Judging by the photos alone, closing down three blocks of Pike/Pine to vehicle traffic for a few Saturday nights in August was an interesting experiment — and, for many, a lot of fun. Now Capitol Hill EcoDistrict organizers, along with the City of Seattle, are conducting a deeper analysis of their street experiment. If the results are positive, the pedestrian zone could become a regularly occurring event. But a powerful set of real estate and business owners are already weighing in with criticism and worries about turning Pike/Pine into a permanent nighttime party zone. A preliminary report on the August pilot is set to be released.
In the first phase, the E Pike pedestrian zone between Broadway and 12th Ave focused on simple crowd management and releasing sidewalk pressure. Things got more festive on August 22nd with street yoga, a drag show, and late-night street performers, while dancing in the streets got a rain check on August 29th.
As part of its analysis, the Seattle Department of Transportation conducted some 700 surveys and is in the process of reviewing 200+ hours of video to count how many pedestrians came through the street closure and how many came through before the pilot project began. The surveys asked where people came from, why they came, and their reaction to the pilot project (drunk bias not accounted for). SDOT along with the City’s Office of Economic Development were set to release an early analysis of the pilot on Thursday.
UPDATE: Initial survey results released Thursday showed that, of the people walking around during the pilot project and during a few nights before it started, 59% “visited a shop or restaurant, got coffee, went grocery shopping, or were there for work” in addition to visiting nightlife establishments. Roughly 70% of people traveled to the area using some form of transportation other than a private car. Around one third of those surveyed lived in the Central Area, while another third lived elsewhere in Seattle.
The City is soliciting public feedback on the street closure project through an online survey here. OED has also scheduled two public meetings at 12th Avenue Arts to gather feedback:
- Tuesday, September 22 at 6:00-7:30 PM
- Thursday, September 24 at 9:00-10:30 AM
According to Heidi Hall, a business district advocate with OED, the city will be releasing a more detailed report in October. (You may recall in April a trio of artists conducted a similar Pike/Pine study, albeit a less formal one). OED’s report will also include business and crime data in an effort to give a more complete picture of what Pike/Pine looks like on a summer night.
Leading up to the pilot project, the idea received a mostly enthusiastic response during community meetings. However, some landowners and business owners have pushed back on continuing the project. As co-chair of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Jill Cronauer worries that the pedestrian zone will send the wrong message about the importance of daytime businesses in Pike/Pine:
What retailer would move into this area? Or restaurant that does not have a very heavy bar component? Not a one. On the other hand, what bar would NOT want to be in the middle of this wild party? That means bars and night clubs can afford to pay more rent which will push out the small number of day time users we have. By closing the streets it feels like we are handing over this part of the neighborhood to nightlife.
One retail manager already in the neighborhood echoed Cronauer’s concerns. Tracy Taylor, general manager of Elliot Bay Books, said closing the streets makes it even more difficult for customers to access businesses given inadequate public transportation options.
“With the construction on 10th and 11th, this past year, parking has become more and more of an issue,” Taylor said in an email. “We left Pioneer Square partly because the perception was that parking was too difficult.”
Capitol Hill developer Liz Dunn wasn’t wild about the project either. “I’d be far more excited about Thursday night or weekend daytime closures,” Dunn told CHS.
Another growing factor could be residents in the neighborhood. With six new buildings in three blocks of 11th Ave, the residential population in the area is about to get a boost — though we’re also aware that some new buildings in the area are including language about nightlife noise in their tenant contracts.
EcoDistrict organizers have said they are open to scrapping the project if it isn’t working for everyone in the neighborhood. The Capitol Hill Housing-backed organization will have plenty to work on in coming months. Meanwhile, the Capitol Hill Chamber is seeking a new director after Michael Wells announced his departure on September 3rd. It remains to be seen how the pedestrian streets project will be impacted by a re-tooled chamber and a Broadway Improvement Area that could be expanding into Pike/Pine territory.
The pedestrian zone project was funded through $30,000 of a $160,000 city grant the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce received earlier this year.