Monthly Staff Feature: Sara Pizzo, Alliance for Pioneer Square Public Realm Manager

Sara tackles projects that improves the streets, parks, and public spaces. She diligently works to enhance the streetscape, coordinate construction, and manage parking, along with anything else that is needed.

We caught up with Sara just in time for the holidays to hear more about the exciting plans for our public realm this season.

  • Firstly, you just celebrated your 3 year anniversary with the Alliance. What are some key things you’ve learned in your role as Public Realm Manager?

I’ve learned a lot about Pioneer Square over the last three years. This neighborhood is so rich with history, culture, architecture, and creativity. I had a sense of this before joining the Alliance for Pioneer Square, but the last three years have really shed a light on how truly special this neighborhood is. In my role as Public Realm Manager specifically,  I’ve witnessed even small to mid-scale improvement projects, like flower baskets, banners, holiday lights, and public art, make a big difference in the vibrancy of the neighborhood. I have also learned so much about the city’s solid waste streams, the challenges associated with Pioneer Square’s aging areaways, and more than I thought I’d ever know about urban rat populations. However, what I have enjoyed most in my time at the Alliance is meeting the unique, good-hearted people who work and live here. They have taught me that no ideas are too big or too small, and that knowing and supporting your neighbors is everything! 

  • From volunteer days to façade improvement programs and public art projects, tell us more about the year you have had and what you have been working on in our public spaces.

It’s been a busy year with lots of exciting public realm improvement projects. I continued to facilitate a community-driven Public Realm Work Group, who came up with many of the public realm project ideas that were implemented this year. It’s been wonderful to work with a dedicated group of community members who have directed so much of this year’s exciting public realm work. 

This summer, we launched a financial assistance program called the Broken Window and Facade Improvement Fund to help business owners and property owners cover the costs of facade repairs and improvements. Our initial funding from Historic South Downtown provided over $40,000 in assistance to eight storefronts in the district. After the first round of funding was expended, demand for this type of assistance continued. We were able to secure an additional round of funding from the Seattle Office of Economic Development. An additional $70,000 will be distributed to at least fourteen storefronts before the end of the year. 

This fall, we worked with community members to beautify the 1st Ave medians, which were in need of landscaping improvements for a long time. SDOT Urban Forestry helped us close down 1st Ave and provided all of the gardening tools and supplies. Thirty volunteers joined us in pulling weeds, putting down mulch, and planting over 1,600 daffodil bulbs from Cherry Street to Railroad Way. It was really hard work! We are so grateful to the volunteers who came out to make a difference and our partners at SDOT who made the event possible. 

Another exciting public project that was completed this year, is a brand new mural, titled “Duwamish,” created by Stephan Smith. Stephan is a member of the Quinault tribe of Washington and is an established aerosol artist who likes to paint abstract designs with textured realism. The mural is located under the Yesler Bridge on the west side of 4th Ave. and was funded by Historic South Downtown. Seeing the mural come to life was truly incredible. Ten volunteers attended a Community Paint Day and were able to paint part of the mural under Stephan’s direction. It was a fun experience and we are so grateful to everyone who contributed! 

  • The holidays are here and we have some exciting things happening in the public realm this season. Take us through some of the experiences lined up for our community and visitors.

As usual, we are bringing the beautiful tree lights back to Pioneer Square on 1st Ave, Pioneer Square Park, Occidental Ave S, and along Prefontaine Pl S. This year we are adding to the decor to make the neighborhood even more festive! This holiday season, visitors and community members can expect to find wreaths along 1st Ave, a decorated garland lining the Pergola on 1st Ave and Yesler Way, and a 20 foot decorated tree in Pioneer Square Park.   

  • What are some of your favorite holiday memories in Pioneer Square? What makes winters in the neighborhood so special?

My favorite holiday memory in Pioneer Square was attending the 2019 Howlidays Event with some friends, my partner, Val, and our pup, Brodie. It was so fun to see all the dogs dressed up and everyone out and about enjoying each other’s company. Sam Day did caricature drawings of the furry attendees, and I still have Brodie’s drawing framed on our bookshelf. I also enjoyed the live music and the photobooth area. We had Cow Chips cookies (miss them!) and lots of special treats for the pups too, of course. Brodie, Val, and I are looking forward to attending the Howlidays Event again this year! 

  • What are you looking forward to in the New Year?

I’m looking forward to seeing even more public realm improvement projects take shape in the new year. The Waterfront is taking on a whole new look and feel. I’m excited for the East-West Pedestrian Improvement projects to further the connection between the waterfront and the neighborhood. I’m also simply excited to see what ideas the community has for public realm improvement projects, and how I can continue to collaborate with stakeholders and partners to bring the community’s vision to fruition.