For a lot of people, the news last month that Nike shuttered its retail shop in downtown Seattle was met with passing interest.

For Matt Griffin and many other downtown boosters, the Nike store’s demise signified something deeper. The end of an era. The dusk of a once-glorious renaissance engineered back in the 1990s. A sobering call for city leaders to try something — anything — to pump some life back into Seattle’s sagging core.

Griffin has been a principal and managing partner in the Pine Street Group, a real estate development and management firm.

The Puget Sound Business Journal’s “2022 Executive of the Year,” Griffin was one of a core group of developers instrumental in getting downtown back on its feet after retailer Frederick & Nelson closed its doors in 1992. Formed in 1994, Pine Street Associates remade three downtown Seattle blocks, including renovating Frederick & Nelson into a flagship store and headquarters of Nordstrom; developing Pacific Place mall and a 1,200-car garage; and remaking Nordstrom’s former space into retail, offices and condos.

From fears of blight emerged movie theaters and the Gameworks arcade and, in 1996, NikeTown, among other attractions.

Griffin was in the thick of it all. And now he’s doing a lot of noodling about what’s next.


“Downtown needs a shot in the arm, no doubt about it,” he said. “We need to think of new uses for downtown to bring people here. I don’t know the answer.”

The city center has weathered a series of punches. Working from home has taken a toll on everyone from big time landlords to corner baristas. Public safety remains a concern. The retail industry nationally has sucked wind.

On the bright side, a big spike in residential units has been vital to downtown’s fortunes in recent years. About 99,000 people live downtown, a 67% increase since 2010.

Seattle’s next chapters could build and expand on the existing entertainment infrastructure, Griffin speculated. Bellevue may welcome Nike’s new store across Lake Washington, but Seattle still has sports stadiums and Climate Pledge Arena linked to the city center via the Seattle Center Monorail. The Seattle Symphony, the Paramount Theatre and many other venues are bustling. These assets could serve as the foundation on which to build anew.

According to Griffin, there is one thing Seattle doesn’t need: a City Hall-convened blue ribbon task force to come up with big governmental solutions. Instead, someone will have an idea, get people together and make it happen.

What that might be, Griffin can’t imagine. But, he said, the urgency is obvious. “I’m worried about it. We need to help downtown get the mojo back.”

Griffin isn’t the only person trying to envision Seattle’s future. But every passing month, the need for change grows more acute. There’s only so much bad news a downtown can take. So thinkers and doers, take heed, and let’s make the future take place as soon as possible.