All of the Above: What’s Behind the Revitalization of PSQ

The Washington Shoe Building with cranes at Stadium Place in the background

I’m the first to say that I’ve got the best gig in town.

People seem most intrigued by the “retail recruitment” aspect of my work for good reason. What’s not to like about being the neighborhood matchmaker? I get to connect brilliant retail and restaurant businesses with fabulous spaces in our beautiful historic district. Beat that.

It’s not about filling vacant street level spaces with whomever is ready to sign a lease. Far from it. It’s about finding those quality, intriguing, and relevant retail businesses that will make Pioneer Square an even better place to live, work, and visit. The recruitment strategy developed in 2012 with the help of community stakeholders suggested guidelines for a particular mix of restaurants, retail, and services. It also recommended leading the recruitment effort with food. 26 new storefront businesses opened in Pioneer Square in 2013, 15 of them restaurants. More are scheduled to open in this summer. Not a bad start, right?

What kinds of retail businesses are great candidates? Sometimes it’s an existing business ready to expand or try a new concept. Other times it’s a new venture that’s been the dream of someone working behind the lines for someone else. Sometimes it’s someone I’ve personally invited to take a walk around the neighborhood. Others find their way here all on their own. My goal is to generate a buzz about all that’s happening in our business district. When creative entrepreneurs are ready to “set up shop”, we want them to think about Pioneer Square. Regardless of how they get here, my job is then to help new businesses understand the vision of the neighborhood, help navigate the waters of administrative permits and approvals, connect them to whatever resources might be useful, introduce them to other businesses, and help them spread the word.

As the story of Pioneer Square’s revitalization gets more attention, I’m often asked “what was the real turning point?” Was it the restaurants? The apartments at Stadium Place? The tech companies? The King Street Station renovation? The streetcar? The waterfront? The stadiums? The ….?

Of course, you know the answer. It’s all of the above. And it takes time. Stadium Place, for example, was over ten years in the making. No one program, including the retail recruitment and business development program that fills my days, stands alone. If the Alliance for Pioneer Square hadn’t partnered with so many community stakeholders to weave a sustainable infrastructure based on a comprehensive neighborhood plan, the changes we’re buzzing about wouldn’t stand a chance.

For instance, if it hadn’t been for those long-fought battles:

  • The streetcar route would have ended in the Chinatown/International District.
  • Metered parking would still go until 8:00 PM.
  • After losing those hundreds of parking spaces under the viaduct, there would have been no mitigation dollars to subsidize short-term parking in four neighborhood garages to be cheaper than street parking – and fund free parking for First Thursday.
  • There’d be no marketing of the neighborhood. (Think maps, social media, and those awesome bus ads!)
  • There would be no advocate at the table to make certain our interests are represented in talks about the waterfront, street civility, transportation and public transit, parks, historic preservation, stadiums, housing, etc.

We’re not done. Not even close. We’ll continue to move things forward, welcoming all who care about the future of Pioneer Square to be part of the effort. I’ll continue to watch for cool retail to complement the anchors who have been here for decades, as well as the newest kids on the block.

I welcome all ideas and suggestions about possible retailers – or other kinds of cool uses – that you think might add to the magic of Pioneer Square. What have you seen in another neighborhood or what did you see during that trip to Florence, Prague, or Nashville that would be perfect here? I want to know. The coffee’s on me.

Oh, and be sure to sign up here to join me at the neighborhood Spring Clean on April 19.

Director of Business Development

Neighborhood Update – October 2013

Pioneer Square Business Improvement AreaTwo wonderful pieces of news for the neighborhood.

1. The Pioneer Square BIA expansion was passed unanimously by City Council on Monday September 23rd. This ensures that Pioneer Square will have resources for on-going economic development for years to come. What does this mean to me you ask? If you want additional information please visit our BIA Expansion page on our web-site or e-mail and one of our team will answer your questions. On behalf of  the BIA Ratepayer Board, I would like to thank all of the neighborhood business owners and staff who stepped up to ensure that this happened. It was truly a team effort. Well done everyone!

2. Yesterday afternoon the City Council passed a piece of legislation that allows the development at 200 Occidental to move forward (PDF of Council Bill). The Community Benefits of this development include several components….activating the east edge of Occidental Park (something the neighborhood has long wanted/needed), brings much needed market rate residential apartments to Pioneer Square, and lastly, the developer will be purchasing and installing a Portland Loo….something else Pioneer Square has long needed. This too was an effort that required many partners. Our thanks to everyone who worked on the various aspects of this project.

Thanks to everyone for their on-going support and belief in a better Pioneer Square. See you in the neighborhood!


Leslie Smith

Executive Director


Community & Business Development Update – May 2013

Shopping in Pioneer Square

It’s springtime in Pioneer Square and more than flowers are popping up…

  • Cherry Street Coffee is opening their new location in Pioneer Square at 528 First Avenue South on Monday, May 6. They may not be ready to serve breakfast or lunch, but they will definitely be serving coffee.
  • The Lodge Sports Grille invites everyone in the neighborhood to come by on Friday, May 10 for their “official” Grand Opening at 4:00 and the kickoff for Seattle Beer Week.  (Who knew?)  We’ll even do a ribbon cutting.  In addition – because you’re part of the inner Pioneer Square circle – mention “Seattle Beer Week” to any of their bartenders and you’ll get happy hour prices on all beers all week!
  • Kevin and Julie Law, owners of Urban Light Studios in Greenwood, will be opening the doors of Axis Pioneer Square soon.  They’ll be in the beautifully renovated southern bay of the Globe Building, (still referred to as the old Elliott Bay Books space by many.)  Their new website isn’t up yet, but you can see why everyone is so excited by taking a peek at a post by a client here.
  • Did you hear that the Roq La Rue moved their gallery to 532 1st Ave S?  AND they are part of tonight’s First Thursday fun!  Stop by to meet Kirsten Anderson soon and welcome her to the neighborhood.
  • Tonight is opening night for Café Nordo’s SMOKED at The Kitchen by Delicatus.  “Hungry theater-goers are in for an evening of dirty dealings and heartsick cowboys… where the only thing comforting is the food.” Get your tickets now.  They won’t be here long.
  • Good news spreads fast.  Little Uncle is coming to Pioneer Square.  Seattle Magazine named them one of the Best New Restaurants of 2012.  Soon they’ll be at the corner of Yesler & Post Alley. Check out their website for updates.
  • Matt Dillon and Katherine Anderson’s London Plane spaces – both the one next to Caffe Umbria and the one at the northeast corner of Occidental Mall – are coming along nicely.
  • Tuesday Lunch at the Dock” at the loading dock behind 505 1st Ave S welcomes a different food truck every Tuesday from 11:00 to 2:00. The lineup for the weeks to come will feature Skillet, Where Ya At Matt, Falafel Salom, Jerk Station, and Monte Cristo.
  • And the Pike Place Farmers Market will be here on Wednesdays, starting June 19.

Stay posted as news unfolds via our Facebook and Twitter posts.  It’s going to be such a great summer in the neighborhood!


Karen True

Community & Business Development Specialist