Miller Hull

Pike Place MarketFront

Seattle, WA
This is a rare and exciting design opportunity – to work within the context of Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market, while providing a key passageway to what will be Seattle’s newly developed waterfront. David Miller
Client Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA)
Certifications LEED Gold
Size Site Area: 39,600 SF / Project Area: 210,000 SF
Completion 2017


Pike Place Market is one of the most iconic marketplaces in the country. Incubating over 200 small businesses, craftspeople, and farmers, it is considered the soul of Seattle, and has been a coveted place for over a century for locals and tourists alike to immerse themselves in a distinctly Seattle-centric culture.

But when a building just beside the market burned down decades ago, all that remained of it was a surface parking lot that now sat abandoned and vacant. Dormant in the face of surrounding energy, the lot was not only an eye sore, but a functional hole in a neighborhood that had, for the most part, otherwise maximized its space to engage the public and contribute to the city’s thriving commerce.

The space it hadn’t capitalized on, however, was the area abutting the waterfront, with a large viaduct running north-south, impeding views and hindering physical access to one of Seattle’s most cherished resources. Rather than simply walking through the market to the water, there was a large hill to mount with the choice between climbing a 8.5-storysteep stairwell or taking an elevator. With the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s removal in 2019, the city was given a rare opportunity to reconceptualize what the Market could be, and how the connection between market- and ocean-fronts could strengthen the already treasured landmark.

Understandably, the City of Seattle wanted to overhaul this plot of land, turning it into a place that activated its surroundings and complemented the market. Furthermore, the City envisioned this area becoming a place where one was able to live, shop, dine, and discover, just as one could throughout the rest of the Market.

This project, known as MarketFront, is carved into the hillside on the west side of Western Avenue directly below the Market. Elements include a mix of low-income, senior residential housing, commercial and retail areas, office space, and underground parking. The project’s began prior to the demolition of State Route 99 in 2016, and included 306 parking stalls, storage space, racks for 66 bicycles, and a podium for future construction. The timing of construction was complicated due to required shoring and excavating around the railroad tunnel, maintaining access for the tens of millions of annual market visitors, and work adjacent to an active highway corridor. Following the state route demolition, a four-story, 23,400-square foot residential building was constructed; over 35,000 SF of retail was added; and a public plaza created that provides connection to the Market.

As the first addition to the iconic Market in over 40 years, the opportunity to design for the oldest continuously operated public market in the country brought intense scrutiny and concern for any changes made to one of the city’s most authentic and treasured landmarks. The Market’s overarching goal was thus to meet the needs of its broad-based stakeholder community of vendors, residents, and social service recipients; and to work collaboratively to integrate the addition with pedestrian connections to the revitalized waterfront. A sampling of engagement participants includes: the Pike Place market Historical Commission, the Pike Place Market Foundation, the Market constituency, Market and waterfront stakeholders, City staff, and the City’s waterfront Design Oversight Committee.

Technical challenges were many, as the site is located above an active railroad line and a 100-year-old train tunnel. Design rationale for the final concept followed from extensive community and stakeholder involvement, and significant evaluation and analyses of the physical, zoning code and regulatory constraints, Market Commission Guidelines, primary public views, pedestrian circulation patterns, massing studies, parking feasibility, and economic feasibility. New features include small retail shops and stalls, restaurant space, and an incredible new public view terrace with outdoor seating.

The design and program for the Final Concept Design also followed from the close evaluation and analyses of the physical, zoning code and regulatory constraints, Market Commission Guidelines, primary public views, pedestrian circulation patterns, massing studies, parking feasibility, and economic feasibility. Of particular relevance to the Miller Hull design team were guideline goals to: maintain and enhance pedestrian qualities, strengthen visual connections between the adjacent Victor Steinbrueck Park and Elliott Bay, and to respect the surrounding historic buildings. In keeping with these goals, the team developed a unique utilitarian architecture that differentiates new buildings from the historic while maintaining compatibility in massing, scale, size, granularity, structure, and materials of the existing Market. The design team found contextual inspiration in the character of the Market’s simple utilitarian facades and the use of concrete post and beam structures, and heavy timber elements commonly found throughout the Market.

A critical connection point to the new Seattle waterfront plan, The MarketFront respects Seattle’s unique history while making way for a bright water-linked future.