Transforming King Street Station into a thriving market hall for local small businesses

Seattle Office of Economic Development leads the Mayor’s Commercial Affordability initiative to create new opportunity for local small business in city-owned property.

Supporting affordability with city-owned assets
In 2016, the Seattle’s Office of Economic Development paved the way for the adaptive reuse of historic King Street Station into a market hall for local small businesses as part of the Mayor’s Commercial Affordability initiative.  The initiative was created to produce policy and innovation that would stimulate and bolster small businesses that have been suffering under the pressures of Seattle’s booming real estate market.  While the growth has provided opportunity for many it has also increased the challenge of starting and operating small businesses which represent nearly 94% of all  Seattle’s businesses (50 or fewer employees).  Seattle 2016 retail rents are up 28% since 2012 with retail vacancy rate less than 2%, forcing many out of long-time locations.  And with redevelopment replacing existing building stock, displacement is a growing challenge particularly as few new buildings offer spaces small enough for small businesses.  Less than 20% are providing spaces 1,000 square feet or smaller.

“Small businesses are essential to the economy of our city.  Many of Seattle’s greatest companies got their start in small, affordable storefronts, garages, food trucks or simple coffee shops.”  — Mayor Ed Murray, April 2016

A leading strategy of the Commercial Affordability initiative is to transition existing City owned real estate assets into viable commercial spaces for local small businesses.  King Street Station was historically renovated in 2010 but has largely sat incomplete and vacant other than its lower level which is an active regional rail stop.  The building sits at the intersection of the Stadium District, Pioneer Square, the International District, an ideal retail location in many ways for the bustling office market and event goers.  But the building is not an easy fit for a market hall given its configuration, historic classification, and associated technical challenges.

FIX’s Role
The city hired FIX to lead the feasibility study of the King Street Station market hall, including initial design, development pro forma, and operating business model.  SKL Architects and Rushing Mechanical provided design and engineering services.  The Office of Economic Development is planning to issue a RFP for a third-party operator the the spring of 2018.