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Canton, Nord, & Pioneer Passage Alley Improvement Project

Updated: March 1, 2017

Project Overview

SDOT will be repaving Canton Alley in the International District and Nord and Pioneer Passage alleys in Pioneer Square as part of an effort to “activate” them.

Canton Alley between S King St and S Weller St and between 7th Ave S and 8th Ave S
Nord Alley between S Main St and S Jackson St and between 1st Ave S and Occidental Ave S
Pioneer Passage Alley- between Yelser Way and S Washington St and between 1st Ave S and Occidental Ave S.


Canton Alley

Nord Alley

Pioneer Passage Alley

Project Background

About ten years ago, the City of Seattle removed dumpsters from Pioneer Square alleys in order to improve the appearance and safety of these alleys. 

One of these was Nord Alley.  A tenant in the adjacent Nord Building was the non-profit International Sustainability Institute (ISI), whose Executive Director envisioned taking the alley cleanup a step further to a more active use.  Those efforts led to the first public Nord Alley event in October 2008, when several hundred people enjoyed an evening of food, art, and music.  In 2010, the group receive a grant to install metal arts panels onto which other artists could then install their own art.  A bicycle repair shop also opened (which remains open today), further activating Nord Alley.

A contest, cosponsored by SDOT, asked people what they would like to see in Nord Alley, which in turn led to the showing of a number of the 2010 World Cup soccer matches.  Showings of the Tour de France followed, along with numerous musical performances and artist displays (many in conjunction with Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Art Walks).

The alley activation success in Pioneer Square attracted the interest of the Seattle’s Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), who had a similar vision for their own Canton Alley.  While SCIDpda was the main driver, the Chinatown Historic Alley Partnership (CHAP), a group of community stakeholders, was formed to guide the effort and broaden community support and involvement.

Historically, Canton Alley has served as a hub of commercial, residential, and community based activities.  As part of the alley reactivation effort, CHAP worked closely with local property and business owners and the BIA (business improvement area) to implement the City’s Clear Alley Program, removing dumpsters from the public alleys.

For Canton Alley, located right next to the Wing Luke Museum, CHAP envisioned street pavers running down the middle of the alley, with lanterns hanging from the adjacent buildings.  The community’s long term goal is to bring business back into the vacant storefronts to help draw more foot traffic.  Currently, there is only one small retail shop in operation on Canton Alley.  Like its Pioneer Square neighbor, Canton Alley serves as an ideal location for established popular International District outdoor events, and has hosted numerous community events, including Dragon Fest, Jam Fests, and alley parties.

SDOT stepped up its own support for alley activation with the 2012 SDOT Director’s Rule creating the designation of “festival streets” that permits the use of a single year-long street use permit for multiple pedestrian friendly events.  Both Canton and Nord alleys are designated as festival streets.

In the ensuing years, SDOT and these community partners have worked to design and secure funding to repave both Canton and Nord alleys, as well as the Pioneer Passage Alley.


Construction is currently slated to begin in Spring and will take about three months to complete.  The contractor will take four to five weeks on each alley, although as of this writing it isn’t clear in what order they will do the work.  As construction progresses, this page will be updated with more details. 

Funding Sources

  • Federal Grant - Transportation Alternatives Program Grant (Nord & Canton)
  • Office of Economic Development Grant – “Only in Seattle” grants (Canton & Pioneer Passage)
  • Seattle City Light and Century Link – utility contributions (Nord & Pioneer Passage)
  • Seattle Department of Transportation
  • Other sources

Questions or Comments

Paul Elliott, SDOT Community Relations

Amanda Tse, Project Manager


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