`Visitors at Milepost 31, opening night
Opening night at Milepost 31. Flickr photo by WSDOT.

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.

17 Replies to “Visit Milepost 31”

  1. I’m looking forward to visiting the museum. Is it true they’ll have some tunneling machinery on display? Might also be great to have an ongoing display of things that get dug up during the excavations. From what I’ve read, a lot of that area isn’t really “ground”, but various maritime vessels and structures mixed with some dirt.

    As to criticism, WSDOT’s community relations might improve in direct proportion to the effort the agency puts forth to incorporate public transit into its work, as a welcome and important design element, rather than an aggravating nuisance. This could be their big chance to prove wrong the “critics” who believe that the Deep Bore Tunnel will make the area’s traffic worse instead of better.

    Like the Central Waterfront Project: this will work if it’s handled as the first project of its kind circa 2015. In the hands of people who consider it the last circa 1955, the English language won’t have a critical term strong enough.

    Mark Dublin

  2. I too am looking forward to visiting this museum and no I don’t have an issue with WSDOT putting it there or the meaning behind it. This is a huge project for the region and somewhere along the line, people will need to write a book on how we replaced the ugly viaduct, how we built light rail and how we restored King Street Station (albeit slowly) and how use tunnels now to avoid the mistakes of the era of the regrades! Seattle lost much by tearing down Denny Hill but hopefully we have learnt from those past mistakes and can go forward with big projects that benefit all of us at all levels of practicality and aesthetics.

    1. I am looking forward, too! I hadn’t even heard of this, and I work in Pioneer square! Thanks for bringing to our attentions, Bruce!

  3. My only criticism would be that it’s not open Sundays. Especially with pointy ball season upon us it seems like that would be a high demand day.

  4. Looks interesting, thanks. Is that a giant aerial view of Seattle covering the floor?

    On Wednesdays, there’s also the Last Resort Fire Department in the SFD HQ at 301-2nd Ave South (at S. Main St), Winter hours: Open Wednesdays only – 11:00am to 3:00pm

    The “LRFD” is a non-profit, charitable corporation, dedicated to the acquisition, restoration,
    preservation and display of classic antique motorized fire apparatus. The rigs can be seen in parades, car and truck shows, fire station dedications, fire prevention exhibits and the annual Fire Festival in Pioneer Square.

  5. I fear that Pioneer Square’s problems will never be solved until they relocate the human services from the area. If it were up to me, there would be a secular camp out in the middle of Eastern Washington, where people struggling with addiction could go and have a chance at getting clean, far from the corrupting influences of the neighborhood. Until then, it will be a de facto human warehouse.

    As for the media and their reaction to the museum, the Dorie munsons, ken Shramms, get Jesse’s et al, are just fading stars in a secondary media market. They just need to fill time and try to draw attention to themselves before retirement – forced or otherwise. Their audience is literally dieing off.

    1. What’s going to happen to all those people when they get exposed to the corrupting influences of Eastern Washington? Just kidding, Eastern Washington- but idea that somehow the current rural scene is somehow more clean and moral than the urban one always gets under my skin.

      There’s a cure for bad radio. Classic King -98.1FM- is really pretty nice listening since change of management brought an end to some obscenely gross commercials. Music choice has also improved. And KPLU always has some nice jazz.

      Dave Ross used to be best talk show on the radio, except that addition of Luke Burbank is incomprehensible. Coupled with a time slot that’s just about a solid commercial. Dave ought to know better- he’s been in Gilbert and Sullivan musicals! Does anybody know if somebody is holding his relatives captive? What can we do to save him?

      Mark Dublin

      1. It’s not that the country is better – that assumption always annoys me also – my idea would be to put them literally in the middle of nowhere: no convenience stores, no dealers, etc. Right now, the DESC, UGM, etc, just enable them, and mess up the neighborhood for the rest of us.

        I know that sounds harsh, but I’ve served on jury duty for drug cases where I’ve seen the guy we convicted out on the street a few months later. I don’t mind them getting out early, or whatever – jail time for drugs is stupid – but there’s got to be a better way to help these people than corralling them into neighborhoods and waiting around for them to die, which is what we essentially do now.

  6. You forgot to mention the new First Hill Streetcar which will run to Pioneer Square in 2013. It won’t replace the Waterfront Streetcar, but it will add one new transportation option in Pioneer Square.

    1. Yes, I’m particularly anxious to see exactly how it integrates with the very good transporation hub that is Union Station.

    2. Easy solution would be to make the Waterfront Streetcar into the western-to-northern extension of the First Hill Streetcar- same maintenance and communications, more cars added to the same order if need be.

      We could possibly incorporate at least some of the present track in Pioneer Square, and add to the existing track on the Waterfront. I’m curious about why we need to take out track or overhead north of Pine- there are blocks of existing buildings, including both expensive residential and the Art Institute between the streetcar and the disappearing viaduct.

      Mark Dublin

  7. I’ve already been to the museum. Great exhibits with promised updates as boring gets underway. Pioneer Square will be a[n even more] happening place in the years to come.

  8. It’s amazing that Pioneer Square has “problems” in that it is in the classic sense, the urban style that — like a Park Slope, NY or Center City Philly — would seem to have the best urban placement and lifestyle.

Comments are closed.