December 11, 2003

A new corridor may be coming down the Pike

  • Attractive route needed to connect Pike Place Market to Westlake
    Gregory Broderick Smith Real Estate

    Second and Pike
    Rendering by David Hewitt
    Gregory Broderick Smith Real Estate wants to build condos, retail and perhaps a boutique hotel at Second and Pike. The project would help connect Pike Place Market to downtown’s shopping district.

    Visit Vancouver, B.C., Portland's Pearl District or San Diego's East Village and you'll find a vibrant and growing urban residential population. This is New Urbanism, and Seattle is behind in this trend.

    But Seattle has the opportunity to leap-frog the competition.

    With high unemployment, transportation gridlock and sprawling communities, we must adopt land-use policies that encourage more density in urban centers, particularly in downtown.

    The advantages are too many to list, but a few of them are:

    • Job creation.

    • More people living closer to work and moving by foot power instead of in cars.

    • The ability to make public transportation more cost effective.

    • More life on our streets, which improves retail, tourism and safety.

    • A better environment for business to locate here and provide their employees with a great place to live and work.

    • The ability to slow down sprawl and retain the Northwest's most valued assets: its woods, its mountains, water and air.

    A specific case where this New Urbanism can be demonstrated is the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street, a block from Pike Place Market, in the heart of downtown Seattle.

    Right now, Pike Street from the market to Westlake Plaza doesn't make sense. The market is the state's busiest tourist attraction, delighting visitors from around the world.

    Then where do these visitors go?

    Many head to Westlake Plaza and the Nordstrom flagship store. They stream up Pike, not Pine — it's the PIKE Place Market. They pass Pacific Place as they head towards the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.

    But before they get to Westlake, they have to run a bizarrely incongruous gauntlet of drug deals, addicts, litter, garbage, street spit and other loiters between Second and Third avenues on Pike Street.

    Far too many people say they find that area unsafe — even though Benaroya Symphony Hall, the Seattle Art Museum and the Wild Ginger Restaurant are a block to the south, the market is a block to the west, Westlake Plaza is two blocks to the east, and Second and Pike is the crossroads of two of Seattle's most heavily used streets.

    This area needs to be Seattle's showpiece and a place where people want to live.

    This is a problem that has been in search of a solution for years. Now a fresh round of investment and new interest by city leaders appears to be planting the right seeds.

    A new Walgreens store has opened at Third and Pike, brightening the northwest corner of that intersection.

    The owners of the three-story former Kress Building on the south side of Pike at Third are committed to improving their corner. They've said publicly that they plan to bring in new retail tenants as part of that change. They recently added a bright Ken's Camera shop on the Third Avenue side.

    A Johnny Rockets diner plans to fill in a restaurant space at First and Pike. A venture capital firm has moved into offices above Seattle's Best Coffee at that corner.

    If it can be made to work right, the monorail's Green Line might run along Second. Current plans call for a monorail station on what is now a troublesome surface parking lot one building north of Pike.

    The planned, nearly-600-foot Washington Mutual Tower and the expansion of the Seattle Art Museum are scheduled to be built at Second and Union.

    The biggest improvement to this stretch of Pike is a project that our firm proposes for the surface parking lot on the southeast corner of Second and Pike.

    We envision converting the 19,000-square-foot lot, which includes a small, boarded-up building on the south end of the parcel, into a mixed-use residential high-rise that will bridge the gap.

    The ground level will be some of the city's finest retail.

    We're talking to hotel operators about placing a cutting-edge boutique hotel above the retail. More than 100 luxury condominiums will be above the hotel. Parking would be underground.

    What a change this would make to what should be the signature street in Seattle. Not only is Pike the main route from the market to Westlake, the heart of downtown, but Pine is also downtown's main east-west spine, connecting Capitol Hill to downtown.

    This development will become a catalyst for New Urbanism in downtown Seattle.

    The more residents that we can put there, walking and shopping up and down Pike, the safer it will get and the stronger the retail will become. Second and Pike will become one of the most prominent intersections in the city.

    As it should be.

    Greg Smith is president of Gregory Broderick Smith Real Estate in downtown Seattle.

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