Pike/Pine as a testing ground for radical pedestrian change


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A few months ago I mentioned the idea of closing down a street at night the way Austin, TX, closes down Sixth St. through a row of live music clubs. I visited Austin a couple of years ago and Sixth St. downtown is an alive, exciting place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Proponents argue that closing the street gives the area a true pedestrian-focused entertainment identity; that it’s great for the club businesses and for the patrons.

Could it work in Seattle?  The Capitol Hill Community Council invited me out last week to talk about the idea. By and large, the group liked any concept that gives pedestrians more primacy in the public right-of-way.  We talked about the likely advantages and pitfalls of closing down Pike St., but people got REALLY excited when we talked about completely overhauling 10th Ave, Broadway, Nagle and Pike to give people, bikes and trees more space. One speaker said that of any place in Seattle, Pike St. would be the place to test out a street closure at night. Admittedly, no owners of small businesses were in the group last night, but the people present seemed to have a voracious appetite for tilting the public right-of-way scale.

In Austin the three-nights-per-week closure receives support from a mini-taxing district.  The revenue collected from the businesses along Sixth pays for extra garbage pick-up, extra security, marketing and more. Locally, much of the Broadway strip sits inside the boundaries of the Broadway Business Improvement Area which handles extra clean-up. Pike St. lies outside the boundaries (which may explain why I got an earful about trash in the Pike/Pine area). I’ve heard more recently that in Austin there are growing concerns about it being a rowdy drinking strip; the place where out-of-towners go to drink, but with insufficient regard for the music and the surrounding community. It would be a shame to start something in Seattle and have it turn into an excuse to be drunk in the street.

My next step is to talk with some business owners to gauge interest.

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Comment from Seattlite10
Time July 21, 2010 at 11:39 am

I live in Capitol Hill near the Pike/Pine area and I absolutely love the idea. I grew up near Austin so am very familiar with the 6th Street closure which I think allows for a diverse meeting place for people and encourages community.

Comment from Sean
Time July 23, 2010 at 8:14 am

Yay! I think this is a great idea. Copenhagen has some walking streets that are permanently closed to vehicles and the businesses along the streets really hop with activity. Focusing this on specific times is a really clever idea.

Comment from Andy Gordon
Time August 16, 2010 at 5:42 pm

This is a neat idea that lots of other cities are experimenting with in one form or another. If they can create pedestrian areas in Manhattan, why not here? There are always kinks to work out, but from my perspective we
should think more boldly, not less. Let’s link
promenades to whatever emerges from the waterfront controversy, linked planfully to Sally’s idea. Mayor Peñalosa and others transformed Bogotá by linking opportunities such as this.

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