Melrose Market from developer Liz Dunn, often held up as a prime example of locally friendly development on Capitol Hill, is apparently the victim of locally unfriendly construction in the neighborhood:
Russ Flint, owner of Rain Shadow Meats, says sales have dropped between 13 and 20 percent each year since construction began in earnest in 2013, while his newer Pioneer Square location remains steady. Obviously there could be tons of factors at play here, but Flint points to instances when construction shut down Melrose on a Friday or plans called for blocking all street parking the entire week of Thanksgiving (those closure dates changed after some serious pushback from Melrose Market businesses). If you’re performing repair work on a major city thoroughfare, these are the times that cause the least disruption. If you operate a business that sells food (like, say, heritage Thanksgiving turkeys), it’s the financial equivalent of a sucker punch.
Cheese monger Sheri LaVigne announced that construction headaches are enough to force her to close the market’s Calf and Kid cheese counter. Her Culture Club cheese bar opened late in 2015 on 12th Ave. UPDATE: LaVigne tells CHS Calf and Kid will live on. She’s moving the cheese counter to Culture Club where you’ll be able to enjoy cheese flights and pairings — and, now, pick up some of LaVigne’s delicious selections to take home.
Restaurateur Matt Dillon, who operates two businesses inside Melrose Market, also told Seattle Met that construction is disrupting his restaurant’s business. Dillon just opened Upper Bar Ferdinand inside Chophouse Row on 11th Ave, Dunn’s newest project.
The biggest development in the area is the current construction of the eight-story Excelsior building at the corner of Melrose and Pine that incorporates the facade of the former Bauhaus. Demolition began there in June of 2014. The planned structures will include 205 units of housing, 16,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and underground parking for 180 vehicles.
While Melrose Market, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last May, has been looked at as healthy example of preservation and local business-friendly development, its results for tenants outside of food and drink has been mostly mixed. The development is currently fully leased and includes centerpiece restaurant Terra Plata from Tamara Murphy.
Nearby, Starbucks opened its massive roastery on Melrose in December 2014. It draws hundreds of coffee lovers every day — enough to warrant a new crosswalk to help with the increased foot traffic.
Other examples of business change around Capitol Hill related to the construction impacts include Restaurant Zoe which was converted to an events space due to what owners said were ongoing construction challenges for the 14th and Union building.
Complaints about Capitol Hill construction during the relentless waves of development sweeping the neighborhood have been met by efforts to help improve conditions for area businesses and residents. The City of Seattle honed its “construction hub” concept in the neighborhood to help address merchant complaints. New rules also have been designed to keep sidewalks and streets open around construction sites.
Meanwhile, the impact of Seattle’s growth on small businesses has become a hot button issue at City Hall. Various departments are now trying to sort out a $650,000 business stabilization plan approved for 23rd Ave merchants affected by a major road construction project after a community push for a stronger response to struggling business owners in the Central District. So far, nobody is asking for a Melrose Market stabilization fund.
UPDATE 3/16/2016: CHS spoke with Russ Flint of Rain Shadow and he says he is looking into working with SDOT’s Capitol Hill Construction Hub to address the current problems around street parking but said that he’s surprised the city expects business owners to take the lead on these kinds of problems.
“Why are we policing construction workers?” Flint asked.
As for hopes that business will rebound if not boom when developments like the Excelsior open nearby?
“That’s the idea,” Flint said. “The hole in that idea is it took us three years to really build the business. We can’t just wait for the construction to be over with because (the businesses in the area) are going to have to fill in again.”