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May 18, 2015

Two historic alleys in Seattle will get a makeover next year

Journal Staff Reporter

Image courtesy of Olson Kundig Architects [enlarge]
This view shows Nord Alley with paving that mixes historic and new materials.

Work is expected to begin early next year to make two historic alleys in Seattle — Nord in Pioneer Square and Canton in the Chinatown-International District — more accessible and enticing.

Nord Alley is across from Occidental Square, between Jackson and Main streets. It will get electrical utilities replaced, paving installed and perhaps some new cable.

Canton Alley will get new paving, an archway sign and likely permanent lanterns. The alley is directly west of Wing Luke Museum.

SvR Design Co., supported by Olson Kundig Architects and Leni Schwendinger Light Projects, developed the design for Nord and Pioneer Passage alley, which is at First and Yesler where people come out of the Underground Tour. The design combines existing historic clay pavers with new clay bricks and stone pavers.

Nakano Associates and Framework Cultural Placemaking developed the concept design for Canton, Frances Nelson was the signage designer, and Candela did lighting design. The alley surface will be concrete with concrete pavers in the middle.

Image courtesy of Nakano Associates [enlarge]
Canton Alley is in the Chinatown-International District.

Ching Chan, project manager for the Chinatown Historic Alley Partnership Project, said the Canton Alley work is slated to begin by spring. The Seattle Department of Transportation will complete the design and engineering, and the partnership has applied to the city to install the lanterns.

Liz Stenning, public realm director with the nonprofit Alliance for Pioneer Square, said Seattle City Light is overseeing utility work for Nord Alley and SDOT is overseeing the paving installation.

The paving work should go out to bid in the fall, she said, and the alley project should be complete in spring of next year.

Seattle's Pioneer Square Preservation Board recently granted a certificate of approval for redesigning Nord Alley and Pioneer Passage, where work is expected to start once funding is in place, Stenning said.

The idea is to make Nord and Pioneer more accessible to cars and people, including people with disabilities, she said.

Brice Maryman of SvR said in a press release that, “By blending the old and the new, this design creates a new front door for the adjacent buildings that draws on Pioneer Square's rich history and invites everyone into the space.”

Stenning said the federal government awarded an $800,000 TAP grant for work on Nord and Canton alleys, but the projects should cost more than that.

Alley Network Project, which was started by the Seattle-based International Sustainability Institute, has for the past eight years programmed events in Nord Alley, including the popular World Cup viewing parties.

But Todd Vogel with ISI said in the press release, “We eventually ran into a road block. The deteriorated surface of the alleys created real accessibility obstacles, making it difficult for the entire community to participate in our events. We knew something had to be done to make the alleys places for everyone.”

ISI secured a grant from the city and hired the design team.

Stenning said the Alley Network Project recently won an Innovation of the Day award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Alliance does advocacy, programming, marketing and community action for Pioneer Square. Stenning said it is working with SDOT to coordinate funding and to get the surfaces of Nord and Pioneer Passage restored.

She said Casco Antiguo restaurant recently opened on Pioneer Passage, with an entrance also on Occidental Avenue. Back Alley Bike Repair and Axis Pioneer Square, an event space, are in Nord Alley.

Sun May Co. sells souvenirs from a store on Canton Alley. The business has been in the Chinatown-International District for more than 100 years, Chan said.


Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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