SEATTLE — The return of Mariners baseball in Seattle is set to bring much-appreciated foot traffic to surrounding neighborhoods like Pioneer Square, which has been seeing a comeback itself in recent months.
"Just like any downtown neighborhood across the city, we got hit really hard by the pandemic right? We're not a residential center like Ballard or Fremont," said Chris Woodward.
Woodward oversees business development for the Alliance for Pioneer Square, a nonprofit dedicated to boosting the business and art districts of Pioneer Square.
But Woodward said there has been some growth in people moving into the neighborhood in recent years.
The population in 2000 was 1,758. In 2010, it reached 2,295. And in 2021, the population was up to 2,745, according to data provided by Woodward.
Housing data also showed growth in units, with 1,335 units reported in 2020 and projected to grow to an estimated 1,450 by 2026.
Woodward said MLB baseball, Sounders matches and NFL games bring a welcomed boost, but that the business sector has been attracted to the neighborhood regardless of sporting events.
"The stadiums are great, and I think they're a great part within the neighborhood and they bring in so many people, but there's so much other stuff to explore in the district," Woodward said.
Pandemic closures put a dent in growth over the last two years, but Woodward said people are coming back, albeit slowly.
"On the business side, we did lose a significant amount of retailers. But that said, people are still interested in leasing in Pioneer Square," Woodward said.
Among the new businesses in Pioneer Square:
- Señor Carbon, a Peruvian restaurant
- Armoire, a women-owned apparel store
- The new CitizenM hotel
- Open Books, a poetry bookstore that recently relocated to Pioneer Square from Wallingford
- Yellow Butterfly Coffee, a Puerto Rican coffee shop
Robert Rodriguez, the owner of the shop, said he's giving the neighborhood a shot and was encouraged by the closure of City Hall Park near his business. The park had seen criminal incidents last year and was recently shuttered.
"So that was great for us, that was a good sign for us that the city was back on track," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez moved from Puerto Rico to Seattle when he was 16. He moved back to Puerto Rico in later years and started a coffee shop there, but eventually returned to Seattle to start Yellow Butterfly Coffee.
The store is located on Jefferson St. and 3rd Ave., on the north end of Pioneer Square.
The unfamiliarity of the area daunted him initially, but Rodriguez said he quickly adapted and was encouraged by the revitalization that he feels he played a part in.
"Coming here, it was uncomfortable. But since I opened, the neighborhood changed so dramatically. Everybody's more friendly," Rodriguez said.
He is looking forward to more visitors with the eventual return of King County Courthouse employees to the office and this summer's Mariners foot traffic brining more customers.
"Maybe Edgar Martinez might stop by here," Rodriguez said.