Monthly Staff Feature: Chris Woodward, Alliance Community Development Director

This month we catch up with Chris Woodward, Community Development Director for the Alliance for Pioneer Square. Chris leads the Alliance’s marketing, communications, and advocacy strategy. Chris utilizes a diversity and equity lens to support the Pioneer Square community’s needs.

Chris honors the authenticity that Pioneer Square exudes by finding innovative approaches to amplify the neighborhood’s ethos.

  • 2022 has been quite a busy year for the neighborhood on numerous fronts. What have been some of the highlights for you? What are you/have you been excited to see return?

2022 ushered in a significant return to normal that began starting late spring. I have been delighted to see increased foot traffic return to the district thanks to drivers such as events at the stadium and a robust tourism season. The arts & cultural offerings in the district have been some of my favorite activities during this time. Railspur’s multi-floor art exhibit was very impressive, as was the implementation of Pioneer Square BIA-funded projects such as the cabaret-revue People in the Square and Tariqa Waters’ Thank You, MS. PAM tv show. Further, I continue to cherish the opportunities to reconnect with people in person such as at the Pioneer Square Residents’ Council BBQ, where I had the chance to reconnect with familiar faces as well as meet new ones. 

  • With so many developments finally complete and various new businesses opening in Pioneer Square, what are some of the sentiments in the community right now?

I hear and feel a sense of cautious optimism among community members: optimistic based on the neighborhood’s economic recovery trajectory and cautious knowing more work lies ahead for all in Pioneer Square. There is a need for a continued focus on Pioneer Square’s pandemic recovery despite the incredibly positive impact of summer 2022. Our neighborhood will continue to physically change as major public and private developments come online. The Alliance will double down on our commitment to stewarding and advocating on behalf of Pioneer Square throughout this change, ensuring changes happen “with” the neighborhood as opposed to “to” the neighborhood. 

  • There are also various discussions currently taking place at the city level that have a direct impact on the neighborhood. What are those conversations and how do folks engage in them?

Advocating for Pioneer Square is a key service provided by the Alliance. We are grateful to support a community of passionate individuals who are willing to engage in conversations about lessening the impacts of external forces on our district. This work is constant and evolving with various topics and issues rising and falling in prioritization throughout the calendar year. Presently, the Alliance is engaged in important conversations about preserving neighborhood greenspaces, representation at the city council level, and city budget priorities. I invite community members interested in learning more about the Alliance’s ongoing advocacy efforts to reach out to me directly to discuss current needs and areas of engagement. 

  • As we head into the last few months of the year and gear up for the holiday season, what are you thinking about, looking forward to/excited for?

The Alliance team has been discussing holiday events, activations, and programming for nearly two months to ensure our plans are robust. These conversations stem so much excitement for the holiday season in Pioneer Square. Each year, I look forward to the installation of our iconic holiday lights- which is managed by our incredible Public Realm team. A relatively new public space enhancement that I am looking forward to is the holiday tree in Pioneer Park- it really makes the space! Of course, I am also looking forward to shopping our neighborhood businesses for gifts for friends and family, near and afar. 

  • Lastly, with fall already underway, what are some of your recommendations for visitors to Pioneer Square this season?

Fall in Pioneer Square is a special time and there are so many things to do. I was recently invited to the launch of The Pastry Project’s Take and Bake cookie line, and recommend folks grab a bag for themselves and purchase another to ship to a friend or family member. I’m also in awe of other businesses’ diversification of product, such as General Porpoise’s sandwiches (I recommend the “veggie”, perhaps with a glass of Foundry Vineyards’ 2021 Syrah Pet Nat). Finally, I encourage folks to check out THANK YOU, MS. PAM to glimpse a unique perspective of Pioneer Square’s people and places.