— David Seater (@dseater) November 6, 2016
The Central District’s long neighborhood nightmare is almost over. The 20-month project to overhaul a busy section of 23rd Ave is on track to finish in February 2017.
Final paving at 23rd and E Union is scheduled to be completed next weekend, weather permitting — though, it was already pushed back a week due to rain. Crews will also continue to work in the area through February to rebuild sidewalks, install electrical components, and complete finishing touches like landscaping and signage.
During that time northbound 23rd Ave will remained closed from E Union to E John. The full northbound detour, which sends traffic to MLK Way, will stay in effect through early 2017. Starting next week, crews are also scheduled to commence several weeks of road work at E Olive, which will include moving the 48 bus stop about 200 feet south on 23rd Ave.
After that, Central District-proper should be in the clear, but 23rd Ave as a whole still has a way to go before the upheaval is over and the full benefit of the major infrastructure investments are realized. Late next year, work will move to the avenue’s outer reaches for Phases 2 and 3 of the improvement project, which still do not have a definitive timeline.
23rd Ave has been plagued with traffic accidents, potholes, and traffic congestion for years. The aim of the $43 million project is to transform the street into a new configuration with a center left-turn lane and improve the pedestrian and sidewalk experience along 23rd Ave spanning Montlake, Capitol Hill, and the Central District.
Crews also finished replacing a 1.5-mile water main early this year which included digging a trench along 23rd Ave and required some of the project’s most intense construction.
Phase 1, covering Jackson to John, began in June 2015 and was expected to take 20 months. The entire corridor overhaul from I-90 to Montlake has a targeted a 2018 completion. Work on Phase 2 (S Jackson to Rainier Ave) is expected to begin in late 2017 while work on Phase 3 (E Roanoke to E John) does not yet have a start date. Design work has not yet been finished on either phase.
A parallel Central Area Neighborhood Greenway is practically complete, with street safety features added to residential streets just off 23rd Ave to improved bike and pedestrian access through in the corridor. The greenway’s 23rd Ave crossing at Columbia now includes a traffic light and greenway markings.
Still unfinished is the greenway around Interlaken Park to provide a clear path for pedestrians and cyclists to and from Montlake.
“Currently there are ‘Greenway Ends’ signs on either end of the gravel trail that connects the two streets, with no guidance for people on bikes who want to continue on the greenway route to Montlake,”said David Seater, of Central Seattle Greenways. “It’s especially frustrating since SDOT installed a protected bike lane for one block on Boyer that connects directly to a set of stairs.”
The project has also surprised a few people with new public art — a part of the work that got a bit lost in the shuffle given all the elements of the new streetscape.
Meanwhile, businesses along 23rd Ave continue to weather the construction with cash assistance from the city. In February, CHS reported on the $650,000 funding package assembled by the Mayor’s office and the Office of Economic Development to quell growing frustrations over the project. The first checks were cut in April.
25 businesses were identified by the Office of Economic Development as eligible for construction mitigation funding. So far, 21 of those have received an average of $25,000, totaling $516,000 along with one-on-one business consulting.
701 Coffee, 99 Cent Plus, Brooklyn Barber (independent contractor at Frank’s Barber), Dur Dur Café, Earl’s Cuts and Styles, First Cup Coffee, Flowers Just 4 U, Frank’s Barber and Beauty Salon, Jason Moore (independent contractor at Earl’s), Magic Dragon, MDY Enterprises (wine and liquor store), Meti Salon, Midtown Coin Laundry, Nafkote Travel, Oda Barber, Update Barbershop, Vogue Coiffure Beauty Salon, HBJ, LLC (23rd and Union food mart), Beverly Nails, Red Sea Financing, WGM Jewelers
All but one of the businesses has consistently remained open since mitigation funding was distributed. First Cup Coffee, the small 23rd and Union stand run by Nop Zay, has been open sporadically in recent months.
As for what will happen with the remaining $134,000, An OED spokesperson tells CHS the city is still evaluating how to spend the funds.
CHS looked at the requirements on the stabilization program shaped by federal constraints that limited the types of business allowed to part of the financial mitigation. To be eligible, businesses must be located within a zone around 23rd Ave between E John and S King and 21st and 25th Ave, and must have been established before the start of the construction project. They also much be small businesses with five or fewer employees — including the owner.
The federal grants behind a portion of the payouts added further limits requiring a majority of customers in a “service area where the total resident population is predominantly low and moderate income,” or owners with household incomes below 80% of the area median income. Finally, the business owner must show revenues have decreased since the start of construction.
You can learn more and keep track of updates on the 23rd Avenue Corridor Improvements Project page.