Some of the last businesses that closed due to the March 9 blast, which leveled two buildings and damaged dozens more, have reopened. The neighborhood celebrated the recovery effort on Friday.
With a collapsed ceiling and shattered windows, a space in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood where dozens of students, from elementary through high school, seek after-school tutoring closed after the area’s March explosion, like many other places nearby.
The writing and tutoring nonprofit, The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas (BFI), moved temporarily to a classroom about a mile away to the Phinney Neighborhood Assocation. For some students, the added distance was too much, and numbers for the tutoring program plummeted.
“Some just were not able to re-coordinate schedules,” said Louise McKay of the nonprofit. “It was just a little bit too far,” another staff member said.
But now the nonprofit is back up and running — with a slightly different look — in its original home on Greenwood Avenue North. It is one of the last spaces to reopen after the March 9 blast, which leveled two buildings and damaged dozens more. Fundraising, in large part, has driven the communitywide recovery effort.
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Dozens of supporters on Friday evening celebrated the work to rebuild the area near Greenwood Avenue North and North 85th Street, marking the explosion’s six-month anniversary. Chatting and listening to live music, they made their way around the vacant lot that Neptune Coffee, Mr. Gyros and a Quick Stop occupied before the explosion destroyed them.
From a food truck, “Mr. Gyros On Wheels” sold its Mediterranean food for the party, as it does there routinely.
“Businesses are more connected; customers are more invested,” Emilia Jones of the neighborhood association said of the blast’s aftermath. “It really made the neighborhood strong.”
The grass-roots recovery effort has taken shape in many ways. Artists launched a street-art project, for instance, to brighten the many storefronts covered in plywood for the construction. Proceeds from a new anthology of stories and poems, on behalf of BFI, went to the Greenwood Relief Fund, too.
Besides the three destroyed businesses, 50 others sustained some damage from the explosion, and more than a dozen people were displaced from an apartment building. Officials estimated the total damage from the explosion at $3 million.
Jones said multiple businesses are still struggling with repair costs and replacing inventory, as well as lost revenue and income of employees while being closed. Several of the hardest-hit businesses are having issues with insurance, she added.
For instance, Tim Pipes, the owner of the Angry Beaver, a hockey sports bar, said his insurance company is not covering thousands of dollars in repairs.
The bar reopened after construction in late July.
McKay, BFI’S director of strategic growth, echoed that sentiment, saying the nonprofit has paid some costs out of pocket.
“It’s a long and grueling process to try and understand what insurance will cover and what they will not,” she said. “We’ve had to try and move forward regardless of that answer from the insurance company.”
Nearby, a motorcycle-clothing shop remains closed, and a catering business has only partially opened, Jones said. The bicycle shop G&O Family Cyclery, which sustained heavy damage in the explosion, is operating out of a temporary location.
As of last week, the Greenwood Relief Fund totaled $327,900, the majority of which organizers already have distributed, Jones said. The association is in the process of surveying businesses to gauge their needs, she said.
The after-school tutoring through BFI, formerly known as 826 Seattle, started Wednesday with the start of Seattle Public Schools’ new school year. Program manager Ramón Esquivel said the room, finally, was packed.
On Thursday, about a dozen elementary-age children played a team-building game and meandered around the tutoring space, which is connected to the nonprofit’s retail storefront.
Esquivel said some noticed differences about the renovated space. The tutoring is free, with registration required, and is one of the nonprofit’s several programs. Children from all over the city and of all backgrounds participate, McKay said.
“It feels like home, whereas the other place — we were just, you know, making it work,” said Casey Magee, who manages operations and volunteers. “This place has a lot of character.”