in April 2016 the Parks and Gateways Concept Plan was completed. A significant, anonymous donation received at the end of 2016 continues plan development for two park spaces. The donation also funds immediate investments in Fortson Square to be determined through a process led by neighboring building tenants.


Read the full Pioneer Square Parks and Gateways Concept plan here!

Related Planning Efforts:

One Center City – One Center City will bring together many communities, perspectives, and partners to create a near-term plan and 20-year vision for how we move through, connect to, and experience Seattle’s Center City
South Jackson Street Connections – A 2016 concept plan for improving the quality of the pedestrian environment along Jackson St, and enhancing the connections between the Chinatown/International District and Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square Street Concept Plan – Finished in 2016, this document provides guidance on preferred street elements in Pioneer Square, as well as more developed ideas for a few streets in the neighborhood
SDOT Station Hub Study – A 2009 study regarding the use of streetscapes, plazas, and proposed traffic changes at the station area

Additional Resources:

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – A film by William Holly Whyte analyzing human behavior in public spaces
The Porch at 5 years – A study of a successful programming effort at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station
Unpleasant Design and Hostile Urban Architecture – A 99% Invisible podcast discussing how the design community works to discourage behaviors through design