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With the opening of Capitol Hill Station’s plaza, a new home awaits the Capitol Hill Farmers Market starting in April

The market’s team in front of the new plaza during construction (Image: Sarah Schu)

Construction fences have been removed and people can mill about and sit in the plaza above Capitol Hill Station as the area prepares for an increasingly busy world with more people returning to transit, renters going about life outside their new homes, new business tenants finally opening up, and, starting Sunday, April 18th, the Capitol Hill Farmers Market moving to its long awaited new home.

“It’s only about 422 steps from its current home, but our new site boasts a beautiful new plaza, situated across from the Capitol Hill station, and we’re a stone’s throw from Cal Anderson Park,” the Neighborhood Farmers Market Association said in announcing the milestone.

NFMA says the new market location at the Capitol Hill Station plaza will debut with an only slighted muted celebration. “While COVID-19 restrictions are certainly drizzling on our parade, our raincoats are on and there will be raffles, giveaways, and all the goodness going on during opening month, so stop by and join the celebration for a chance to win merchandise, gift cards, Farm Bucks, and more,” they promise.

The market will spread out on the “festival street” created where the former E Denny Way runs through the station campus. In 2019, the city designated the stretch between Broadway and 10th Ave E as E Barbara Bailey Way to honor the late founder of Broadway’s Bailey/Coy book shop. The city designed the festival street as a one-way traffic route above the center of the underground Capitol Hill Station facility and through the development, plaza, and the AIDS Memorial Pathway. It will be closed to vehicular traffic during the market and event hours and the market’s edges will spill onto the now open station plaza.

The pathway, meanwhile, is taking shape with its first outdoor art elements installed and more to come as the project’s backers hope for a June 2021 completion.

The street’s unusual-for-Seattle features will be put to the test by the weekly event. While other neighborhoods have markets that take over the street, the E Barbara Bailey Way/Denny stretch is directly off busy Broadway and in the midst of the bustle of the light rail station. The street’s one-block one-way designation already is regularly tested, ignored, or straight up missed by drivers. The street has also been designed with no sidewalks so help the area meld more seamlessly with the plaza during traffic closures and events.

After remaining open in the early days of the pandemic, the farmers market eventually was shuttered by COVID-19 restrictions before returning in June with new social distancing requirements.

Its move, like many things, was delayed a year as construction and so many other elements of shaping the station development were put on hold.

Above the station and the plaza, development more than 20 years in the making is filling with residents and plans remain for incoming businesses to take their spaces on Broadway and around the plaza space. Retail planned for the project including grocer H-Mart and The Exploration Academy daycare have not announced opening dates. Lead developer Gerding Edlen of Portland has been quiet and provided little guidance of what to expect for opening of the retail spaces and plaza. Like many things during the COVID pandemic, the plaza’s opening just sort of happened as one day the fences came down and people were wandering the space.

Underground, the transit station’s ridership plummeted during the restrictions but is beginning to show more signs of life as the facility marked its fifth birthday last week.

(Image: Corinne Monaco)

The farmers market has a been a priority at Capitol Hill Station. Along with major pushes for affordable housing, creating a space designed to accommodate the market was a community requirement agreed to in the development process.

The Capitol Hill Farmers Market is one of several Seattle markets organized under the nonprofit Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance. The original market in the University District was founded by Chris Curtis and local volunteers in 1993, gaining 501(c)3 status in 2001 and opening the market on Broadway in 2005.

It held its last market at its former Capitol Hill home at 10th and Thomas in 2010 before making way for redevelopment on that block. It currently makes its Sunday home on the sidewalk and plaza in front of Seattle Central along Broadway.

While the plaza above the light rail station is the private property, developer Gerding Edlen’s plan is for the area to be “available for public use” and to include “a weekly morning to afternoon year-round farmers market” planned for both the plaza and along the festival street.

The expansion could eventually mean added days of market shopping. The market officially went year-round in 2014 and has thrived since, regularly hosting local vendors from produce to prepared foods, craft brews, raw honey, and fresh-cut flowers.

The Capitol Hill Farmers Market takes place on Sundays, 11 AM to 3 PM in front of Seattle Central College at 1701 Broadway. Starting April 18th, the market moves to its permanent new home on E Barbara Bailey Way between 10th Ave and Broadway. You can learn more at seattlefarmersmarkets.org/chfm.


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