Friends of the Market has been an education and advocacy organization for over 50 years. Since 1964, it has singly, or with allies, advocated for or opposed public policies affecting Pike Place Market and fought for historic preservation and renewal in downtown Seattle and the Market.
NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into Friends of the Market’s Advocacy on Victor Steinbrueck Park, First Avenue Streetcar and The Showbox theater.
Victor Steinbrueck Park
This popular downtown park, designed by Victor Steinbrueck, Friends of the Market founder, and Rich Haag, well-known landscape architect (think Gas Works Park), continues as an active advocacy priority. The Park was scheduled for major repairs in 2019-2020 because it leaks into the parking structure beneath it. In the public process, Friends of the Market successfully advocated respect for the original park design and replacement of the children’s play area that was lost to the “Tree of Life” sculpture. Friends’ advocacy for preservation of the tribal gathering area at the SW corner of the park was only partially successful.
During the public process, some stakeholders called for elimination of the park’s two totem poles because totem poles are not part of the Salish tradition. Friends advocated the retention of the totem poles as part of the original design and part of a tradition of shared art and culture among Pacific Northwest tribes and immigrants. the Market Historical Commission approved the project’s design with the stipulation that no changes to the totem poles were authorized. In August 2020, Seattle Parks and Recreation announced an indefinite hold on the project due to pandemic losses of revenue.
First Avenue Streetcar
Don’t you think the Pike Place Market would welcome the original proposal of a streetcar stop at its front door? You might, if the problems of passenger loading and unloading did not conflict with the hundreds of commercial deliveries every day. Since 2016, Friends of the Market has advocated in numerous forums for a major change in the plans for a First Avenue Streetcar. The proposed design calls for a block long passenger station between Pike and Pine. This station would leave only one lane each for northbound and southbound traffic on First Avenue. This configuration would ruin Market merchants’ access to loading and unloading for most of the day. We proposed moving the station south to avoid this harm to Market businesses. We also called for funding to mitigate the economic impact to market merchants during the lengthy construction period. The project was put “on pause” in June 2020 because of pandemic related decline in revenues.
The Showbox, across First Avenue from the Market, is a long-time music venue with a storied Art Deco ballroom and decades of music and theater productions. In 2018, its owner proposed to raze the Showbox and build a 44-story luxury residential tower. Friends of the Market with many allies won landmark designation from the City Landmarks Preservation Board in July 2019 both for the building’s exterior and parts of the interior. Since then, the Board has postponed the next step in the landmark process: the Board’s consideration of “controls and incentives” for the building. Controls will describe required protections to the physical elements of the building, and the owner has argued for no controls. BUT the Board has no current schedule for considering controls and incentives. Meanwhile Historic Seattle and Seattle Theater Group announced their offer to buy the Showbox in November 2019. Friends of the Market will be vigilant for the next step in this critical fight for our city and a human scale Market district.
The three-story Hahn Building sits directly across from the main entrance to the Market at First Avenue and Pike Street. In early 2019, the owner proposed to raze it and build a 14-story glass and steel high-rise luxury boutique hotel. Friends of the market worked with other advocates to oppose this plan because it is out of scale and would look over the Market entrance. The Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) designated the Hahn Building exterior as a landmark in January 2021 despite two previous negative LPB decisions. Friends’ advocacy will continue as the LPB considers “controls and incentives” to impose on the landmark.
Historic District Expansion
The proposal to build 14 to 44-story towers across First Avenue from the Market, at the sites of the Showbox and the Hahn Building, inspired Friends of the Market to consider a proposal to expand the Market Historic District to the half blocks along First Avenue between Union and Steward Streets. The Market should not have to crouch behind a towering wall of gray glass boxes. As of early 2021, Friends is reviewing two large sets of documents from our public disclosure request on this subject. This review will inform the effort to expand the district.