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Canton, Nord, & Pioneer Passage Alley Improvement Project

Bringing new life into our alleys

Last updated: September 11, 2017

What’s happening now?

Construction to "reactivate" Canton Alley in the Chinatown/International District was completed this past spring. What had been just another urban alley, primarily used for deliveries and garbage, is now a public space easily activated for community events. Being adjacent to the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience made it a perfect location to activate an otherwise underutilized public street, helping to make a better community.

Similar alley reactivations in Pioneer Square's Nord and Pioneer Passage alleys are expected in early 2018. More details will be posted as they become available.

Project Overview

Well repave Canton Alley in the Chinatown/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.

Before and after renderings

Canton Alley

Nord Alley

Pioneer Passage Alley


About 10 years ago, the City of Seattle removed dumpsters from Pioneer Square alleys 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 received 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 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 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 Chinatown/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 worked to design and secure funding to repave both Canton and Nord alleys, as well as the Pioneer Passage Alley.


Construction on Canton Alley in Chinatown/International District began in mid-April and should take about 6 weeks to complete. 

The start of work on both Nord and Pioneer Passage alleys in Pioneer Square has been delayed until fall 2017 due to the required production time for the pavers .  Construction on these alleys is expected to take 5-7 weeks each, with some construction overlap. 

Funding Sources

Funding sources include:

  • 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

Contact information

Paul Elliott, SDOT Community Relations

Amanda Tse, Project Manager


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