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Mayor Harrell Directs City to Replace Pike Place Market Trees with Triple the Number of Cherry Blossoms 

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that the City’s Office of the Waterfront will plant twenty-four new cherry blossom trees to replace the eight declining cherry blossoms planted outside Pike Place Market in the 1980’s, along with a memorial plaque highlighting the cultural significance of the trees at Pike Place Market. Eight of the trees will be planted along Pike Street, between 1st and 2nd avenues approaching the market to replace the previous trees, which are in decline after outliving their typical lifespan. 

In alignment with Mayor Harrell’s latest Executive Order to preserve and plant thousands of trees citywide and equitably expand Seattle’s tree canopy, the City will also plant sixteen additional cherry blossom trees in a location to be determined, with possibilities for some of them to be planted along the over 20 acres of parkland being developed as part of the transformation of the waterfront. 

“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,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell

Mayor Harrell continued, “As I announced earlier this week through a new Executive Order and a proposal for a strengthened tree ordinance, we are committed to planting more trees – this allows us to act on that priority. In listening to advocates of preserving existing trees, we weighed the trees’ declining health against a compelling vision of a new and safe corridor for the next 40 years and agreed on the importance of capturing their historical significance. The Pike Pine Streetscape Improvement project is a cornerstone in our efforts to rebuild downtown, and this commitment will ensure cherry blossom trees reach new generations of Seattleites for years to come.” 

Councilmember Andrew Lewis (Position 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia) said, “As a proud Washington Husky, cherry blossoms have a special place in my heart be they on the UW Quad or Pike Street. Mayor Harrell’s plan to triple the plantings of cherry blossoms is a great contribution to public space in the center of our city.”   

Residents provided thoughtful comments during each public comment period, along with a group of local representatives and other key downtown stakeholders who were instrumental in the design development, meeting with the City over the course of this week to discuss the significance the cherry trees have to the community.  

The City will remove the eight aging and deteriorating cherry blossom trees next week. Cherry trees in tough urban conditions typically remain healthy for about 20 to 30 years before they begin to decline in health and these particular trees have been struggling to survive in this location for years. Five of the original trees have already died and were removed in past years, and City arborists have found that all of the remaining trees are unhealthy, deteriorating, and have never reached their full height. Replacing the trees as part of the project ensures a consistent, high quality tree selection and dedicated consistent post-planting care and establishment. 

“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.” said Angela Brady, Acting Director, Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects.  “We look forward to continuing our work on this important project.” 

“We are glad to hear that the City of Seattle will replace the cherry blossom trees near Pike Place Market, and even add additional trees in locations around Seattle,” said Consul General of Japan Hisao Inagaki. “We hope that these trees will continue to serve as an enduring symbol of the strong ties of friendship between Japan and the City of Seattle for many years to come.” 

“We are so pleased Mayor Bruce Harrell and the City of Seattle are honoring the strong bond between Seattle, Japan, and Japanese American communities with this commitment to plant twenty-four cherry blossom trees,” said Karen Yoshitomi, Executive Director, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington. “Together, we will continue to commemorate and uplift our shared values and cultural history for decades to come.” 

“The Pike Pine Streetscape and Bicycle Improvements project is going to produce a vibrant, interesting and cohesive experience that better connects neighborhoods in the heart of downtown,” said Downtown Seattle Association VP of Advocacy & Economic Development Kylie Rolf. “Enhancing our downtown’s busiest – and some of our most iconic – corridors for all to enjoy is at the heart of this project.” 

Earlier this week, Mayor Harrell introduced new legislation in partnership with Councilmember Dan Strauss and an Executive Order, aiming to reverse recent declines in canopy coverage, improve equity in tree planting, and address climate and affordability issues in tandem. You can learn more about those efforts here.