Monthly Staff Feature: Jessa Timmer, Alliance for Pioneer Square Deputy Director

A lot has happened since we last spoke, talk us through some of what you’ve been up to during this time.

We’ve had quite the eventful year in Pioneer Square. In the last 9 months, I’ve been supporting a planning project called the Northeast Pioneer Square Framework Plan. We’ve worked with our consultants, MIG SVR and Broadview Planning, to put together a 20-person steering committee that includes government agencies, property owners, residents, business owners, and service providers to guide the work. So far the committee has met three times and has one final meeting before the framework plan is finalized. While a progress report will be released to wrap up 2021, this document will serve to guide the next 10 years of development in the area,  meaning this work will be far from over. It feels good to see the work that came out of the Parks and Gateways plan finally coming to life. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to check it out on our site

There are also a number of private and public development and construction projects I’ve been happy to support through community connection, feedback, and navigating relationships. One public project that I’m really excited about is the East West Pedestrian Improvement Project led by the City’s Office of the Waterfront. This project will enhance the pedestrian experience on Yesler, Washington, Main, and King, connecting the heart of Pioneer Square to the new improvements along the waterfront. This year I have been working with the City and with the design consultants to get to a 90% design and on support in planning the sequencing of the work to ensure the least amount of impact on our ground floor businesses, continuing with the awesome public engagement work that came as a result of an open house held in July of 2019. The work is slated to begin in Q2 of 2022, and I’m really looking forward to the end results by the end of 2023.

Internally, we’ve brought on many new BIA Stakeholder Board members over the past few months and are working on getting them up to speed and ready to hit the ground running in representing the ratepayers. This in addition to supporting advocacy work, budgeting for 2022 and supporting the Boards. One thing I have really been enjoying is being in the office more, casual chats with Alliance staff in the office and meeting folks in person (adhering to all current public health guidelines, of course!). The world of Zoom meetings just isn’t the best place for informal chats and it’s been nice to see each other face to face more often. The events in the neighborhood over the summer brought so many people to Pioneer Square and it was great to connect with businesses, residents, and so many others who care about this space. 

What is your favorite part of Pioneer Square during the fall season?

Fall is my favorite season here in Seattle, and I don’t think there is a neighborhood that does it better than Pioneer Square. The established trees in the district give such great color in the fall and I love walking through Occidental Mall crunching on the fallen leaves with a hot cup of coffee in hand. Fall also means that the holidays are around the corner, and the string lights in the trees are truly a reason to make Pioneer Square a destination in the colder months. 

Going into the new year, what are some priorities to help Pioneer Square businesses and the general recovery efforts?

I’m writing this before the mayoral, city council, and city attorney election, so no matter what the outcome, I’d love to see the new folks in those positions meet with us consistently on a neighborhood level and really dive into the issues that matter for this community. My colleague, Chris, did a great job setting up Pioneer Square-specific candidate forums over the last month and I do hope that those conversations with elected leaders can continue in a meaningful way. 

I also see a great opportunity in 2022 with the full realization of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. I am glad this is finally coming to fruition after years of planning, and have had the great pleasure of hearing from CEO, Marc Dones, a few times over the past several months. I think prioritizing a regional approach to the crisis of homelessness is a sea change for many agencies who have worked independently on this issue for decades, but well worth the time and investment. 

I think a big priority for our city is to get folks back into Pioneer Square. The urban core has still not seen the daytime worker population come back to levels that fully support our retailers and restaurants. The economic success of downtowns, in general, are a bellwether for the health of the whole region. Investing in the equitable recovery and success of Pioneer Square is vital to the continued recovery from the pandemic, and I hope to see the sustained prioritization of this from our leaders at the city and the county.

In your view, what are some of the signs of the neighborhood’s continuing prosperity?

While there are certainly still challenges to our continued recovery, as I mentioned above, there is an unprecedented number of private developments in the pipeline for the neighborhood. This wouldn’t be the case if Pioneer Square had an uncertain future. Touring spaces like the newly renovated building of the Railspur project, keeping track of the projects like the Grand Central block and Metropole, these things tell me that Pioneer Square will persevere. While there may be some periods of tougher times, so many people have a vested interest in the prosperity of the neighborhood. Residents are planting flowers in Occidental Square Park, Alliance staff, SDOT, and volunteers are cleaning up the 1st Avenue S medians, the Pride & Resilience Public Realm Work Group is getting a mural painted on 4th Avenue under Yesler and planning for a green space project, new businesses are opening up and current businesses are seeing more visitors coming to the neighborhood, developers are still moving forward with renovations and upgrades to our historic buildings. This all points to the fact that so many people care about this district and that love for Pioneer Square is not something any crisis can take away.