Pike Place Market

Pike to Virginia Street, on Pike Place
Seattle, WA

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

Perhaps the quintessential public market and market district, the vitality, attractiveness, and economic success of this place are a beacon in Seattle (and for market boosters across the country).

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Why It Works

The market sits in the center of a seven-acre Market Historic District, with its official entrance at Pike Street and Pike Place. Here stands "Rachel," the market mascot: a 550-pound bronze piggy bank that collects from $6,000 to $8,000 a year for the Market Foundation. From here the market extends in an L-shape past the Main Arcade, smaller stalls and shops, and then to larger restaurants and commercial spaces.

The multi-level market consists primarily of fish and produce stalls, but also features over 200 unique non-food shops selling value-added goods, including art galleries and local crafts. The concessions and displays are often creative and as a whole, the market is attractive and well-maintained. A large sign and clock on the roof provide a distinguishing feature; an information booth offers maps and pamphlets.

One of the successful elements of the redevelopment design was the change in traffic flow patterns. The neighborhood is now pedestrian friendly, and is easily accessible by public transit and ferries. The area right in front of the Main Arcade is limited to one-hour parking. Long-term parking is available further away, but still in walking distance of the market.

History & Background

Over the years, Pike Place has become an important local landmark as well as an example of successful community activism and planning. It was founded in 1907 as a city-sponsored experiment to help local farmers sell their produce directly to consumers, bypassing the wholesalers suspected of inflating prices. The Market was a success and soon more stalls and permanent structures were built to meet the growing needs of the consumers and farmers. The atmosphere of the market was created early on by a few basic rules: The size of the stalls was kept small and sales were limited to food and food products raised or produced by the seller. In 1923, the market shifted from the street to a private arcade where farmers could rent space on a daily basis.

The market continued to grow and attract shoppers through the 1930s. Its multicultural nature added to the variety of goods and the texture to the atmosphere. After WWII, technological advances in farming and transport changed the local farming economy that led to a period of decline for the market. The number of shoppers dropped sharply with suburbanization and the rise of supermarkets. The market deteriorated, but its location at the western edge of downtown Seattle made it an attractive piece of real estate.

The city eventually declared the area "blighted" and scheduled it for redevelopment. As early as 1964 a citizens group called Friends of the Market began organizing to save Pike Place. The city made plans for the Pike Place Project that would include a 1.7-acre market in the middle of a 22-acre project. Market supporters and preservation activists campaigned to save the market and put an initiative on the ballot. In November 1971, an initiative was passed that overturned the urban renewal plan and set aside a 7-acre Historical District. It also established a 12-member Historical Commission to oversee all development and uses within the district.

The market is now the center of a strong neighborhood community that provides homes for nearly 500 residents. It also provides a wide range of social services including a medical clinic, childcare, a pre-school, a food bank, and a senior center. The area is now under the management of the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority.

Contact Info:

Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority: 206-682-7453

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