7 Things to See at Seattle’s Expanded Pike Place Market

There are several new reasons to explore the iconic market.

7 Things to See at Seattle’s Expanded Pike Place Market

Photo by Tiffany Von Arnim/Flickr

This week, Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market reveals its 30,000-square foot expansion to the public. The new market wing introduces 47 new vendor spaces, a “meet the producers” floor, and three public art installations by local artists, among other additions. The best part? Construction didn’t change a single thing about the original market, which was founded in 1907 as a way to prevent price gouging by connecting residents directly with farmers.

Pike Place grew organically over the past 100-plus years, as money and resources allowed, which created the market’s alleyways and quirky nooks and crannies. The goal with the expansion was to match that feel, says Emily Crawford, director of communications and marketing for the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority (PDA). “We weren’t going for fancy market,” she says. “[Pike Place] is the antithesis of cookie-cutter—we tried to emulate that with the new construction.”

Here are seven things to look for on your next visit to Pike Place Market.

1. Public Art: Western Tapestry

A pedestrian bridge connects the back side of the original market with the expansion. The road that runs beneath it, Western Avenue, used to be a drab, under-visited thoroughfare used primarily by locals. The PDA hopes that the installation of a massive public artwork along Western will draw more visitors and “help stitch together the two sides of the market,” Crawford says.

The wall that parallels Western is a historic one—it was built in the early 1920s—which means it can’t be altered in any way. To create his lengthy mural, artist John Fleming suspended 1,700 strips of painted aluminum from the overpass. At night, the colorful strips—many painted by locals in colors that reflect the produce sold in the market—will be illuminated by LED lights.

2. The Marketfront Plaza

The elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct separates the Pike Place Market from the Seattle waterfront—but not for much longer. After the city of Seattle released its plans for tearing down and replacing the Viaduct, the PDA reached out to develop a plan that would restore the market’s access to Elliott Bay. (Until the 1960s, the market was connected to the waterfront via ramps.)

The Marketfront Plaza is the market’s portion of the solution: an open space with a pavilion for sellers (see below), Pacific Northwest grasses, and plenty of places to sit and look out at the Bay—on a clear day, there’s a fantastic view of Mount Rainier and the Olympics.

Once the Viaduct project is complete, the market will connect to the waterfront via a pedestrian walkway dreamed up by the Miller Hull Partnership, the architects behind the market expansion, and James Corner, the landscape architect best known for New York City’s High Line park.

3. Public Art: Northwest Microcosm

It took artist Clare Dohna three years to create the three murals that make up Northwest Microcosm, each inspired by a different aspect of the Pacific Northwest. One is a literal sea of tiles: Dozens of undersea creatures, from salmon to sea turtles, “swim” along a concrete wall.

The next mural is a snapshot of the Northwest’s botanical life, and the last is a mosaic of the produce you’ll find in the market above. Several tiles are inscribed with donor names, part of the Pike Up! campaign that raised $9 million for the expansion.

4. Waterfront Art Studios

Providing low-income housing is part of the Pike Place Market charter. The market expansion adds 40 units for low-income residents, including seven studio apartments reserved for artists and craftspeople. While the Bay-facing studios are currently closed to the public, the goal is for artists who live and work in the spaces to engage with the community through informal art shows and other events.

5. Producers Hall

One of the highlights of the expansion is the 12,000-square-foot producers hall, built to house four local food businesses that will make their products on site. Watch for Old Stove Brewing Co., a brew house and gastropub; Honest Biscuits, a Southern-style biscuit shop; Indi, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker; and Little Fish, a restaurant that will focus on cured, salted, and smoked fish and seafood.

All four were selected from a pool of thousands of applicants and have been beta-testing their products in the original market. The brewery will be the first to start serving this week; the other three businesses should be open by the fall.

6. The New Pavilion

Shopping for fresh produce and flowers, handmade soaps, clothing, and other wares is one of the best parts of a market visit. The market expansion adds 47 new covered, open-air vendor stalls that open up to the Waterfront Plaza. While new, the pavilion feels refreshingly similar to the original market. “The architects pulled from the existing market elements so the new space would feel connected to the old one,” Crawford says. “The use of timber and exposed beams calls back to Pacific Northwest toughness.”

7. Market Charm Fence

Part of the Market Foundation’s capital campaign, the charms are the market’s answer to love locks. For $180, donors receive a tag engraved by a local artist with the name or message of their choice. Hundreds of tags are now locked to the fence that encircles the new plaza, a twinkling demonstration of the community’s devotion to one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the country.

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Aislyn Greene is the associate director of podacsts at AFAR, where she produces the Unpacked by AFAR podcast and hosts AFAR’s Travel Tales podcast. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito.
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