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Placemaking: The Enduring 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.