By the 2000s, the Senior Center had expanded service and grown in numbers to the point where they were outgrowing their current space. By 2006 the PDA decided that the only solution was to build a new Senior Center on one of the historic district’s two undeveloped sites: the “Creamery” lot. Fortunately, zoning on the site allowed for a six-story structure so low-income housing was added in addition to the senior center: a net gain of 24 new apartments.
The Market Foundation raised $2.5 million for the whole project. 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 for the Market” campaign. “It was a dynamite housing project,” said former Market Foundation 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.”
By 2003, Pike Place Market was seeing 10 million visitors a year and desperately needed core infrastructure system renovations. This renovation project was so large that it exceeded the scope of Foundation fundraising, and warranted a public funding vehicle like a levy.
When the Mayor and City Council finally agreed to a ballot measure in 2007, the stipulation was that it could only fund infrastructure, and any repairs related to housing would have to be funded separately. “None of the levy funding could fund tenant improvements, because you can’t use public funds for private use,” explained Carol Binder, former PDA Executive Director. “The government owns the building, but the tenant leases the space, so it was a very fine line of what we were allowed to do.”
The ballot measure was a success; work on the public infrastructure renovations began, and the Market Foundation began fundraising and pursuing other methods to fund the housing renovations. “Marlys and I brainstormed quite a bit on where the sources of these funds could come from,” remembers Carol.
In 2007, raising money for housing repairs meant asking the State Legislature to give the PDA a $1 million appropriation for the Livingston Baker building. Carol Binder and Marlys Erickson worked tirelessly to get this into the state capital budgets, taking many road trips to Olympia to make their case before Washington legislators. Former President of the Market Foundation Board, Becky Bogard, was also instrumental in the lobbying strategy.
Staff and board members successfully secured the appropriation, and housing repairs were underway. In total, 34 studio units were refurbished: with updates to the subfloor, replaced living area flooring, kitchen cabinets and bathrooms, flooring, and new windows in the Livingston building. “A great by-product of this effort was getting the plumbing fixed in the building so the Clinic would quit being flooded when a tenant, say, flushed a chicken down the toilet,” said Marlys. “Fixing the plumbing was necessary before the Clinic could start its construction.”
“The housing repair took a lot of collaboration between the PDA and the Foundation,” said Carol. “We each had our own realms, down to the level of detail of ‘we can only plumb this part of the building, until we get into residential, we’ll show you the designs but you need to buy the sinks because we can’t use taxpayer money…’ We worked together very closely in that way.”
In 2014, there was a final resolution to a long fruitless effort to identify how to redevelop the last remaining urban infill site in the Market’s Historic District. “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.”
The “MarketFront” established a future connection between the Market and Seattle’s waterfront and replaced parking that would be lost after the viaduct removal. In addition to expanding retail space, table space, a public pavilion, and our new neighborhood center The Market Commons, the expansion also included Western Avenue Senior Housing. This new 40-unit residence building was built specifically for seniors on low incomes, with seven units designed to be live-work lofts for senior artists.
The Market Foundation raised $9.5 million for the entire project, in addition to helping secure $9 million in low-income tax credits and a Boeing Communities Grant to furnish the new housing units and The Market Commons. 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 site to life for our neighborhood’s next chapter in expanding affordable housing and social services.