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Councilmember Nick Licata
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Space for Artists &
The Artist Space Assistance Program

Sam Farrazaino joins Council President Conlin and Councilmember Licata

Sam Farrazaino joined former Council President Conlin and Councilmember Licata on September 7, 2011 to announce City and Federal funding that allowed INSCAPE to accommodate former 619 Western artists.


I created this web page to address changes sparked by the evacuation of the 619 Western Building. It was designed to keep you informed on what I and other public officials and government agencies were doing to address changes within the Pioneer Square Arts Community.  My staff worked with the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs (OACA) to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) for assisting artists and arts organizations wishing to remain in or locate to Pioneer Square.  Shunpike, a Seattle nonprofit arts service organization, won the RFP and has launched the Artist Space Assistance Program (ASAP), a pilot program in the Pioneer Square and Chinatown-International District neighborhoods designed to provide relocation and placement services for artists and arts organizations seeking affordable studio, live/work, exhibition, performance and/or rehearsal space. After visiting ASAP, be sure to check out OACA's website for more information on cultural space in Seattle.

If you have a comment or information to share, please email or call 206-684-8849.



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In December of 2009, the State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Alaska Way Viaduct project team notified building owners Benjamin and Lois Mayers of Bellevue that the building might not survive tunneling below it and that, as a precaution, it would be vacated by March 2012. Initially WSDOT planned on demolition, but historic preservationists persuaded them to spare the building and instead temporarily shore it up to withstand tunneling below. Preliminary expectations were that the building would likely remain vacant for about a year.

The 619 Western Avenue Building served as workspace for approximately 100 artists - perhaps the largest concentration of working artists on the west coast. Artists there helped launch Seattle's First Thursday art walk, which has been copied by other cities around the nation. The building was located within the Pioneer Square Historic District and subject to City laws protecting historic buildings. Upon initially being told their building would be demolished, the owners' son Ron Mayers told the Seattle Times "We were very happy to continue having the building as it is, a unique, affordable artists' colony. It was fun!"

619 Western Ave. building
  • Jan 2011: began occupancy surveys to assess eligibility
  • Winter 2011: Identify properties for relocation
  • Summer 2011: Environmental process concluded
  • July 2011: Initiation of negotiation w/tenants
  • Aug 2011: Notice of relocation eligibility, entitlements, and 90-day assurance letter
  • October 2011: Western Building vacated; expanded 1st Thursdays established; affordable temporary spaces in Pioneer Square identified and ready for move-in.
  • October 2011:  Artist Space Assistance Program launches
  • Winter 2011 – Summer 2012: Newly renovated building in Pioneer Square dedicated to artists' spaces opens with affordable live/work and studio-only units ready for occupancy.

On June 22, the City's Department of Planning and Development issued a hazard correction order to the building's owners, which called for a ban on public assemblies such as 1st Thursday open studies and vacating the building by October 1st rather than the planned date of March 1st, 2012.

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Where are former tenants going?

I would like to see 619 Western Building tenants wishing to stay in Pioneer Square be able to do so. To that end, I've met with property owners and others to identify viable affordable spaces, both temporary and permanent, that will accommodate artists and other creative businesses that once called the 619 Western Building home.

The owners of the 619 Western Building have stated a sincere interest in seeing artists return to at least a portion of their newly-renovated building once tunneling is complete. They have been meeting with me, my staff, City staff, and non-profit arts developers to explore ways of providing such affordable spaces without losing money. One possibility is to arrange for market rents in other portions of the building subsidize the affordable arts spaces.

At least one private developer continues looking for a building that can be redeveloped into a new artistic hub for Pioneer Square.

Shunpike's Seattle Storefronts program provided hope for a temporary solution while the City-owned King Street Station and a privately held building in Pioneer Square may provide the best hope for permanent space.

Here is an inventory of potential properties. If you have suggestions or comments regarding these or others, either within or directly adjacent to Pioneer Square, please add your comment to my blog.

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What I'm doing

I have, and am still willing to facilitate collaborations between property owners, leasing agents, artists and various City offices to meet my two-part goal of 1) finding temporary studios for 619 artists wishing to stay in the neighborhood and 2) securing permanent space for any artist and creative worker wanting to locate in Pioneer Square. (see ASAP program, above)

My office requested that the City provide expedited permitting for artists establishing new studios or live/work spaces. Additionally, I've asked City agencies to assist in whatever way they can any private developer interested in and capable of acquiring and developing a building in Pioneer Square into new affordable live/work and work studio spaces.

I lobbied The Alliance for Pioneer Square and the Washington State Department of Transportation to work with the City to establish a new outdoor space that can accommodate an expanded 1st Thursday in order to accommodate former 619 artists wishing to continue selling their work in Pioneer Square.

I've compiled an inventory of potential properties to both temporarily and permanently house artists displaced from the 619 Western Building (see sidebar). Whether single or multiple properties, properties needing extensive rehabilitation or properties ready for occupancy, having an inventory of possibilities now will help better prepare for relocating artists in the very near future.

And, I will continue to work toward seeing the Council implement the 2009 recommendations of the Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee.

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In the news

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Meeting video, January 20, 2011

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