Pike Place Market unveils plans for major $65 million renovation

SEATTLE - Design plans for a major $65 million renovation of Pike Place Market, unveiled Thursday, would dramatically expand the market's footprint and transform its western side by connecting it with the Seattle waterfront.

The plan by the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority calls for ground to be broken within the next year and the expansion to be completed by the end of 2016.

The low-rise, mixed-use development will provide parking for the Pike Place Market and the central waterfront, added retail and restaurant space, several stories of low-income housing and expanded social services. The renovation also would connect the market with the Seattle Aquarium for easy pedestrian access.

It will be the Market's most significant change in decades. The design is crisp, clean and new. And that doesn't sit well with some merchants.

"I think people come here because it's funky and old, said Linda Gilbert of Sosio's Produce. It's going to go on for a long time so I think it's going to effect our business. But in the long run, 10 years from now, it's going to be beneficial to the market, though I love the old market. I don't want it to be fancy and nice."

The plan is the final step in the development of the market's historical district and relies on the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and development of the central waterfront as key factors in the project.

Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority, said the renovation will remain true to the market's historical roots while at the same time responding to changing times.

"It's critically important when you're doing anything in the market to pay attention to history, and this project is rooted in the goals established in the mid-'70s when the market was saved," he said.

"At the same time everybody realizes this is going to be new," he added. "We want to carry the character of the market into this space and create that great connection to the new waterfront and the aquarium."

Funding for the $65 million project will come from the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority, the state Department of Transportation, the city of Seattle and low-income housing grants.

Key features of the project will include 15,000 square feet of retail space, more than 30,000 square feet of open public space including a plaza and viewing deck, room for farm or craft stalls on the new roof terrace, 40 low-income housing units for seniors, 300 covered parking spaces and multiple public art installations.

Singer songwriter Brandi Carlile joined the Pike Place Market Foundation for a luncheon downtown Thursday. She got her start as a busker at the Market.

"Really what Pike Place taught me and what I wanted to learn by busking at Pike Place was how to be an entertainer. You know what it takes to make people stop when they're doing something, and listen to you," Carlile said.

She said when she started touring, she would look for someplace like Pike Place Market in other cities, but she couldn't ever find it. She called preserving and renovating imperative. "We have the best public market in the country," she said. "It's authentic. It's the weirdest. And it needs to stay as quirky as it is, but it also needs to expand. We need to serve people for generations to come, like we have the past generations."

In addition to the food, flower and craft vendors, the Market Foundation runs a food bank, health clinic, pre-school and housing for low income neighbors. The expansion includes additions to those services.