No coincidence that we’re talking about empty storefronts and the feeling that there is an increase in panhandling on Broadway. The core of Broadway is undergoing a massive, potentially very damaging change. And I’m not talking about the digging that we’re about to go through for eight years — that’s how you build a tunnel. I’ll take it.
Instead, the damage appears to already be starting from the creeping decay of the buildings emptied in the light rail construction zone. We’re only a few weeks in — some of those buildings will simply be fenced off and sit there, empty, for a year before being demolished. That’s a long period of chain-link ringed decay.
It’s not going to be easy to stave this decay off. But the Capitol Hill Community Council has made a proposal to work with Sound Transit on using some of the buildings in the area for community gatherings and events. The Council (yeah, I’m an officer) is proposing to hold a council meeting and a community event in the former US Bank building as a way to test out making use of the empty area for community space:
Access to this location with public events would counter the visual impact of closed business and vacant areas and help establish a positive relationship with Sound Transit and the new light rail station with its impact on the community. Please consider this a pilot project in using vacant space and a viable resource in connecting to the community and a chance for various community groups to establish a working relationship with Sound Transit.
The Council needs a better meeting place anyway, so it could be a good way to start.
Sound Transit has also made some effort to mitigate the decay with efforts like the now-infamous Jack in the Box art installation and those lit fabric curtains you see waving in the windows of the former Ace Barbershop and other shuttered storefronts on Broadway. It’s going to take this and more to keep things from getting worse on Broadway.