by guest blogger KaDeena Yerkan
Why did you spend money creating a “museum” in Pioneer Square? That question, and variations of it, is one we’ve heard a lot in the past few days, ever since we opened Milepost 31, an information center devoted to the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program and Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.
We didn’t decide on a whim to spend money on this information center. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires agencies to take into account the effects of their projects on historic properties, such as those in the Pioneer Square Historic District. Replacing the viaduct is going to have impacts on Pioneer Square, and we were required to create a plan that mitigates them. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have received federal approval to build the SR 99 tunnel. No mitigation plan, no tunnel – it’s as simple as that. And Milepost 31 was created at no additional cost to state taxpayers, since mitigation funds were already included in the project budget.
So, why include something like Milepost 31 in the mitigation plan? This was the result of negotiations with neighborhood and historic preservation organizations brought together as part of the Section 106 process. Everyone agreed that an information center could offset construction effects in Pioneer Square by reminding people that neighborhood businesses are open during construction and by encouraging visitors to the area.
Advocates of such an information center included the city of Seattle, the state Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, the Alliance for Pioneer Square, national and local preservation groups, and local tribes. “Milepost 31 has already become a vital asset to the neighborhood. It gives people another reason to visit Pioneer Square during the holiday season, which is a crucial time for retailers and other businesses in the neighborhood,” said Leslie Smith, executive director of the Alliance for Pioneer Square.
So, we hope the controversy doesn’t steer you away from visiting Milepost 31, located at 211 First Ave. S. in Seattle. It’s a one-of-a-kind place for a one-of-a-kind project. Visitors to the center will find historic artifacts, 3-D models and pieces of tunneling equipment. Interactive exhibits show how Seattle’s landscape and shoreline have changed during the past 20,000 years, and how crews will build the massive tunnel that will replace the viaduct and reshape the SR 99 corridor. And, if you have questions about it, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.