May 24 2013

The Surviving Personality of Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market, Seattle

In a time where you can buy almost anything online, Seattle’s Pike Place Market reminds us that character and convenience are not synonymous. It is a place that connects Seattleites (and tourists) to the city’s history.

Beginning in 1907, the city’s first public farmer’s market was once nothing more than a few local farmers selling goods out of their wagons to housewives. More than a century later, it has become an icon for the city, and it is one of the oldest continually operated public markets in the country. Pike Place Market is a place where chain stores are prohibited and are replaced with local craftsmen, merchants, farmers, and small-time entrepreneurs. It is the place where Starbucks Coffee was founded in the 1970’s. Pike Place Market is beloved by locals and tourists alike, and it contributes to the “maker” culture of Seattle.

Pike Place Market, Seattle

Pike Place Market, Seattle

Pike Place Market was not always seen as having cultural value for the city. The struggle between preservationists and developers began in the 1950’s when city planners proposed that the Market be demolished for urban renewal, and replaced with a new hotel and parking garage.

Victor Steinbrueck, an architecture professor at the University of Washington, rallied citizens to oppose the city’s urban renewal plans. Gaining little headway with the city and developers, the conflict was heightened in 1968 as the city demolished the National Guard armory building adjacent to the Market. They planned to use the land for a highway, and eventually tear down Pike Place Market for a hockey arena. A civic war began as Steinbrueck fought to establish an historic district under National Historic Preservation Act, for which he was finally successful in 1971. As a result, the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority was founded to renovate the existing architecture.

As real estate prices increase near the downtown’s waterfront, the temptation to redevelop this historic icon will continue to surface. Imagine what Seattle would be without Pike Place Market where it is.

Is it possible to invent this character in today’s economy?

Credits: Photographs by Amanda Bosse. Data linked to sources.

Amanda Bosse

Amanda Bosse is a former writer for the GRID. At the time she was writing, she was in the Master of Architecture program at the University of Washington. Growing up in the Midwest, she became interested in the dialogue between the individual structures and the urban fabric (including those structures not typically designed by architects). With a background in both architecture and urban design, Amanda was primarily interested in applying architectural thinking to solve larger scale design problems.

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 24th, 2013 at 9:15 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, History/Preservation, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “The Surviving Personality of Pike Place Market”

  1. Steven Konefsky Says:

    Most people forget that there are real financial implications that impact real estate development and ownership.  Whether it be preserving old and charming buildings that were built decades or centuries ago, or designing and building new buildings that hopefully fit not only today’s needs, but also the needs of future generations (which they rarely do)…it comes at a cost to everyone.  

    As a real estate developer with not so common views, I don’t believe that every old building or vacant property should be developed or redeveloped…unless it has a positive impact on society. I also don’t think that old outdated buildings should be preserved just for the sake of those who want to keep charm, even though it’s outdated and doesn’t fulfill future needs…as so much zoning fails to recognize.

    I do believe that public works programs need to be created at taxpayer expense, so certain things can be preserved. This won’t guarantee financial success, but it does guarantee some quality of life issues that should stay around. New development doesn’t guarantee success either, as it is often short sighted and disposable with it’s horrible design.

    To say that we need to preserve the character of an area or a town as so many people do, when that character may not hold any real value is fruitless for creating something that can do much more for a community.
    The world has changed and it will continue to do so at a rapid pace, like we’ve never witnessed before. And at best, this is an extremely complicated issue, that nonetheless needs to be dealt with. 

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