Market, waterfront link seen in terrace proposal
Advocates for the Pike Place Market say they want to redevelop the Market's parking lot off Western Avenue into a mix of small retail shops and stalls, and the start of a grand downhill walkway to the Seattle Aquarium.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Advocates for the Pike Place Market say they've reached consensus on what could become a key part of Seattle's redesigned waterfront.
They want to redevelop the Market's parking lot off Western Avenue into a mix of small retail shops and stalls, a public view terrace, underground parking, low-income housing and the start of a grand downhill walkway to connect the Market and the Seattle Aquarium.
The Seattle City Council this month will take up a proposed agreement that eventually would transfer the city-owned parking lot to the Market Preservation and Development Authority.
The city would provide $7 million over the next two years to complete design work and prepare for construction, said Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the group.
"The Market community is very cautious, very protective of its identity and history. For them to reach out to the future, that's a pretty great thing," Franz-Knight said.
Construction could begin as early as July 2014, making the project the first in a planned billion-dollar remake of the Seattle Elliott Bay waterfront that includes a new seawall, a deep-bore tunnel to replace the Highway 99 viaduct and a 26-block expanse of new parks, pathways and public spaces.
"I'm very excited," said City Councilmember Jean Godden, chair of the council's Central Waterfront Committee. She said proposals to redevelop the Market parking lot have been considered almost since the old Municipal Market Building, across Western Avenue from the main Market arcade, burned down in 1974.
"It will reconnect the city to the waterfront. It's exactly what we hoped for," Godden said.
Early design ideas by celebrated landscape architect James Corner called for a three-story building on Western Avenue and a promenade starting at the north end of Victor Steinbrueck Park, across from the Market.
But Market partisans and some local architects criticized the early drawings as out of scale with the Market's day stalls, multiple pathways and humble buildings.
Vendors at the market also complained that the proposed new building would block views from the main arcade and the Market's north end, which opens kitty-corner from the park with its sweeping overlook of Puget Sound.
The new plans call for the one building to be broken into several parts, with just one story above Western at the northern end. The southern end would rise four stories from the street and hold 300 underground parking spaces as well as 40 units of mostly low-income housing.
Franz-Knight said the new retail space, opening onto a public, west-facing plaza, would be a mix of small vendors, some restaurants and a possible focus on local food products to complement, but not directly compete with, current Market offerings.
Some of the vendors say that in pushing for a more modest-scaled design, they've fought to protect one of the country's pre-eminent farmers markets and a shining alternative to chain grocers and big-box retailers.
"It's not just the view, but the activity that makes the Market," said Haley Land, who with his wife has sold ceramic jewelry at the Market for 28 years.
"If it was just high-end restaurants with a public plaza, it wouldn't be the Market and it wouldn't be as friendly," he said.
Architect and former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck served as a consultant to the Market on the redesign. As a boy, he worked with his father on a campaign to save the Market from development. As a college student, he wrote his master's thesis on redevelopment of the parking-lot site.
He said the site presents extreme challenges, not just to preserving the character of the Market, but because of its steep, hillside location, the active railroad tunnel underneath, and the viaduct to the immediate west.
"In my role as keeper of the Market's soul, I wanted to ensure the design solution was appropriate to the Market," said Steinbrueck, who also is a candidate for Seattle mayor.
He described as "magic" the collaboration and brainstorming between James Corner and David Miller, founding partner of the Market's architecture firm, The Miller Hull Partnership.
The two took up pens and exchanged ideas on how to realize the potential of the Market's last undeveloped site.
Miller laughed looking back at the numerous design meetings that included Market vendors and what he called their "opinionated, strong voices."
"The public process is alive and well in Seattle," Miller said.
Corner is still planning for a grand walkway 90 feet wide and 1,500 feet long extending from the southern edge of the Market's new public plaza with places for people to stop, to sit under cover and for children to play.
Miller thinks the result will be one of the great view walkways in the world.
"Corner's team is so dedicated to creating great public spaces. He's a great listener and he really gets us. Seattle will love this. We shouldn't compromise on his design."
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or email@example.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.