Chilly welcome for Real Change from Pioneer Square
The nonprofit newspaper Real Change moved to Pioneer Square on Friday. But the Pioneer Square Community Association is fighting the relocation and has filed an appeal with the city Hearing Examiner over it.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Moving day came Friday morning for Real Change, a nonprofit newspaper known for its homeless vendors who sell papers on the street. Staff and others carted boxes from the paper's longtime Belltown location to a new office in Pioneer Square.
But a neighborhood group won't exactly be trotting out the Welcome Wagon for the new tenant.
The Pioneer Square Community Association is fighting the newspaper's relocation to First Avenue and Main Street.
In an appeal filed with city's hearing examiner last week, the group argues that the newspaper's operations go against the historic district's land-use code.
Because Real Change sells papers to low-income vendors, who, in turn, sell the copies for a profit, the business is "clearly a wholesale operation," according to the appeal. And that's a prohibited use in the neighborhood.
The group also contends that a new computer lab and classes for vendors constitute a vocational use — also prohibited.
Leslie Smith, the community association's executive director, declined to comment, citing the pending appeal.
But in a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn sent in March, Smith argued that the neighborhood has reached a saturation point with social services and asked for a meeting with the mayor to help find another location for Real Change.
That meeting never happened.
She also said Pioneer Square's "economic vitality is impacted by the public's perception of safety issues," which is made worse by people standing in line for social services.
Over the association's objections, the Pioneer Square Preservation Board voted in favor of Real Change's relocation, and the newspaper got ready to move.
Tim Harris, executive director of Real Change, said the newspaper had outgrown its Belltown office, where it has been for 15 years.
Harris said Pioneer Square is ideal because it's near transportation centers, social-services agencies and low-income housing.
In fact, 60 percent of Pioneer Square's 1,283 apartments and condos are subsidized, according to the city's Department of Planning and Development.
The hearing examiner has 90 days to make a decision. Harris said it would be "financially devastating" if the paper were forced to move.
He said $60,000 has been spent remodeling the first- and second-floor of the space, which sits behind a Quiznos.
The newspaper has a five-year lease and will officially reopen Monday, he said.
"We could not put our move on hold and pay rent in two places," he said.
Kathleen Porch, development manager of Real Change, helped coordinate the move Friday.
Her mother, Teri Porch, used to sell the newspaper in the 1990s, she said.
She and her family were homeless for a while, but when her mother started selling the paper, "it was really helpful and transformational for her," she said.
Teri Porch died last year of cancer, she said.
Now, she said, her family is looking to name a room in the new office after her.
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or email@example.com
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