Small-business owners struggling amid road work on 23rd Avenue in Seattle’s Central District took their woes to the City Council.
Small-business owners struggling to stay open during road work on 23rd Avenue in Seattle’s Central District brought their campaign for mitigation money to the City Council on Tuesday and secured promises of help from council members.
The owners of several businesses in the rapidly changing neighborhood — including a coffee shop, convenience store, flower shop, brewery and hair salon — said they need more help from the city to survive the yearslong reconstruction project.
Mayor Ed Murray’s administration has said it won’t provide the businesses with cash mitigation for the work because the city doesn’t do that, as a matter of policy. But after hearing from the business owners and Seattle King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson, several council members said they would try to find some way.
Hankerson linked the project to gentrification of the Central District, long the heart of Seattle’s black communities. Most small businesses along 23rd Avenue are owned by people of color, and many have been in the neighborhood for decades.
The NAACP president asked whether officials are advancing a strategy “to push out black and minority-owned businesses … because they don’t want us there.”
The owners say their sales have suffered greatly since road work began almost a year ago, closing a mile of 23rd Avenue to northbound traffic for months.
The work was supposed to be completed in phases to minimize the impact on the neighborhood, but that plan was changed due to a lightpole-design problem.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant invited the business owners to the council’s weekly briefing. Some businesses along the downtown waterfront received mitigation money for seawall work when they agreed to drop legal action against the city, Sawant noted.
Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas said that was different because those businesses closed temporarily. Council President Bruce Harrell said city lawyers should be consulted.