We won’t get to see the Pike Place Market cherry trees bloom this spring.
After a brief postponement last week, the City of Seattle has removed the Pike Place Market cherry trees on on the block between 1st and 2nd Avenues this past Tuesday, March 14. The eight cherry trees were originally planted in 1980 and have since come to hold cultural meaning for Seattle’s Japanese community.
Their declining health was cited as the reason for the removal, in addition to the need to make room for the City’s Pike Pine Streetscape and Bicycle Improvements plan. The good news is that Mayor Bruce Harrell has pledged to replace the now-removed cherry trees. This revised plan came about after a strong community response.
Read on for all the details.
After receiving community pushback when the tree removal began last week, the city paused construction briefly to hear concerns. According to the city, the cherry blossom trees had reached the end of their natural lifespan. Five of the original trees had already died and been removed.
The city’s original plan was to replace the Pike Place Market cherry trees with hybrid elm trees. Now, the City’s Office of the Waterfront will plant twenty-four new cherry blossom trees instead. Eight of them will be in the same location as the original cherry trees. There will also be a memorial plaque highlighting their cultural significance.
The location of the other 16 cherry trees has yet to be announced. They may be planted along the waterfront’s new parkland that is being developed.
The announcement to replace the removed cherry trees with new ones was made by Mayor Harrell this past Friday, March 10. In his statement, Mayor Harrell said:
Cherry blossom trees are more than a symbol – they invoke heartfelt feelings and represent decades of history – both the good and the bad – as part of our City’s deep connection to Japan. My own understanding of this is rooted in the experiences of my Japanese American family, who were incarcerated at an internment camp at Minidoka, and their reverence for these trees and their magnificent bloom.
You can read about the Pike Pine Streetscape and Bicycle Improvements project on the Seattle Waterfront website. The project page includes this rendering of what the 100 block of Pike will look like with a new curbless street:
This is what Angela Brady, Acting Director of the Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects, had to say about the project:
The Pike Pine Streetscape and Bicycle Improvements Project will create a safe and vibrant experience for all users with more visible crosswalks, wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, new trees and landscaping, and artwork, strengthening the east west connections between Capitol Hill to Pike Place Market and our new world-class waterfront.
You can read Mayor Harrell’s full statement about the cherry trees on Seattle.gov.