Pioneer Square’s problems are well known among Seattle residents. Caught between very restrictive zoning and historic preservation rules, and difficult geotechnical conditions, the neighborhood has suffered from a lack of market-rate housing, leading to public-safety problems and the loss of high-end anchor stores such as Elliot Bay Books (to Capitol Hill) and Masins (to Belltown); sporting events at the stadiums to the south periodically saturate the neighborhood with passers-by and mind-bogglingly awful road traffic.
If you’ll excuse the phrase, I think there is light at the end of the tunnel for the neighborhood. The Stadium Place development will bring hundreds of new residents; the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be torn down, taking with it the deleterious effects elevated freeways have on an urban environment; University Link will put Pioneer Square a short subway ride from Capitol Hill; beautiful King Street Station will be restored. Getting from here to there won’t be easy, as the neighborhood residents and businesses will be subject to near-constant construction for many years.
Last week, I attended the opening night of WSDOT’s free Milepost 31 museum, a project designed to draw visitors to Pioneer Square during the next two years, when AVW replacement construction will have the most impact. I’m pleased to report that it’s informative, well-curated and certainly worth a visit for anyone interested in Seattle’s history. For its trouble, WSDOT has earned the ire of the usual drive-by critics of government, which seems unfortunate and unwarranted — if not unsurprising — to me.
Along with the free Klondike Museum on Jackson St, Milepost 31 can make for an interesting, fun, and very inexpensive half-day in Pioneer Square, particularly if you have kids in tow; and while you’re there, you can visit some of the great local restaurants and coffee shops that dot the area. Note that Milepost 31 is closed Sundays and Mondays.
I’ll even offer you a guarantee: if you don’t like Milepost 31, I’ll give you your money back. So now you’ve got no reason not to go.