The money will help build shops, an underground-parking garage, senior housing and a new public plaza.
Since Seattle’s Municipal Market Building was demolished in 1974, there have been numerous attempts to redevelop the site behind historic Pike Place Market.
Previous plans sputtered due to lack of money, said Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA).
But the most recent effort is on track.
The Seattle City Council is expected to vote Monday to provide the PDA with $34 million from the city’s general fund for a Market expansion project. The council’s waterfront committee recommended approval last week.
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The money will help build new shops, an underground-parking garage, senior housing and a new public plaza and walkway designed to connect the Market with the central waterfront after the Alaskan Way Viaduct is torn down.
For visitors, the $73 million MarketFront project will mean “more open space, more public space and incredible views,” Franz-Knight said.
The project site, currently a parking lot, sits below the Market, across Western Avenue. The parcel spans about three-quarters of an acre, and construction will start as early as May.
The Desimone Bridge once carried vehicles above Western Avenue from the Municipal Market Building to the Market. Today, the bridge is part of the Market and leads nowhere.
Instead, its west-side windows offer a Puget Sound panorama. But most visitors stop once they reach the windows. Few descend a narrow wooden staircase from the Market to Western Avenue. Those who do wind up on a desolate stretch of sidewalk.
That’s why the centerpiece of the project will be the 30,000-square-foot, terraced plaza with nooks for sitting and eating on multiple levels, topping by a viewing deck off the bridge.
Jemma Chen, a sightseer from Taiwan visiting the Market for the first time last week, stepped out on the staircase to snap a few photographs in the open air.
“People like to be outside during the day, so (the plaza) should be good,” Chen said.
The upper section of the plaza, near Victor Steinbrueck Park, will house 47 new outdoor day-stalls for Market farmers and artists, shielded with a glass canopy.
Tucked below and accessible from the lower section of the plaza will be 12,000 square feet of retail space for artisan-food purveyors such as Old Stove Brewery, Franz-Knight said.
Karen Dorweiler, a vendor new to Pike Place, is eager for the plaza to open because the Market has run out of room. When she can’t snag a stall, Dorweiler hawks ceramic sculptures out on the street. “This is progress,” she said. “More space will allow me to stay inside.”
Wire-jewelry maker Richard Romero, a Market regular for 25 years, agrees that the added stalls will help craftspeople. But he wonders about bad behavior in the plaza.
“They need to add security, because what happens in (Victor Steinbrueck Park) could move over this way,” Romero said. “When I started here, I saw more police action in the park. Lately, I haven’t seen the police doing much there at all.”
The Market’s private security team, which patrols 24/7, will expand its beat, Franz-Knight said. Meanwhile, the Seattle Police Department is “slowly ramping up public safety in downtown as a whole and in that area in particular,” said Mayor Ed Murray.
“We’re involved in identifying repeat offenders who are causing some crime and disorder,” Murray said. “The other part of this is you get more movement and activity of people back and forth. You can deal with some issues of crime by activating a space.”
Rescued from the wrecking ball by voters in 1971, the Market is 108 years old and a Seattle icon; many longtime visitors, vendors and neighbors are resistant to change.
Some have worried the new addition will clash with the Market’s funky character. But the Seattle Pike Place Market Historical Commission voted to approve the plan in January.
Under the plaza and new shops, the PDA will build a garage with about 300 parking spots. The existing lot has 88. The project will include some delicate work because the century-old BNSF train tunnel runs directly below.
Market vendors rallied Friday to protest the threat of oil trains exploding while moving through the tunnel. Washington rail regulators this past week recommended that BNSF be fined up to $700,000 for failing to report oil leaks and other hazardous spills.
Because the planned viaduct removal and waterfront renovation will reduce parking in the area, state officials are giving the PDA $6 million to help build the garage.
The PDA will use $3 million of its own money and the Pike Place Market Foundation has launched a campaign to raise $9 million in private funds. To reach $73 million, the PDA will issue bonds and is pursuing several million dollars in grants and tax credits.
The other chunk of the project is a new building with 40 units for low-income seniors. The bottom-floor apartments will be live-work units opening onto the plaza, Franz-Knight said.
The project work is supposed to take about 18 months, but the complete vision for the Market’s expansion won’t be realized for much longer.
That’s because the machine digging a new tunnel under downtown Seattle to replace the viaduct is almost two years behind schedule.
The city’s waterfront plan calls for a massive overlook walk bringing pedestrians from an Elliott Bay park promenade uphill to the Market plaza.
“There will be a renovated central waterfront,” said Murray, who scaled back the overall scheme last year. “There will be an incredible park and this is a piece of it.”
The Market is a popular tourist attraction, but Franz-Knight insists the taxpayer-backed project will also benefit locals, whether they visit on frequently or not.
“The Market is an economic engine,” he said. “We have employees who come from every single neighborhood in the city, farmers who come from … throughout the state. This is about investing in your neighbor, your aunt, your uncle.”