This year, the Pike Place Market Foundation is celebrating some major milestones: 40 years and $40 million invested in the Market community! 

After Seattle voted to save Pike Place Market from demolition, the Friends of the Market and the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) Council envisioned a path for fulfilling the Market’s charter and preserving the character of the historic district. In 1982, the Pike Place Market Foundation was founded to help fulfill that vision and provide consistent funding and partnership to a network of social services in the Market. As a community foundation, we have also responded to emerging needs in our neighborhood by operating our own programs and services through our community resource center, The Market Commons. 

From the very beginning, the Market Foundation has been guided by our model for a healthy community and a commitment to close collaboration with our social service partners. By listening to the emerging needs of our community and working with other agencies to build comprehensive wrap-around support for our neighborhood, we are helping nurture a healthy Market community where everyone can live their best life possible. 

As we celebrate the incredible milestone of $40 million invested in the Market over 40 years, we’re looking back on our history and honoring the staff, service partners, volunteers and supporters who have helped nurture a thriving community at Pike Place Market.

A network of services in Pike Place Market

When the 1971 vote to save Pike Place Market from the wrecking ball helped establish and preserve the historic district, the Market’s governing charter also mandated that the neighborhood’s unique community and traditional character be preserved as well. “There’s a lot of very cool markets in the country,” said Marlys Erickson, former Executive Director of the Market Foundation. “But none of them have done what Pike Place Market has done, which is to preserve the community as well as the buildings.” This was one of the first times a preservation movement had protected not just a physical place, but the people and purpose as well. How would the Market use the buildings that had been saved to help support the farmers, merchants, residents, and families who made the Market “the soul of Seattle?” 

An essential part of this unique community was the senior residents representing more than half of downtown dwellers. Many of these seniors were low-income, living with disabilities, and relied on the Market for groceries and socialization. In addition, Market merchants and workers also needed access to services and reliable, affordable childcare to continue making a living downtown.

Community health advocate Chris Hurley and the Pike Place Market PDA Director of Community Development Aaron Zaretsky had been working together in the late 1970s to survey and begin building programs to address the downtown community’s needs. “I was at the Health Department working on public programs, while Aaron was working with the PDA to preserve the human community in the Market that was at risk of being uprooted for urban renewal,” says Chris. “Aaron and I recognized we could work together to do something downtown, where there was a large residential population but really no services available.”

Out of these surveys and strategic planning grew three initial agencies to address the growing need for community services. “The Senior Center and the Clinic were very obvious needs, based on the population,” said Chris. “And then came the idea of the Preschool…It makes sense in the occupational community and from the feedback we received.” A Food Bank was also founded to help address rising food insecurity downtown. The Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority provided institutional support and offered reduced rent, while each organization operated as an independent non-profit organization responsible for additional funding. 

Chris Hurley outside the Pike Market Medical Clinic.

The Market Foundation's beginnings

While the Market’s service agencies were quickly growing to meet the community’s emerging needs, President Reagan’s 1981 federal budget cuts slashed social services nationwide. With one pen stroke, the agencies lost 50% of promised agency support and building rehabilitation funding. The Market’s social service agencies had lost crucial funding, just as demand for survival services skyrocketed during the economic downturn. 

The Pike Market Medical Clinic was given two weeks’ notice that a $150,000 federal grant representing half their operating budget was withdrawn. Within a month, the soon-to-be-opened Pike Market Preschool received notice that their $60,000 federal grant for playground construction was canceled. This effectively stopped the Preschool’s opening, as state regulations required an outdoor play area. 

Chris Hurley and Aaron Zaretsky sprung into action, realizing that the agencies needed to fundraise to make up the deficits. “That definitely put the fire under us to figure out that we need to start,” says Chris. “We needed to go talk to everybody we could think of, we reached out to just dozens and dozens of mover and shaker types in the city.”

PDA Council member Jean Falls and Market supporter Mary Fleming got to work raising the $60,000 needed for the Preschool’s playground, and hit their goal within a few weeks. In the process, they realized how enthusiastic Seattleites were to contribute to the Market they so dearly loved. “We thought we should band ourselves together,” said Chris. “Because we knew that people love the Market, but don’t know about the population of downtown.” This deep devotion to the Market could be reflected in a community foundation that could raise money for the long-term survival of the Market’s network of services.

After more prelimi­nary research, Aaron and Chris sought advice from 25 downtown business people who were enthusiastic about the idea of a foundation for the Market. Concrete plans to create the new institution began, with Jean Falls and Sur La Table founder Shirley Collins establishing the Steering Committee: “We decided how many board members there would be, we recruited them,” Shirley remembers. 

As a member of the PDA Council, Jean filed for the Market Foundation’s 501(c)(3) status and signed the official incorporation papers. The PDA played another critical role in establishing the Foundation, as Director John Clise backed the effort with office space, staff, equipment, and vocal support. Aaron Zaretsky became the Market Foundation’s first Executive Director, and his eventual successor Marlys Erickson was hired as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) soon after.

The Market Foundation’s founding board of directors met for the first time on the Market’s 75th birthday in 1982, with the original mission statement to “preserve and enhance the traditions and diversity of the Pike Place Market community.”

Echoing the Market’s opening day in 1907, this first meeting of community members and Seattle business owners paved the way for what was to come: a commitment to fostering a vibrant and diverse market community in the heart of downtown.

Supporting our Legacy Partners

The Market Foundation’s founding board not only responded to the immediate gaps in funding at the time, but established a lasting mechanism to leverage people’s love for the Market and turn it into good for the community. Board member Anne Focke reiterated this in a book published by the Ford Foundation: “The Market Foundation has learned to convert positive feelings for Seattle’s most well-loved institution, the Pike Place Market, into support for a mixed downtown population and the services that are necessary to keep this diversity alive.”

The Senior Center, Food Bank, Medical Clinic, and Preschool became our long-standing partners in the Market community, as the Foundation committed to fundraise on their behalf and provide reliable, unrestricted funding year after year. “The difference is that the Foundation’s support is consistent, and specifically for operations, instead of being contingent on a new project,” says Chris. “I mean, it’s like gold money. Nowadays, this is where philanthropy is going more and more, but it’s where the Market Foundation has always been.”

The Foundation would become not only an important funder of these programs, but would also identify critical connections and collaborate to strengthen the impact of the community as a whole.

In the first two years of operation, the Market Foundation granted $40,000 to the Market agencies, jumping to $158,000 in the third year.

The Market Foundation’s “Cut the Pie” event to grant funding to social service agencies.

Collaboration in the Market

Former Market Foundation Board President Bill True, with Rachel the Piggy Bank

Though the Foundation was originally born out of the funding crisis of the 80s, it soon became clear that we were uniquely positioned to help support and uphold the part of the Market’s governing charter which mandates that the Pike Place Market PDA preserve a community for low-income people.

“We [as the PDA] can preserve the buildings and manage the property according to their historic mandates, but as a government, we can’t be fundraising, and we don’t have taxing authority to help provide goods and services to low-income people,” said Carol Binder, former Executive Director of the PDA. “The mechanism for fulfilling that third mandate of services to low and moderate-income people is to create the Market Foundation.” 

With the PDA using its quasi-governmental standing to receive public funds, and the Foundation using its nonprofit status to raise private funds, the two could work together to maximize funding opportunities and direct resources accordingly to benefit the Market as a whole. “If it were not for the close collaboration and dedicated teamwork of those two key entities, we would not have had the success we had,” said Mark Barbieri, former Market Foundation Board President.

The Market Foundation would also work closely with other Market organizations, offering our unique expertise as fundraiser, advocate, and community connector. 

“The reality is that the Market is a four-legged stool, between the PDA, the Constituency, the Foundation, and the Historical Commission,” said Rico Quirindongo, Acting Director of Seattle’s Office of Planning & Community Development and former PDA Council Chair. “By having those four bodies all pointing to and holding up a piece of that charter… The Market doesn’t work if any one of those is out of balance or out of sync.”

The tile campaign

In the late 50s, Market owner Richard Desimone had deferred building maintenance and ran the Market at a loss in order to keep small businesses and farmers in the neighborhood. By the early 80s, the newly crowned historic district had fallen into major disrepair. At some places in the Main Arcade, you could see straight through the floor to the DownUnder below.  

In partnership with the Pike Place Market PDA, the Market Foundation embarked on a campaign to raise funds to resurface the Market’s floor.  Supporters donated $35 to have the name of their choice imprinted on individual quarry tiles. The tiles also marked our first of many iconic naming campaigns, as staff hoped to offer a meaningful opportunity for folks to show their love for the Market while donating directly towards preservation and restoration projects.

In July 1985, 29,000 tiles were donated within seven months, and additional tile runs followed to raise $1.2 million for the actual costs of repairing the floor. Now, nearly 55,000 tiles honor the donors who pitched in to care for the Market during our renovation campaigns.

Forty years later, the tiles continue to serve their purpose in one of the world’s most famous farmer’s markets: enduring countless deliveries, carts, and the 15 million people who tread the Market’s floor each year. Today, visitors and Seattleites still flock to the Market and scan the tiles to find their inscription etched into Market history.

Rachel the Piggy Bank comes to the Market

The unveiling of Rachel in 1986

Sur La Table founder Shirley Collins was not only a founding board member of the Market Foundation, card-carrying Friend of the Market, and many other Market roles, but she also came up with the idea for Rachel the Piggy Bank. 

“I thought, it’s too bad we don’t have a way for people who come to the market to donate,” says Shirley. “We just need a great big piggy bank, and everybody can take their change.” 

In August 1986, the Foundation did just that and installed a bronze, life-sized piggy bank sculpted by artist Georgia Gerber: modeled after Rachel, a real 750-pound prize-winning pig at the Whidbey Island County Fair. 

Rachel, the real life inspiration for the piggy bank

Over the years, Rachel has become an unofficial Market mascot and a Seattle icon: recognized worldwide and bringing delight to millions of visitors each year. “The Market Foundation needed an image that was recognizable, you know, a symbol,” says Shirley. “It was such an obvious choice to use a pig for the Market, and a piggy bank.”

Rachel has been the constant connection between the community mission of the Pike Place Market Foundation and the millions of Market visitors for over 35 years.  She serves as landmark, model, mascot and inspiration, helping raise $20,000 a year for the Market community.

Heritage House: a new partner in the Market

For the large population of seniors living in Seattle on low incomes, aging out of their independent living situations was challenging. Not many assisted living facilities existed downtown, and certainly none were affordable for the low-income seniors who had lived so much of their lives in the neighborhood.In response to this emerging need, an assisted living facility was founded in the heart of Pike Place Market to support the aging population and offer a more comprehensive housing landscape for seniors downtown. Heritage House would offer private apartments, nursing services, and a rich quality of life to seniors in a vibrant urban environment, allowing them to age in place without being uprooted from their downtown community. 

The assisted living facility has 62 units and is the only assisted living facility downtown that accepts Medicaid. In addition to state-of-the-art health services, Heritage House is set apart by its robust calendar of activities connecting residents to their Market neighborhood and sustaining important social connections vital to health and longevity. Residents were soon seen going for short outings around the facility, enjoying the sights and sounds of the Market, and engaging in intergenerational programming with the Preschool.

The Market Foundation raised $2,500,000 for the facility’s construction and in 1991, established Heritage House as one of our legacy partners to receive unrestricted support year after year to maintain operations.

The grand opening of Heritage House.

“Care for the Market” campaign

Many Market visitors may not realize just how much attention and resources it takes to maintain one of the country’s oldest continually operating farmer’s markets, especially since so much of the infrastructure was built in the early 1900s.

“We have very old, historic buildings that are so much more expensive to operate and maintain… and yet we charge lower rents,” explained Jackson Schmidt,  Co-President of the Foundation Board during the “Care for the Market” campaign in the 1990s. “Because the buildings are more expensive and we have a lower rental base, we’re going to have to defer maintenance, we’re going to have to defer capital projects.” By 1993, the Market had urgent repair needs that exceeded its budget, and both historic Market buildings and the service agency facilities desperately needed restoration and renovation.

The Market Foundation combined forces with the PDA to mount a capital campaign that would leverage people’s love for Pike Place Market to support both agencies’ goals. The movement was twofold:  It would raise money for both the Market buildings and the Market community, allowing the PDA and each of the service agencies to use funds for their respective projects. 

In total, the Market Foundation raised $3.2 million for historic repairs and social service renovations, receiving donations at all levels from individual and corporate donors. 

Operating our own programs

As time went on, it became clear that there was a need for other service offerings that were not in the scope of existing agencies.  While Pike Place Market stood as one of the country’s most famous food destinations, many Market residents could not afford to shop the fresh, quality produce and protein offered. Thus, the “Market Fresh” coupon program began in 1998, empowering community members to access the fresh foods of the Market regardless of their income. “The idea was a win-win,” said Jackson Schmidt. “We’re getting food into the hands of people who need it, but we’re using what the Market has to provide that. So we’re able to support the local farmers and the people at the same time.”

The Market Foundation also created a Farmer Relief Fund to help farmers recover from natural disasters and other emergencies. “The fund was initiated in late September 1999 in response to a freak hailstorm that severely impacted Hmong farmers in the Sammamish Valley,” remembers Mark Musick, former PDA Farm Program Manager. State and federal disaster assistance was not available to the farm families, so the Market Foundation sprung into action to harness and direct the outpouring of community support. The media covered the storm damage and subsequent fundraising effort extensively, and the relief fund became an ongoing support program.

Donors to the fund that first year included Market craftspeople, second grade students at The Bertschi School, and a group of American veterans who had served alongside the Hmong community during the Vietnam War. Within months, $18,600 had been donated to the fund, culminating in a special Hmong-American ceremony at the Market on Veterans Day that reunited several Hmong veterans with their American counterparts.

“This was all while the number of farmers showing up and selling in the Market was dwindling and dwindling and dwindling,” says Schmidt. “And what would this place be like if we don’t have farmers? We wanted to do whatever we can to keep farmers in the Market.”

It also became clear that while there were many rewards to building a life at Pike Place Market, residents needed support in cases of emergencies or falling on hard times. In 1992, the Foundation developed the Emergency Rent Fund to help support Market residents, most of whom were low-income seniors, to help with a deposit and first month’s rent when moving into an apartment. This was an important investment to help residents secure and maintain housing, especially in the face of rising rents downtown. 

The first “Pigs on Parade”

In the early 2000s as major cities across the country were launching artistic animal displays, the Market Foundation dreamed of doing something similar based on our mascot: Rachel the Piggy Bank.Fiberglass model pigs were created, and local artists submitted their concepts for wildly sty-lish and inventive designs to decorate each porcine model. That summer, 170 custom-designed pigs adorned the streets of Seattle, wowed crowds in a Grand Parade, and were later auctioned off with proceeds supporting the Market community. 

Read the full story about the inaugural “Pigs on Parade”, and find out how a team of Boeing retirees invented “pig skateboards” for the piggies to be transported around town.


A new “Care for the Market” campaign begins 

The Clinic, Senior Center, and Preschool had all begun in very old Market buildings on limited leases, which were now much too small to serve the growing community. “The Clinic started in the old tavern,” laughs Chris Hurley. “It was hilarious to see the back bar still there, wagon wheels still up… We were eventually able to move to the alley space, but the places we started were short-term because the buildings were going to be torn down.”

By the 2000s, the agencies were expanding service and outgrowing their current spaces. To address the need for new and expanded facilities, the Market Foundation launched a second “Care for the Market” campaign to raise $1.85 million to build a new and expanded Pike Market Senior Center and expand the Pike Market Medical Clinic. “While the Public Development Authority was gearing up for core building upgrades to come later, the Care campaign was focused on remodels specifically for the social service agencies,” said Carol Binder. “So it was pretty unique how the PDA and the Foundation were weaving together their efforts: infrastructure with social service.”

The PDA and Foundation worked together to add more low income housing for seniors, space for a new larger Senior Center, and expansion room for the Clinic. This was accomplished with the construction of an addition to the LaSalle building, which opened in 2006. 

$895,000 of the Senior Center build-out costs were funded by the Market Foundation. The new kitchen expanded to serve nearly 60,000 lunches – approximately double the previous capacity. The Senior Center was now better equipped to serve the approximately 1,000 seniors who utilized the daily meals, employment services, companionship, recreational and social services.

By moving the Senior Center into its new building, the Clinic could expand into the Senior Center’s previous space: expanding square footage for mental health, social work, and administration, as well as doubling its pharmacy space. The increased size and service capacity of both the new and expanded Senior Center and the expanded Clinic enabled each agency to provide vital services essential to the growing number of low-income and senior individuals in the downtown Seattle community. 

The new Senior Center building also provided more housing for low-income seniors, a net gain of 24 new apartments. The LaSalle/Creamery project used Seattle city housing levy money, tax credits for low-income housing,  a community block grant from the city, and $970,000 in private donations raised through the Market Foundation’s Care campaign. “It was a dynamite housing project,” said Executive Director Marlys Erickson. “In 1971 Seattle voters mandated that the Market serve low-income people.  Developing new housing and expanding both the Senior Center and the Clinic carried on that mandate.” 


A Centennial Celebration: Pike Place Market turns 100

In preparation for Pike Place Market’s 100th anniversary, the Market Foundation wanted to do something big to mark the occasion and inspire a renewed investment in the Market community. 

The 2007 “Pigs on Parade” officially kicked off with a fabulous parade, including nearly all of the 100 pigs created for the Centennial Celebration, their handlers, and a humongous pig balloon float. All summer, the Market had booths at neighborhood festivals – while the pig float appeared in various parades, even winning First Place prize at the West Seattle Parade.

Former Market Foundation Board president Mark Barbieri explained that while the return of the pigs was indeed thrilling, the Market Foundation was also intentionally educating Seattle about the importance of the Market and its network of services. “The whole strategy was to do a big celebration that would allow us to really engage the community, and help them understand everything that’s great about the Market and the Market Foundation,” said Mark.

Both organizations knew that the centennial celebration would be a crucial moment to educate the public in preparation for making a significant investment the following year. “One of the most important objectives was to reconnect Seattleites with the Market, and to get that story out about the history, social service agencies, and the low-income residents that live here,” said former PDA Executive Director Carol Binder. “It wasn’t just a party at the Market. We really needed to get people to understand the layers of what was underneath all of this, so that they would be more compelled to preserve it  going into the future.”

Mark says: “We brought back Pigs on Parade, which was, one, really fun. Number two, that was a big undertaking and raised a lot of money to fund the actual [Pike Place Market Centennial] celebration, which was a great party and again, allowed us to engage the community and lay the groundwork for a levy campaign.”

“Support Our Market: Yes on Seattle Prop 1”

At this point, Pike Place Market was seeing 10 million visitors a year and desperately needed core infrastructure system renovations. “We had leaking plumbing, leaking pipes,” remembers Carol Binder, Executive Director of the PDA at the time. “A lot of those things were never done in the previous renovations because they were doing the facade and the exteriors of the building. But a lot of the fundamental infrastructure was almost 100 years old.” 

The historic district needed new elevators and restrooms, seismic and electrical upgrades, heating and ventilation improvements, and a rebuilt hill climb: around $70 million for the renovations. This project was so large that it went beyond the scope of Foundation fundraising, and warranted a public funding vehicle like a levy.

“The Public Development Authority does not have any taxing authority,” explains Carol. “So we could not vote to raise levies on our own, and the city initially wasn’t going to put it on the ballot, as they had their own capital needs. Eventually, we were able to convince the city that the Market was a vital piece of the downtown and the public would support it. The Market Foundation would be allowed to fundraise for a levy campaign, and they were willing to undertake this because it was going to benefit everyone. We worked very collaboratively in all aspects of that.”

In partnership with the PDA, the Market Foundation began working behind the scenes to fundraise and introduce a levy proposal for the 2008 Seattle election. The Foundation spawned “Citizens for Pike Place Market” to run the campaign, and board members raised $400,000 for that effort. “It was very much in our wheelhouse, because it wasn’t a heck of a lot different than what we do on the philanthropic side, in a way,” said Mark Barbieri. “It was governed by the guardrails of any political campaign, but within those confines, I think we had a good framework established for being able to attack that in a similar way that we worked for, for any other fundraising campaign.”

The levy vote hit the ballots in November 2008, just as the stock market was plummeting. The question on everyone’s minds: was Seattle willing to invest in the Market, even amid an economic crisis? 

Former Board Co-President Jackson Schmidt remembers media outlets calling to say: “We all know that the levy is going to fail. What’s your reaction to it?” Jackson’s response: “I told them: ‘If the voters rejected, it’s got everything to do with the economy and nothing to do with the Market. People love the Market.’ So, of course, by 7:30 that night, it was passing by close to 70% of the vote. So they called me back saying ‘we need a different kind of statement’. And I said, ‘I’m going to give you the same statement. People of Seattle love their Market, and that’s why they voted yes in the face of economic disaster.’ And it worked.”

A New Executive Director, a new era

As the Market Foundation reached our 30th Birthday, longtime Executive Director Marlys Erickson announced her retirement. At this point, she had seen the Market Foundation through three decades of campaigns, expansions, and projects responding to meet emerging needs in the Market community. 

“There are people in Market history who are just real heroes, Marlys being one of them,” says Jackson Schmidt. “Beyond the pale, day in and day out, carrying the flag and doing what needs to be done.” The Board of Directors knew they had big shoes to fill, and choosing Marlys’ successor would be one of the most important decisions they could make to ensure that the Market Foundation was equipped to head into this next era. 

The final selection was Lillian Sherman, who had previously worked at the Foundation in the 1990s and deeply understood the ins and outs of the Market. “Lillian knew the Foundation and had always stayed connected to the Market. She had worked on capital campaigns at FareStart and Wellspring, and just came very highly recommended,“ said Becky Bogard, Foundation Board President at the time. “The board was very open to supporting her and her way of operating, it wasn’t a tough transition at all.”

Lillian Sherman

Expanding the Food Access Program

The 115-year history of Pike Place Market has always been rooted in access to fresh, affordable produce, and this remains essential to the health and stability of the Market community. Building off of the “Market Fresh” coupon program from the 1990s, the Foundation wanted to continue to support this mission with programs that ensure everyone in our community could access the wonderful food of the Market, regardless of income. 

In 2013, the Market Foundation’s Food Access program grew to include shopping programs, pilot programs, education, and the opening of the Pike Place Secret Garden. “That’s when we began to distinguish key pieces of our ecosystem within our neighborhood,” says Crystal Dixon, Director of Strategic Impact at the Market Foundation. “Food Access had been happening at the Foundation for 20 years, but now we could solidify it as a program that originated out of the community’s need and out of our partnership.”

Pike Place Secret Garden is a thriving garden and greenspace for our community to grow produce for the Pike Market Food Bank. In total, nearly 500 fresh herbs and vegetables are donated each year. Food Bank staff collaborate with garden volunteers during planting to identify high-demand and culturally appropriate produce, so that the garden’s offerings reflect clients’ needs. 

Evolution of the Community Safety Net

In 2013 the Foundation board voted to combine the Farmer Relief Fund and Emergency Rent Fund with community-supported, “pass-the-hat” efforts then being undertaken by Market crafter Sharon Shaw.

Whenever someone in the Market was having a particularly tough time, Shaw organized the community to provide support—whether it was helping a merchant pay medical bills, cover mortgage, or pay rent. “Many times it would just be one dollar or five dollars from each person,” said Sharon. “Within two or three hours, I would have seven, eight hundred to a thousand dollars in this bag that I’d be able to hand to someone because they were in trouble.”

The Market Community Safety Net was the result. Today, this program serves as a support during difficult times for the entire Market community, from farmers and merchants to artists and residents. This fund provides emergency financial and resource assistance to help members of the Market community maintain their housing and livelihood. 

Since its inception, the Market Community Safety Net has helped nearly 1,000 Market community members with more than $250,000 in financial and community support that helps the wonderfully creative and caring “family” at Pike Place Market thrive. 

“Pike Up!” for the MarketFront Expansion

In 2014, there was a perfect storm of events as the last remaining urban infill site in the Market’s Historic District finally became available for the PDA to develop. “That parking lot in the Market had sat vacant for 40 years, and here was a rare opportunity,” said Rico Quirindongo, Acting Director of Seattle’s Office of Planning & Community Development who served on the PDA Council during the project. “An opportunity to try to look at what works in the Market, within the boundary of the historic district, and expand on that.  And the charter would guide how we work together to create a solution: community input drives our decision-making process.”

Thus the dream of the “MarketFront” was born: a unique collection of mixed-use Market spaces providing expanded opportunities for local entrepreneurs, farmers, civic space, public art, and social service. The project would also include 40 new low-income senior housing units, building on the Foundation’s commitment to invest in affordable housing in and around the Market. 

Later that year, the Market Foundation launched the “Pike Up!” campaign to raise over $9 million for the MarketFront expansion. “The Market community was reflected in the project, with the goal that everyone, especially those living and working in the Market, could afford to contribute and see themselves in the project,” said Patricia Gray, Director of Philanthropy and Community Relations at the Foundation. Over the next four years, the Foundation engaged local donors in naming opportunities ranging from $180 to $500,000. Hundreds of neighbors took part in a collaborative art project on Western Avenue to create a tapestry piece reflective of the community. 

In the summer of 2017 after two years of construction, the new MarketFront opened. By developing the final piece of land in the historic Pike Place Market, the Market Foundation and our partners realized the dream of bringing this place to life for the next century of social service in our neighborhood.

“The MarketFront is so much more than just an addition to the Market,” says Elizabeth Coppinger, former Foundation Board President. “It’s a gift to Seattle, a place where the community can gather. I think it was this really pivotal transition piece for the city, moving into the next generation of what it’s going to be and envision.”

Creating The Market Commons

The Market Foundation’s vision had remained the same since 1982: to provide a caring community for our low-income neighbors who work, live and learn in and around the Market.  Community building and advocacy have been paramount to the long, rich history of Pike Place Market. We wanted to continue to inspire these traditions by listening to the community and rising to better meet emerging needs and fill critical gaps in our neighborhood’s support systems.

When the MarketFront expansion planning was underway, the city development agreement required social service expansion for the new space. “To accomplish the social service mission, it was for us to figure out what that meant,” said Lillian Sherman. “We did a lot of needs assessments early on that asked: Why aren’t some of our residents using the Food Bank? Why aren’t some residents going to the Senior Center? Why aren’t people accessing what they have? We learned a lot about the delivery of service in the Market. We discovered what we needed was a friendly place where the best programming of these agencies could come together so we could try to find a better path for everyone.” 

The community-wide needs assessment surveying 700 people helped determine what was needed to complement and expand the service missions. Results from the two assessments, information gathered at several focus groups, and guidance from one-on-one meetings with the existing social services were aggregated to inform program priorities and determine the need for a community resource center. Thus, The Market Commons was born, and plans were underway to construct it as part of the new MarketFront expansion on Western Avenue. “It was a little bit of a leap of faith,” remembers John Pierce, former Foundation Board President. “There’s an untold need for social services downtown and there will always be that need…. But we wanted to target our focus on the Market in particular and support the existing network we had been investing in.”

Our community-centric approach

The 2014 needs assessment also led to a new approach and philosophical shift for the Market Foundation.  Based on all that we learned from the assessments, the Pike Place Market Foundation formally adopted the Kaiser Family Foundation model for public health in the Market. This model of the social determinants of health recognizes that community health and well-being are linked not only to the care individuals receive from a doctor, but also to economic stability, education, access to nutritious food, a safe neighborhood, and community support. 

Within this model, the Market Foundation works with service partners to promote these social determinants and reduce the barriers faced by community members. When these barriers are reduced or eliminated, data shows that our neighbors find stability and have an opportunity to attain their full health potential.

The Foundation had been instinctively following such an approach since the beginning, but could now fully integrate the healthy community model into our strategy. “It was this organic, historical pattern we had been following for decades, and we brought it into the official mission,” said Crystal Dixon. “But it helped us hone in on this idea of our place-based community, and that anyone in our community is who we serve. It’s our neighborhood.”

Though we could never have imagined it, this intentional commitment to a model based on community feedback was preparing us for what would soon be one of the biggest crises the Market had ever seen.

The COVID-19 pandemic puts our model to the test

March 2020 will go down in history as the month when Seattle rapidly shut down and the rest of the world quickly followed. All but a handful of Pike Place Market businesses temporarily closed, while our senior residents and downtown neighbors braced for what came next. The pandemic exposed deep gaps in our social, and health and systems, all of which contribute to the cycle of poverty and instability that many of our neighbors experience.

In the weeks, months, and years that followed, the Market Foundation remained steady in adapting our already established support services within the Market community, while also launching emergency programs as new needs arose in real-time. Program staff at The Market Commons and our partner agencies worked together to deploy emergency funds to Market workers, nourish our community with access to meals and groceries, keep senior residents safe and connected, vaccinate residents and workers in the Market, and so much more. “We used the policies and procedures we’ve already adopted as a framework, and our connection with agency partners to move quickly in response,” said Crystal Dixon. “We were able to turn on a dime because our programs are built to be nimble and responsive to community needs.” 

Market Commons Staff wearing masks and standing in front of "The Market Commons" sign

Our community model and commitment to our partners became more important than ever, as The Market Foundation raised and invested more than $4 million in grants and emergency programs during our Power of Pike Place Recovery campaign. “The structure we had built allowed us to raise and deploy money in a granting system where we could pivot to meet needs as they arose, whether that was small business grants, safety net, or something else,” said Lillian Sherman. 

PDA partnership during the pandemic

Once again, the PDA and the Market Foundation worked together in tremendous ways to support the 500 small businesses and 450 residents that make up Pike Place Market. 

Amid the uncertainty, the Market Foundation and PDA worked together to expand the support services for vendors by creating the Small Business Recovery Fund. The fund has provided critical gap funding and peer mentorship to help vendors, artists, and shops adapt now and into the future. Since its establishment, $956,000 has been dispersed to nearly 150 Market businesses and counting.

“During a time of great uncertainty about the survival of the Market, one thing was certain; the PDA and the Market Foundation were going to do whatever it took to preserve this remarkable community and historic Market,” said Mary Bacarella, Executive Director of the Pike Place Market PDA. “In the face of one of the most challenging times for the Market, we pivoted to focus all our energy on the well-being of our community. The Market is on the road to recovery after the pandemic, but we still have a long way to go after two very challenging years. The Market’s strength coming out of the pandemic came from a remarkable community coming together and supporting one another.”

Jonathan wearing a mask, poking his head through his knitting item display

The pandemic has demonstrated the critical need to invest in partnerships and infrastructure that supports a whole community, and the Market’s model for a healthy community has proven to be effective in adapting and responding to urgent needs. “We couldn’t have predicted the global pandemic,” said John Pierce. “But after the Pike Up! campaign, we were moving away from ‘we raise money and we give away money.’ We were really asking: ‘What’s our purpose? What greater cause do we serve with our partners, and how do we turn people’s love of the Market into support for social services in the Market?”

Sustaining the Market now and for future generations 

Throughout the past four decades, as our city has changed and new needs emerge, the Market Foundation has remained devoted to building our model for a healthy community. When the Market was saved, Seattle didn’t just commit to protecting the iconic buildings and businesses, but also the people who make this place the “soul of Seattle”.

The Market Foundation founders understood that to nurture a neighborhood where everyone can thrive, we needed to commit resources and work together to reduce the barriers that impact our community. That intention has been carried through from the beginning, and blossomed into the community model we stand by today. 

“The Market has always taken care of our people, and done that to the best of our ability with the resources we have,” said Rico Quirindongo. “The union between the community and the Foundation has leaned into that vision and that value of caring for our Market.”

Forty years later, we are thrilled to be celebrating and recommitting our support to this neighborhood. Our purpose will always be rooted in supporting the Market’s network of social services, providing dedicated resources and collaborating to provide wraparound support for the community.

We express gratitude to the Market social service agencies and their staff, PDA staff and council, and our partners for being on this journey with us.

Thank you to the community of residents, merchants, artists, farmers and families for making the Market a place to love and cherish.

We thank the Market Foundation staff, board, and volunteers past and present, for leading the way. Thank you to our donors, supporters, and sponsors for believing in this work.

 It is an honor to be celebrating 40 years in this community!

Celebrate the Market Foundation’s impact of $40 million invested over 40 years into the Market community!

We need your help to keep the Market strong now and for the next 40 years to come. Give today and join us in supporting a thriving Market where everyone can live their best life possible!

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Nurture the Next Chapter: Sustaining Pike Place Market for Future Generations

We’re thrilled to announce The Market Community Fund: a unique opportunity to transform individual giving into lasting, measurable change — connecting your philanthropic goals to your love for the Market. A gift today, or bequest from your Will or Trust in the future, provides a lasting legacy to the health and sustainability of the Market community.



Anniversary Stories: Investments in Housing

In collaboration with our partners, we have helped to retain affordable housing in and around the district – supporting the construction and rehabilitation of units in many residential buildings in the Market.

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Anniversary Stories: Heritage and Preservation

The Pike Place Market Foundation was founded in 1982 with the original mission to “preserve and enhance the traditions and diversity of the Pike Place Market community.” 

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Anniversary Stories: Investments in Social Services

For 40 years, the Pike Place Market Foundation has supported a downtown community of residents and workers, and the underlying network of social services designed to support them.

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