Monthly Staff Feature: Nikki Somers, Alliance for Pioneer Square Office Manager

Our Office Manager Nikki Somers brings organization and order to our team. Nikki manages our data, information, and financial systems.

Being in the office most days during the last sixteen months, Nikki has witnessed a lot of the physical impacts the pandemic has had on Pioneer Square. As we enter a new phase of recovery, she shares with us some of the things she’s happy to see return and hopes she has for the future.

  • Your role required you to be physically in the office many days a week during the pandemic, how has Pioneer Square changed since the beginning of this crisis?

At the start of the pandemic, many businesses boarded up, more and more people shifted to a work from home model and we had very few visitors to the neighborhood as many restaurants and retailers temporarily shut down. By far the biggest effect the pandemic had was magnifying the challenges that we experience in the public realm. While some were not entirely new, the pandemic certainly heightened these challenges’ impact on Pioneer Square, our businesses and residents.

One positive thing that did come out of this difficult period is that it managed to bring folks in the neighborhood closer together. We sadly had to say goodbye to neighborhood businesses we love but we gained something invaluable in the course of sixteen months, a renewed sense of community. And as we start to see old faces coming back, we are seeing a couple of new faces too which is great.

  • Tell us about your time in Pioneer Square working with different organizations and what makes this neighborhood special?

Pioneer Square was the first neighborhood I was drawn to when I first moved to Seattle in my twenties. At first, it was the vibrant nightlife, great atmosphere and the quirkiness of the neighborhood. Then as my affinity grew, I went on to work in the neighborhood I loved, joining organizations such as the International Sustainability Institute and the Alliance for Pioneer Square to help improve our public spaces and support the businesses in the area. 

One of the most fun projects I worked on prior to joining the Alliance was the Alley Network project, helping to re-envision the use of alleyways in Pioneer Square as more than just for garbage pickup. This has led to even more exciting projects like the Railspur Redevelopment project transforming alleys into a space for retailers, music, art, outdoor public gathering and community. 

Over the years I have gotten to work on different events and meet so many individuals in the neighborhood. For me, it’s really the sense of community that makes Pioneer Square unique and such a great place to be. 

  • What do you love most about being at the Alliance?

There are so many things that make working here such a great experience, but it all boils down to the people that make up the Alliance. We’ve had great people come through the organization and the one constant has been our collective goal to try and make our business owners, residents and everyone who works in Pioneer Square happy. 

I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with so many individuals in a really dynamic role and create lasting friendships during the years I have worked in Pioneer Square which have all been the highlight of my time with the Alliance for Pioneer Square.

  • You’ve seen and been a part of so many changes at the Alliance for Pioneer Square over the years. What is the one thing you are proud to have been a part of over this time?

While a lot had been put in place internally when I first joined the organization, I am happy to have been able to move things forward and help streamline many of the processes we have in place today. Whether it was identifying a database management system, working on relationships we have with our partners and the City or working individually with the team on different projects, it has all contributed to making Pioneer Square the neighborhood that it is today. 

Personally, I’ve learned a lot about Pioneer Square as a local preservation district and why it is important to preserve its unique historic and architectural character. Like any urban environment our neighborhood isn’t perfect. But that’s why we choose to be here, because we know it’s not perfect and are determined to make it better. I think that, coupled with the many positive collaborations within the neighborhood, is definitely something one can be proud of. 

  • Now that things are starting to look up, what are you most excited for?

Personally, I am looking forward to all the live music events, which we have seen starting to come back. One of my most favourite things to do in Pioneer Square is to come down here, see a show, grab dinner or a drink beforehand and really make a night out of it. 

I’m pleased to see renewed excitement for events and activations in our alleyways, especially with the opening of Phase 1 of the Railspur projects in the very near future. The renovation of the Grand Central building is another project starting soon and I can’t wait for the wave of new businesses coming to the neighborhood once that is complete. 

I’ve also missed our holiday events, especially our annual Howlidays event which is such a fun event to plan and a joy to put on for folks and their pets. It’s really an exciting time in the neighborhood right now and the welcomed return of so many things we loved and missed about Pioneer Square. I for one have a lot of in-person meetings and coffee dates to catch up on. 

  • In closing,  what do you want to see in Pioneer Square ?

We unfortunately saw the closure of the only pet store in the neighborhood during the pandemic which left a lot of our residents and workers without a local pet store to go to in Pioneer Square. As people start coming back to the office and more residential spaces open up, it would be nice for folks to have a pet store conveniently located close by  along with a dog park to take their pets for a walk or run in the neighborhood.

It’s something I think lots of people in the neighborhood would benefit from having and that would help connect the community of pet owners we have in Pioneer Square. That’s probably one thing I hope we see happen in the future.