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Pioneer Square with the Columbia Center in the background.Pioneer Square is the self-proclaimed oldest neighborhood in Seattle. It’s been the center of many booms and busts historically, currently enjoying a boom. It boasts high-tech offices, high-end markets and restaurants, while offering the bulk of the city's homeless social services. The Record on KUOW explored its demographics, history and how it has changed in the past 20 years.

Pioneer Square Gallery Owner Watches Neighborhood Changes

Facebook Photo/Greg Kucera

If you want the long view on Seattle's Pioneer Square, Greg Kucera is your man. Kucera has run his eponymous art gallery in the neighborhood for 30 years, first in a rented storefront on Second Avenue, and now in a space he owns a few blocks east. 

His front door is just across the street from one of the Union Gospel Mission shelters, and on a quiet Saturday morning, several men sit on the curb outside the Mission, drinking from paper cups.

Kucera has owned this gallery space for 15 years.  It's been a challenge to weather the recession, but Kucera says he's glad he hung on rather than closing up shop like some of his fellow gallery owners.

Right now he's looking ahead to new residential development slated for the north parking lot of Century Link Field, home of the Seahawks and Sounders sports teams. He says the advent of more market-rate housing will bring more people to the neighborhood.  That, in turn, should make people feel more comfortable about patronizing galleries and other local businesses.

These days, those businesses include several trendy new restaurants. Kucera says it's great to have these destination spots that draw customers beyond sports fans. Despite promises from Seattle city officials that sports venues would increase pedestrian traffic and draw in more business, Kucera says these fans aren't usually in the market for fine art.

Greg Kucera says Pioneer Square is the heart of Seattle's visual arts community, and despite the problems, he expects things to improve.  He points to Toshiro-Kaplan, the artist live-work building around the corner from his gallery.  And the New Seattle Foundation, a project of curator Yoko Ott and patron Shari Behnke, just bought a building on that same block.

Although Greg Kucera is often vocal about city policy in Pioneer Square, most of his energy is reserved for his gallery business. He conducts a lively trade online, as well as at art fairs around the world.

In October, Kucera celebrates 30 years in the art business with an exhibition of sculptures by one of his longtime artists, Deborah Butterfield. Kucera expects the show to sell well. He says after five years of belt-tightening, people seem ready to buy art again. And when they show up at his gallery, Kucera will be ready.