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Curbed Cup 1st round: (8) Pioneer Square vs. (9) Fremont

Which neighborhood should advance? Cast your vote now!


Pioneer Square

Seattle’s oldest neighborhood has a lot going on: It’s traditionally Seattle’s arts district, home of the First Thursday Art Walk and perhaps the highest concentration of galleries in the city. Its artsy rep, exposed-brick lofts, and proximity downtown makes it a popular living destination. Its club scene and closeness to the stadiums bring in partiers from the entire metro. The historic buildings and the Seattle underground are popular destinations for tourists and local history buffs alike. And, South Lake Union notwithstanding, it’s a popular spot for Seattle’s skyrocketing startup community to set up shop.

Not to mention the transit options converging on this neighborhood: Link light rail on one end, the First Hill streetcar on the other, and a bajillion (give or take) bus routes in between.

It’s also a neighborhood that does a lot to serve our homeless neighbors: Compass, Union Gospel Mission, Lazarus Center, and many more have presences here.

Despite its extreme historic and architectural prestige, Pioneer Square hasn’t advanced past the Elite Eight since 2012, when it made the Final Four. But much has changed since 2012. The Downtown Seattle Association took over operations at city-run Occidental Park, activating it with new seating, activities, fitness events, food truck corrals, pop-up markets, and art installations. The Seahawks won a super bowl.

Some beloved bars have closed, like the Double Header. But new bars by longtime small-business owners have popped up, like Nightjar (sibling to Rebar) and the Meyer (sibling to Shorty’s).

The arts scene remains resilient, too—it’s not just legacy galleries here, but new ones, like Party Hat. (Almost helps make up for the demise of 619 Western.)

It’s more of a neighborhood for locals than it’s been in years. Maybe 2017 is Pioneer Square’s big chance.


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The Center of the Universe has gone through its own share of changes, although it hasn’t grown too much vertically since the dawn of the millennia. Historically an offbeat neighborhood populated by hippies and artists, its kooky vibe has gotten much more mainstream appreciation in recent years (although the Troll is perhaps its first major cultural export).

This means that its decades-old neighborhood traditions, like the annual Solstice Parade and corresponding naked bike ride, are that much more popular. And brand-new small businesses mix right in with longstanding favorites: Get a hearty vegetarian brunch at Silence Heart Nest. See a different genre every night at High Dive. Buy a T-shirt from anywhere at Desteenation. Put ethically made glasses on your face at Eyes on Fremont. In line with its stagy vibe, it’s also no stranger to performing arts at Atlas Theater and West of Lenin. Support local artisans at either one of Fremont’s many boutiques or at its rain-or-shine Sunday market.

Fremont is also home to some of the more fascinating parts of our built environment, from the Saturn Building to the Fremont Rocket. Public art like “Waiting for the Interurban” and the infamous statue of Vladimir Lenin frequently find themselves dressed up by locals. Even the Fremont Bridge has a neon Rapunzel gazing out the window.

Fremont made the finals in 2012, but ultimately lost to its fellow Ship Canal neighbor Ballard. It hasn’t made it past the Elite Eight since.

Which neighborhood should advance this week? Remember, polls close after 24 hours.