Pioneer Square

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien, longtime opponent of the waterfront tunnel, has been pushing Washington State Department of Transportation officials to be more transparent.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Pioneer Square sank more than an inch, and Bertha the giant tunnel boring machine is still stuck, but state officials are putting on a happy face.

Washington State Department of Transportation officials returned to the Seattle City Council Monday to discuss worst-case scenarios for the waterfront tunnel project. Bertha, stuck under downtown Seattle for nearly a year, was mid-rescue when officials realized that buildings were settling deeper into the ground.

Yikes.

Real Change field organizer Neil Lampi says the sticky door to the closet where they store unsold newspapers became so stuck, they had to take it off its hinges. He says he's "put two and two together," and now blames the soil settlement in Pioneer Square
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Pioneer Square has stopped settling, or so say Washington State Department of Transportation officials. They’re monitoring 20 buildings in this old downtown Seattle quarter, some of which have sunk up to 1.4 inches since 2010. But some building owners are nervous, especially in light of news that effort to rescue Bertha, the massive tunnel boring machine, may be causing further sinking.

Weyerhaeuser  Co. is leaving Federal Way.

It's moving its head office to Seattle's Pioneer Square.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected to make the announcement later this afternoon.

In a statement Tuesday, Weyerhaeuser said its campus in Federal Way no longer fit the company's needs.

Flickr Photo/Ian Fisher

The problem of public toilets in Pioneer Square has been ongoing and unsolved.

A Pioneer Square merchant built a guerilla porta-potty because the aroma from the alley next door getting to be too much. The city spent millions on self-cleaning toilets but ended up pulling them out because of issues with drugs and prostitution. The city ended up selling the toilets on eBay in 2008.

Is there finally a solution in sight? Until a few days ago, the Seattle City Council had a tentative deal with a local developer to bring a public toilet to Pioneer Square. In exchange for adding 30 feet of height to its Pioneer Square building, developer Urban Visions was going to purchase a $250,000 “Portland Loo” for the city.

Flickr Photo/Ian Fisher

The Seattle City Council is considering a proposal that would bring a free, public toilet to Pioneer Square.

Local development company Urban Visions is offering to purchase the so-called “Portland Loo” for the city, in exchange for being allowed to add three stories to its mixed-use building in the neighborhood.

KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

There are nearly 2,000 people living completely without shelter in King County, sleeping in doorways or in parks, and because of the high concentration of services in Pioneer Square many of them find themselves sleeping on the streets in this neighborhood.  

The Union Gospel Mission in Pioneer Square started more than 80 years ago, serving out soup during the Great Depression. It is only one of the locations that the mission has now, and it is only one of a few missions in Pioneer Square. One of the services provided by the Union Gospel mission, in addition to housing, food and addiction services, is a program called Morning Watch. Ross Reynolds talks with the lead intern running the Morning Watch program, Jason Bennett. 

KUOW Photo/Nick Danielson

Jay Boone owns Emerald City Guitars in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. If Jimmy Paige or Keith Richards come through Seattle and are on the hunt for a new guitar to shred on, it is not out of the question to find them at Jay's guitar shop.

Ross Reynolds ventured down to Pioneer Square to talk to Jay Boone about the neighborhood he has been running his business from for the last 18 years.

KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

In 2009 people were asking, can Pioneer Square be saved? Businesses shut down and moved out of the neighborhood, the iconic Elliott Bay Book Company packed up and left for higher ground on Capitol Hill. But in the last few years the neighborhood has undergone a boom of sorts.

Restaurants Bar Sajor, Rain Shadow Meats, Gaba Sishi, Little Uncle and more have decided to make a home in Pioneer Square. The neighborhood has added to its bevy of galleries and retail shops. So what has changed? Ross Reynolds talks with Leslie Smith, executive director of the Alliance for Pioneer Square about the neighborhood business economy.

KUOW Photo/Nick Danielson

Charles Royer served as Seattle's mayor from 1978 to 1990. During his tenure, Royer saw the historic neighborhood of Pioneer Square surge with violence as Seattle handled the crack epidemic. More than two decades after finishing his fourth term, Royer now lives and works in Pioneer Square. He told KUOW's Arwen Nicks his thoughts on the challenges currently facing the neighborhood and why he thinks the Alliance for Pioneer Square and the Downtown Seattle Association are good candidates to manage Occidental park, but not without help from the city.

Real Change vendor Mike Hall has been living in Pioneer Square for 15 years, and for the last 13 years he has stood at the corner of First and Main. Ross Reynolds spoke with Mike Hall about his experiences in Seattle's first neighborhood. 

KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Ross Reynolds talks with Pioneer Square resident and neighborhood blogger, Jen Kelly, about her experience living in Pioneer Square. 

KUOW Photo/Nick Danielson

The Record on KUOW will broadcast live from the Washington Shoe Building on Occidental Square (410 Occidental Way South), Friday, from noon to 2 p.m. If you live or work in Pioneer Square, come by and tell us about your neighborhood. We’ll explore its demographics, history and how it’s changed in the past 20 years.

Highlights From The KUOW Booth


Facebook Photo/Greg Kucera

If you want the long view on Seattle's Pioneer Square, Greg Kucera is your man. Kucera has run his eponymous art gallery in the neighborhood for 30 years, first in a rented storefront on Second Avenue, and now in a space he owns a few blocks east. 

His front door is just across the street from one of the Union Gospel Mission shelters, and on a quiet Saturday morning, several men sit on the curb outside the Mission, drinking from paper cups.

KUOW Photo/Nick Danielson

When you hear the term "skid row" perhaps you think of Sebastian Bach or maybe the notorious Los Angeles neighborhood nicknamed Skid Row, but did you know that Seattle had the original Skid Row and it was actually Skid Road?

Ross Reynolds talks with Sunny Speidel of Seattle’s Underground Tour as The Record kicks off this week’s look at Seattle’s self-proclaimed first neighborhood, Pioneer Square.

Amy Radil

The holidays often bring extra presents and messages from loved ones. But to receive those messages, you have to have an address.

Anyone who needs a mailing address can have the mail sent to 77 South Washington St. in Seattle's Pioneer Square. That’s the post office run by the Compass Housing Alliance. Most of the 3,500 people in Seattle who use that address are homeless or in temporary housing.