How the Tech Industry Is Transforming Seattle’s Former Eye-Sore: Pioneer Square

by Ben SanfordApril 16, 2018

The Highs, Lows, and New Highs of Seattle’s Oldest Area

Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood has seen its fair share of ups and downs. It was Seattle’s first true neighborhood, following the time when the founders of the city, back in the 1860s, spent a few days across the bay at Alki Point.

The city grew up around the neighborhood and eventually, everything that was once new became old and run-down. The neighborhood’s parks became unsafe, and the restaurants and shops that once brought in patrons from all over Seattle fell into a state of disrepair.

Now, the neighborhood is going through a bit of a twenty-first-century renaissance. Startups have moved in and more established tech businesses are following suit. The neighborhood has begun to attract shoppers and restaurant patrons once again.

seattle tech transforming the city

The First Seattle Neighborhood

The neighborhood, or area at the southwest corner of larger Downtown Seattle, Pioneer Square, is not actually a square. Neither does it border a square. Its borders are not set down by any law and are arguably meandering at best.

There are two parks in the neighborhood, one of which is square-shaped but known as Collins Park. It is known for its proximity to the water; the original skid row; and its state, county, and city government buildings. The park is also on the National Register of Historic Places for the reasons mentioned above.
seattle tech transforming the city

The Original Skid Row

When Seattle was a small logging community, vying with Port Townsend on the opposite side of Puget Sound for regional economic dominance, the area that came to be known as the Pioneer Square neighborhood was effectively the entire city. In those days, lumber was the foundation of the settlement’s growing economy.

The area was bordered on one side by Skid Road, or Skid Row. This street earned its name by being the main thoroughfare by which logs skidded from the logging operations farther up what would eventually be called First Hill, to Elliott Bay in the Sound.

Seattle’s Newest Tech and Startup Hub

As mentioned above, the tech business has been slowly moving into the neighborhood. For quite some time now, Pioneer Square has long had some of the cheapest commercial rents of anywhere in the downtown Seattle area. Couple low rents with proximity to the city’s ferry terminals, bars, sports arenas, and inexpensive restaurants, and you have a great recipe for attracting innovative new businesses.
seattle tech transforming the city

A Neighborhood on the Verge of Flourishing Again in Seattle

But the word is out now, and rents are steadily rising. If you’re looking for residential property in Pioneer Square, you’d better get on it fast. If you’re looking for commercial property, you may already be too late. People who work in the area are reporting that things are definitely looking up.

Neighborhood parks where no one dared hang out are now filled with coffee drinkers and others enjoying a bite to eat outside. Most of the crime in the neighborhood has seemingly moved elsewhere, and scores of new shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes are opening up all over the district. In a phrase, Pioneer Square is becoming Seattle’s oldest, newest neighborhood again.

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About The Author
Ben Sanford
Ben is a real estate agent and freelance writer. He's lived on the east coast his entire life and is just as "at home" on a snowboard as he is in the office. When not writing about local real estate markets and researching hot new tips for homeowners, he can be found working on his home renovation projects with help from his wife Melissa and their kids, Josh and Cheyenne.