Seattle's Pike Place MarketFront holds its grand opening on June 29, 2017.

  • By Fred Poyner IV
  • Posted 12/09/2019
  • Essay 20891
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On June 29, 2017, the Pike Place Market holds a grand opening for a $75 million expansion on its northern side, on what used to be a three-quarter-acre parking lot. This new MarketFront offers panoramic views of the Seattle waterfront, expanded space for vendors and restaurants, low-income housing, a community center, and a mix of transportation features for visitors.

New Development for the Old 'Hood

The opening of the MarketFront culminated 43 years of debate and review for the improvement of the site as an integral part of the Pike Place Market. The new addition had input from a vocal constituency, with more than 200 public hearings held to review proposals and plans for redevelopment. Ben Franz-Knight (b. 1973), who served as executive director of the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) from 2010-2017, pointed out how the site was on many people's minds: "It's a very committed, passionate community" (Lacitis).

The MarketFront site was formerly the home of the Municipal Market Building, built for Market farmers and other vendors in the early 1920s. While the building was in the process of being demolished, it caught fire on September 25, 1974, and burned to the ground. Six firemen from the Seattle Fire Department were injured in battling the blaze, which was suspected to have been caused by a salvager's cutting torch. 

For the next four decades, the space overlooking Puget Sound served as a parking lot for visitors to the Market. Efforts to further develop the property were hampered by building code restrictions because of the site's proximity to a railroad tunnel below, and building height limits in the historic district above. Finally in early 2015, the PDA selected Miller Hull Partnership as the architectural firm to design a new multipurpose building on the site. Sellen Construction was selected as the general contractor. The timing of the project coincided with the demolition of the Alaska Way Viaduct, allowing for the design to take advantage of newly unrestricted views of the waterfront.

The estimated total cost was $75 million. A portion of the funding came from more than 4,000 donations credited to "Piggybackers" -- those who purchased individualized "Market Charms" and "Bronze Hoofprints" to help publicly finance the project through the "Pike Up!" campaign ("Pike Place MarketFront Grand Opening …"). All told, 5,300 individuals, families, foundations, and corporations contributed $8 million to the MarketFront project.

The official groundbreaking was held on June 15, 2015, with Sellen Construction beginning the excavation and placement of 120 drill piers and 22 grade beams, protection for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tunnel below the site. Architect Dave Miller (b. 1944), lead designer on the project, and his team looked to incorporate materials found throughout Pike Place Market, such as exposed timber beams. In some cases, older materials were selectively upgraded. Miller used aluminum instead of steel for the window frames, to provide "for a more modern interpretation ... the new building incorporates Northwest industrial toughness together with large, open interior spaces" (Lacitis). 

A Finished Product

The MarketFront was completed in 2017. A chief feature of the design is its MarketFront Plaza Pavilion, which offers 47 rooftop day stalls for farmers, craftspeople, and artists to sell their wares. This area is located beneath an all-weather canopy with rollup doors for after-hours security.

With the Market's mission of providing housing for people 55 and older living on fixed incomes (from $18,900 to $21,600 per year for a single person), living spaces were a mandatory feature. The development includes 40 studio apartments, mostly about 400 square feet in size with low-income rent rates. Seven of these studios were reserved for artists.

A planned feature of the MarketFront was direct access to the central waterfront, to be built following the scheduled removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in late 2019. Other amenities of the new space included:

  • 30,000 square feet of open space, including a public plaza and viewing deck with expansive views of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Puget Sound.
  • A neighborhood center, offering social service resources and a place for neighbors to gather and connect in the Market community.
  • Three public art installations: Northwest Microcosm by Market artist Clare Dohna, Western Tapestry by John Fleming, and Billie the Piggybank by Whidbey Island sculptor Georgia Gerber.
  • 300 underground parking spaces and 33 bicycle spaces. 
  • 12,000 square feet of commercial and production space, for shops and restaurants. In November 2019, these included four new artisan vendors with production on site: Old Stove Brewing Co., Jarr & Co., Honest Biscuits, and Indi chocolate.

A Day of Celebration

On opening day, June 29, 2017, public festivities included a ceremony with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (b. 1955) at 2 p.m. Attendees enjoyed performances by local musicians and bites from MarketFront vendors. Several "Passport" activities guided visitors through the new space, with interactive stops at vendors, art installations, and craft demonstrations.

In the 2017 Grand Opening report, Matt Hanna, council chair of the Pike Place Market PDA, heralded the welcoming spirit of the new MarketFront while acknowledging its historic past:

"For 110 years the Pike Place Market has been the soul of the city of Seattle. The MarketFront expresses the exciting, expanding vitality of that soul and the city in which it resides. It was created carefully, lovingly, and democratically, with great joy and thoughtfulness by the Market caretakers, so that future generations will recognize it as a part of the one, integrated, whole Market" ("Pike Place MarketFront -- 2017 Grand Opening").


Erik Lacitis, "Check Out the Pike Place Market's $74M Addition," The Seattle Times, June 26, 2017; Nick Eaton, "20 Stories to Remember From 2017," Ibid., December 29, 2017; "Six Firemen Hurt Battling Blaze in Building Near Pike Market," Ibid., September 26, 1974, p. B-2; "Pike Place MarketFront Grand Opening is June 29, 2017," website, April 12, 2017, accessed October 22, 2019 (; "Pike Place MarketFront -- 2017 Grand Opening," (report), website, accessed October 22, 2019 (; "MarketFront -- A 40-Year Vision to Complete the Market Historic District," website, accessed October 22, 2019 (

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