The eastern part of Pioneer Square roughly encompasses the blocks between Yesler Way, 2nd Avenue Extension S, 4th Ave S, and S Jackson St. The area is home to a variety of businesses, art galleries, artist studios, and social services. Residents vary in social demographic make-up and live in a variety of housing types from market rate to subsidized housing.
Major transit and auto access in this area provides crucial access to the city and region. This concentration of buses and traffic essentially cuts off streets from other parts of Pioneer Square and downtown. Public spaces are mostly dark and underutilized coupled with a lack of police presence and enforcement. The area lies on a slope which poses difficult ADA access to reach transit and services. Additionally, the retail landscape is further challenged with theft and vandalism.
Attempts to address issues in this area have been sincere and ongoing, yet disjointed and under resourced. 2nd & Yesler was identified as critical to address in the 1998 Pioneer Square Neighborhood Plan. In 2016, the Alliance for Pioneer Square undertook a project with funding from the Department of Neighborhoods to create a concept plan for public spaces in Pioneer Square. The Pioneer Square Parks and Gateways plan helped set the stage to restore the vibrancy of Pioneer Square’s parks and open spaces.
Developing a long-term vision for this area, will require thoughtful designs, socioeconomic change and dedicated, progressive stakeholder engagement.
Fortson Square is a small triangle on the SE corner of 2nd Ave and Yesler Way. This small public space saw some big changes in fall 2019 when Chief Seattle Club broke ground to build their mixed-use affordable housing project next door to the Club’s current location. The Alliance is currently working with the City of Seattle, Chief Seattle Club and others to create a vision for a welcoming, inclusive space for all to enjoy.
Chief Seattle Club is embarking on a vital project to redevelop the site at 108 2nd Ave Ext S. and create affordable housing. The project will also include a ground floor health clinic and native arts café/gallery to support the physical, spiritual and cultural needs of the native community.
As the front door to this project, Fortson Square will also be recreated as a welcoming place for everyone. The Alliance for Pioneer Square is working in partnership with Chief Seattle Club on community outreach in this redesign effort. Design efforts for the new building and public space are led by Jones & Jones in coordination with SDOT.
City Hall Park and Prefontaine Place:
At 1.3 acres, City Hall Park is the largest green space in the district, and the second largest in the greater downtown area. The park initially served as the main entrance to the courthouse until the south entrance was turned into service-only access in the 1960’s. In addition to the courthouse, the businesses and buildings surrounding Fortson Square, Prefontaine Place and City Hall Park have a high percentage of social services and civic uses. Yesler serves as a key east-west gateway axis on which all three parks hinge. Major transit access via the Pioneer Square transit tunnel and 3rd Avenue bus corridor provide key access and activity while also posing safety challenges.
The dark underutilized City Hall Park, the defunct Prefontaine Square and Fountain, and Fortson Square present a collective challenge but one with significant promise. A successful solution will require thoughtful design, socio-economic change and dedicated, progressive stakeholder engagement.