Parks and Gateways

Parks and Gateways Cover image

The Parks and Gateways Project is a comprehensive study and action plan for Pioneer Square’s Parks and primary neighborhood entrances. The goal is to have a full system of parks and public spaces that are inspiring, active, and inclusive for all. View the report here.

Over the years, Pioneer Square’s parks have suffered from neglect and sometimes attracted unwanted behavior. Attempts by the City to mitigate issues has resulted in the reduction or removal of seating and minimal vegetation or other park amenities. In Occidental Park, recent activation has brought new life to this park and shows what’s possible. As Pioneer Square transforms into a vibrant, historic neighborhood, our parks need a revamp that is just as transformative and vibrant.

The Parks and Gateways Project was grant funded in 2014 through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Large Project Neighborhood Matching Fund. Outreach and plan development occurred through 2015, and in April 2016 the Parks and Gateways Concept Plan was completed. A significant, anonymous donation received at the end of 2016 continued plan development for Pioneer Park, King Street Station Plaza, Union Station Square and Fortson Square. In 2018, Historic South Downtown funded the concept plan for Jackson Hub. The Alliance continues to seek funding for further design and ultimately implementation.

Jackson Hub:

The Pioneer Square and Chinatown International District neighborhoods come together at the intersection of S Jackson St between 3rd and 5th avenues. This area also serves as one of the busiest and most vital transportation hubs in the city. The adjacent open spaces and pedestrian connections in this busy corridor lack pedestrian amenities and essentially cut off both neighborhoods from each other, and other major destinations (waterfront, stadium district and downtown). To better connect these communities, the neighborhoods are reclaiming this area through a holistic approach to public space and pedestrian improvements.

The Alliance for Pioneer Square, SCIDpda, and Historic South Downtown are partnering to explore improvements to the public realm in the Jackson Hub area. The project adds to existing work from the Pioneer Square Parks and Gateways Project, builds off of the South Jackson Street Connections Report. The Jackson Hub concept design focuses on improvements that can be made to this important public space within the next fiver year. The report also looks forward to several visionary ideas the community embraced, to plant the seeds for future planning efforts. You can find the Jackson Hub Concept Plan here.

King Street Station Plaza and Union Station Square:

Above: King Street Station Plaza Concept Plan Rendering & Union Station Square Concept Plan Rendering

King Street Station Plaza and Union Station Square sit opposite one another on S Jackson Street, forming a gateway into Pioneer Square. The concept plan provides detailed site analysis, surveys, public input and preliminary schematic design for these two important spaces.

The theme of King Street Station, Railway Park, is inspired by the railroad’s role in transforming Pioneer Square from a tidal marsh into a cross-continental gateway. The design draws people into the space with locomotive rails, gardens, and colorful seating that reflect the building’s iconic architecture and sign. Small gathering areas are set within gardens, and movable tables and chairs provide open, flexible seating throughout the plaza. A rotating turntable displays the historic tidelands map and functions as informal seating, play platform and event stage. A shade canopy, designed to respect views of the building provides comfort in the summer, and could support accent lighting and art installations. The plaza offers flexible use spaces for a variety of events such as art installations, food vendors and performances, but also functions as a beautiful and attractive destination at less active times.

The proposed design for Union Station Square evolved from the desire to share design themes with the plaza across the street. The continuation of interpretive paving integrates the rail history narrative that is also found in the inscriptions on the existing granite seat cubes. The design creates a more unified sense of place between the parks while also improving circulation and accessibility through the addition of a ramp at the north access edge. Event diagrams propose programming options such a craft markets, play spaces and spill-out events from adjacent businesses.

Occidental Square:

The successful partnership to activate Occidental Square has reaped tremendous positivity in the neighborhood. The transformation of this space is profound, yet physical edits, and small procedural changes can always help to enhance the use and effectiveness of the space. The first addition to the park is a children’s playspace, which sited toward the northern end of the park. There is a significant lack of children’s play equipment downtown and this will help to meet the demand. A new pavilion and kiosk to replace the existing kiosk in the park. The pavilion will be sited on the southern end of the park, near the existing kiosk. Pavilion construction will being in early 2020.

Pioneer Square Park:

Pioneer Square Park serves as a gateway from the downtown 1st Avenue commercial corridor into Pioneer Square, a primary gathering space for the neighborhood, and the starting point of several historic tours. The proposed design transforms the park’s residual parcels into a cohesive space that celebrates the site’s history yet responds to its urban condition. The park’s new bright, open platform draws people to the space for a relaxing lunch, tours, small gathering and events with greater potential for activation and engagement for all ages and abilities. In 2017, schematic plans were developed for Pioneer Square Park.  Moving forward consists of elevating and fine tuning the single design for the park. Check out preliminary views of the design:

Fortson Square:

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.

      • Re-imagine Fortson Square

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.

The Alliance for Pioneer Square, Chief Seattle Club, and SDOT hosted an open house at Forston Square (SE corner of Yesler and 2nd Ave Ext S) where the community had the opportunity to learn about the culturally rich background of the site, provide feedback on how the space could potentially be used, and learn about the findings from SDOT’s Public Life Study for Yesler Crescent.

Missed the open house? Take the survey online.

View the Working Group Meeting #1 Cultural Engagement Plan here.

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. With this goal, the Alliance will start on a master planning process in summer 2019.