Canton, Nord, & Pioneer Passage Alley Improvement Project

What's happening now?

We're done! The last of the brick pavers in the Pioneer Passage alley were installed earlier this week, while brick laying in Nord alley was completed in late January. There are still a couple of days worth of tweaks, but nothing that should have any impact on those who use the alleys.

Both ends of Pioneer Passage have been reopened. Unfortunately, Nord alley remains closed at its south end due to pre-construction work for the City Connector streetcar that has temporarily closed S Jackson St. (The earliest S Jackson is currently expected to reopen is mid-May.)

This week, SDOT is scheduled to install a 30 minute load zone on the south side of S Main St just to the west of the north end of Nord Alley. It is hoped that creating the load zone will provide an alternative for those who need to load or unload, and who have up to this point had no alternative but to use the alley entrance. (Unfortunately, the loading and unloading at the alley entrance frequently blocks those who live in the Quilt Building from getting in or out, although many of those blocking the alley have been quick to get out of the way when asked.) The load zone will revert to street parking after Jackson opens and loading returns to Main St.

Those who normally place their garbage, recycling, and composting in the alleys should return their receptacles and bags back to the alleys, if they haven't already done so.

SDOT wants to thank all of those who work or live adjacent to the alley and who have been inconvenienced by the construction. Hopefully, the inconvenience of construction is outweighed with the pleasure of considerably more appealing alleys.

Our project partner, the Alliance for Pioneer Square, is planning an "Alley Rally" to celebrate completion of construction. It will be held in conjunction with the customary First Thursday Artwalk on April 5. More details will follow from the Alliance directly, but we hope you'll join us at the celebration!

Project Overview

We’ll repave Canton Alley in the Chinatown/International District and Nord and Pioneer Passage alleys in Pioneer Square as part of an effort to “activate” them.

Canton Alley – between S King St and S Weller St and between 7th Ave S and 8th Ave S
Nord Alley – between S Main St and S Jackson St and between 1st Ave S and Occidental Ave S
Pioneer Passage Alley- between Yelser Way and S Washington St and between 1st Ave S and Occidental Ave S.

project area 1project area 2

Before and after photos

Nord Alley

canton alley before photo canton alley after photo

Pioneer Passage

Pioneer Passage before photo Pioneer Passage after photo


About 10 years ago, the City of Seattle removed dumpsters from Pioneer Square alleys to improve the appearance and safety of these alleys. 

One of these was Nord Alley.  A tenant in the adjacent Nord Building was the non-profit International Sustainability Institute (ISI), whose Executive Director envisioned taking the alley cleanup a step further to a more active use.  Those efforts led to the first public Nord Alley event in October 2008, when several hundred people enjoyed an evening of food, art, and music.  In 2010, the group received a grant to install metal arts panels onto which other artists could then install their own art. A bicycle repair shop also opened (which remains open today), further activating Nord Alley.

A contest, cosponsored by SDOT, asked people what they would like to see in Nord Alley, which led to the showing of a number of the 2010 World Cup soccer matches.  Showings of the Tour de France followed, along with numerous musical performances and artist displays (many in conjunction with Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Art Walks).

The alley activation success in Pioneer Square attracted the interest of Seattle’s Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), who had a similar vision for their own Canton Alley. While SCIDpda was the main driver, the Chinatown Historic Alley Partnership (CHAP), a group of community stakeholders, was formed to guide the effort and broaden community support and involvement.

Historically, Canton Alley has served as a hub of commercial, residential, and community based activities.  As part of the alley reactivation effort, CHAP worked closely with local property and business owners and the BIA (business improvement area) to implement the City’s Clear Alley Program, removing dumpsters from the public alleys.

For Canton Alley, located right next to the Wing Luke Museum, CHAP envisioned street pavers running down the middle of the alley, with lanterns hanging from the adjacent buildings.  The community’s long term goal is to bring business back into the vacant storefronts to help draw more foot traffic.  Currently, there is only one small retail shop in operation on Canton Alley.  Like its Pioneer Square neighbor, Canton Alley serves as an ideal location for established popular Chinatown/International District outdoor events, and has hosted numerous community events, including Dragon Fest, Jam Fests, and alley parties.

SDOT stepped up its own support for alley activation with the 2012 SDOT Director’s Rule creating the designation of “festival streets” that permits the use of a single year-long street use permit for multiple pedestrian friendly events. Both Canton and Nord alleys are designated as festival streets.

In the ensuing years, SDOT and these community partners worked to design and secure funding to repave both Canton and Nord alleys, as well as the Pioneer Passage Alley.


Construction on Canton Alley in Chinatown/International District was completed last spring. What had been just another urban alley, primarily used for deliveries and garbage, is now a public space easily activated for community events.

The start of construction on both Nord and Pioneer Passage alleys in Pioneer Square has been delayed, but is beginning in mid-November and should be finished by mid-January (although bad weather or other unexpected challenges could impact the schedule).

Construction will start with Nord Alley in November, while work on the Pioneer Passage alley will begin in early December. Work will overlap between the two alleys. Each alley is expected to take about 5 weeks to complete.


Funding sources include:

  • Federal Grant - Transportation Alternatives Program Grant (Nord & Canton)
  • Office of Economic Development Grant – “Only in Seattle” grants (Canton & Pioneer Passage)
  • Seattle City Light and Century Link – utility contributions (Nord & Pioneer Passage)
  • Seattle Department of Transportation


Greg Spotts, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 3800, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA, 98124-4996
Phone: (206) 684-7623

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The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is on a mission to deliver a transportation system that provides safe and affordable access to places and opportunities for everyone as we work to achieve our vision of Seattle as a thriving, equitable community powered by dependable transportation.