Dozens of small vendors in South Park face an uncertain future after Sunday’s stormy weather swept through a temporary business park in the South Seattle community.
High winds damaged tents that had been set up in South Park Plaza, a gravel lot near the South Park Bridge, for small businesses displaced earlier in the pandemic, said Jose Lopez, a co-founder of the South Park Merchants Association, which set up the tents.
“Everything went off,” Lopez said a day after the storm, which ripped the top off the plaza’s main tent and left nearly a dozen merchants scrambling to cover their tables from the heavy winds and rain. No one was hurt.
Lopez said the makeshift marketplace was put up in August and has been used three or four days a week by SPMA members and by several other groups. On busy days, up to 25 vendors could be found selling everything from clothing, souvenirs and makeup to tamales, tacos, and coffee, Lopez said. Many vendors had lost their former locations during the pandemic and were selling out of their homes, Lopez said.
Lopez said SPMA has asked Seattle Parks Department, which owns the 0.8-acre parcel, for permission to build a more substantial structure for vendors out of modified cargo containers. Instead, the parks department has permitted SPMA to operate a temporary “pop-up market” for local business owners and community members. The city plans to turn the plaza into a park, with construction slated to begin this winter.
A parks department spokesperson did not respond to questions about the request from SMPA. The business association is one of several organizations listed as providing input on the park project on the parks department website, which notes that the parcel “is being used for a variety of activation events and vendor markets until we move into bidding and design.”
Lopez said SPMA still has two usable tents and will continue the pop-up market as well as a Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebration scheduled this weekend.
“We’re really confident that we can do something, even if it is a little tiny event,” said Lopez. “That’s something that we cannot stop.”