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Progress vs. Preservation in Pioneer Square Development Fight

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In August, Seattle's Director of the Department of Neighborhoods Kathy Nyland gave the go-ahead to Gerding Elden's 12-story, 200-unit apartment building at 316 Alaskan Way South. That in an of itself doesn't sound like anything special. Except that, the Pioneer Square Preservation Board had just voted 7-1 against the project, citing that the building was unpleasant and out of scale. Since then, tempers have flared and the fight has turned into a legal battle between the developer and locals. The issue boils down to whether or not the addition of his project, which is allowed under current zoning laws, fits with the historic feel of the surrounding neighborhood. For some, it's a sign of progress. For others, it's a sign that Pioneer Square is selling it's soul and turning into just another neighborhood. Nyland did put conditions on the approval, ensuring that it will include ground-floor storefronts, a dark brick exterior and an enclosed rooftop space. But as Pioneer Square resident York Wong put it, that doesn't really change the facts.

"We're going to have Miami Beach on Elliott Bay...I moved here because this neighborhood is historic and alive. I walked down the street and I could sense the spirit of this place. Many artists moved here for that reason. We don't want to become a community gated by glass and steel." Wong and others are currently fighting back during a three-day meeting taking place this week between lawyers representing Pioneer Square citizens and Gerding Elden. That hearing is expected to end Friday, followed by a statement by Seattle's deputy hearing examiner Anne Watanabe. She'll side with one of them and that decision will probably be appealed to the state Supreme Court. From there, we'll likely find out just how much Seattle is committed to preservation or whether or not neighborhood development and change is something that can be stopped at all.
· 'Miami Beach on Elliott Bay'? Opponents decry proposed 12-story Pioneer Square building [ST]
· Pioneer Square Mixed-User Gets Go-Ahead Despite Preservation Board Rejection [CS]