Canton, Nord, & Pioneer Passage Alley Improvement Project

What's happening now?

Crews have begun installing the final pavers in Nord Alley, working from the south to the north. It currently looks like they will complete their work in Nord around the end of January, at which point construction will be complete and the alley reopened to traffic.

Current progress

Work in Pioneer Passage began right after the New Year, requiring the closure of the southern half of the alley (along with temporary displacement of the trash and recycling receptacles out onto S Washington St). Crews are currently in the process of filling in the areaway behind the State Hotel. That task should be completed this week, as should the installation of a new catch basin (drainage inlet) at the southern end of the alley. Crews will then continue with the removal of the existing asphalt and prepare for pouring the new concrete base (as was previously done in Nord Alley).

As of this writing, crews plan to flip work to the north end of the Pioneer Passage Alley in early February, requiring its closure. The southern portion of the alley will then temporarily reopen to traffic (until the installation of the pavers, which will again require a temporary closure).

Project map

Project Overview

We’ll 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.

project area 1project area 2

Before and after renderings

Canton Alley

canton alley before photo canton alley after photo

Nord Alley

nord alley before photo nord alley after photo

Pioneer Passage Alley

pioneer passage before photo pioneer passage after photo


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 was completed last spring. What had been just another urban alley, primarily used for deliveries and garbage, is now a public space easily activated for community events.

The start of construction on both Nord and Pioneer Passage alleys in Pioneer Square has been delayed, but is beginning in mid-November and should be finished by mid-January (although bad weather or other unexpected challenges could impact the schedule).

Construction will start with Nord Alley in November, while work on the Pioneer Passage alley will begin in early December. Work will overlap between the two alleys. Each alley is expected to take about 5 weeks to complete.


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