Voters on March 14, 1995, approve reopening Seattle's Pine Street to vehicles.

  • By Patrick McRoberts
  • Posted 8/10/1999
  • Essay 1622
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On March 14, 1995, voters approve reopening Pine Street to vehicular traffic by a 60 percent majority. The street has been closed between 4th and 5th avenues since 1990 and used by pedestrians as a part of the courtyard-like Westlake Park. The controversial move to reopen the street comes as a part of a large downtown redevelopment plan and an effort to restore the historic Frederick & Nelson building as a flagship store for the Nordstrom department store chain. Nordstrom owners say they will make the move only if traffic is allowed to flow past the location, at 5th Avenue and Pine Street.

Two Sides to the Story

Mayor Norm Rice and many downtown promoters welcomed the proposed $400 million project that they said would revitalize a portion of downtown that had gone into decline. Indeed, since the Frederick & Nelson and I Magnin stores had closed in the early 1990s, few going concerns were left along Pine Street east of Westlake Park.

Opponents charged that the Nordstrom prerequisite amounted to blackmail and that reopening Pine Street would ruin an important public space -- the triangular, flagstoned Westlake Park that lay in front of Westlake Center.

In the end, after a spirited campaign, the proponents won and the street opened on January 6, 1996, adding one more chapter to the controversy over Westlake Park and Center that dated back to 1968. Today, in the late 1990s, Pine Street remains open to traffic and Nordstrom now occupies the renovated Frederick & Nelson building. Controversy lingers over a parking garage the City paid for as part of the redevelopment project.


Joni Balter, "Editorial Notebook: Report from Pine Street," The Seattle Times, January 7, 1997; Steve Miletich, "Council Members Say Deal Came in 'Crisis,'" Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 22, 1997.

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