Ty Swenson
The "Businesses Are Open" signs are up along the southern stretches of Delridge Way S.W., but local business owners say the lack of parking during construction is threatening their livelihood.

Delridge Way construction putting the squeeze on small business

Mac McElroy, owner of Mac’s Triangle Pub where Delridge and Roxbury meet at the Seattle/White Center line, knew he was in for some very tough months on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 6.

The Seahawks were playing an away game which, under normal circumstances, means a packed bar (around 40 people) with fans eager to drain a few pre-noon pitchers with friends while they watch the game. At opening kickoff, he only had 13 people in the bar.

“We made a couple hundred as opposed to a thousand,” McElroy said.

The year-long revamp of Delridge Way S.W. in West Seattle is nearing its completion in December, but several businesses along the southern reaches of Delridge and into White Center, including McElroy’s, say the loss of parking during this final phase of construction is putting their services – from food to haircuts to cold beer – and livelihood at risk.

Seattle’s Department of Transportation says the work will result in new pavement for a smoother ride, increased storm water capacity, improved curb ramps and increased safety with lane reconfigurations, but for 12 business owners who gathered at Bahn 88 restaurant to speak with SDOT on Oct. 8, those benefits for the greater good may come at a great personal cost.

The group (gathered by the White Center Chamber of Commerce and White Center Community Development Association) said the current one lane of traffic (currently northbound with plans to switch to southbound here soon) and scattering of construction cones and equipment has taken away virtually all customer parking along the southern stretches of Delridge, where contractor Gary Merino Construction is now focusing their efforts from S.W. Roxbury to S.W. Henderson in the final phase.

“People are losing their livelihoods with some in danger of shutting down for good in a matter of weeks if nothing is done to do better by the community,” Vy Nguyen, WCCDA neighborhood revitalization manager said. “While I support the improvements on infrastructure, this project unfortunately has a detrimental impact on the people and businesses that have been working for years to make White Center a better place.”

Business owners also took SDOT to task for their lack of communication with White Center and South Delridge businesses leading up to the project. They said a flyer detailing their loss of parking from Sept. 23 until, likely, the end of the year only showed up days before it occurred, and that they were never contacted while SDOT did community outreach last year.

SDOT’s Project Communications Lead LeAnne Nelson, who met with the group, admitted there were shortcomings in their outreach.

“I think we should have come and spoken with the White Center Chamber of Commerce,” she said. “We talked with other neighborhood groups, but not this group and I think we failed there.”

Nguyen said the experience is nothing new for White Center and South Delridge, where "the city’s boundary of Roxbury is more or less arbitrary to the people who live, work, and do business here."

“White Center is often overlooked and almost always misunderstood by those outside of the neighborhood,” she said. “Somewhere during the planning and execution of this project, there was a failure of due diligence in connecting with our community. As a result, the work has had a severe, negative impact on the economic backbone of White Center: small businesses.”

Update for 10/12: SDOT’s Nelson listened to the group’s concerns and met with the contractor, Merlino, the next morning. In a followup, she said Merlino “could potentially get out of the immediate area and return a majority of parallel parking in two to three weeks – coming back to complete curb bulbs and ramps, sidewalks, striping, etc.”

“Take back to your bosses that you are strangling us,” McElroy told Nelson. “This meeting is full of business owners who are struggling and losing revenue. We are not crying wolf here.”

Nicky Nguyen owns the Bahn 88 restaurant on the Seattle side of Roxbury where business owners gathered on Oct. 8 and noted, during the hour and a half meeting at dinnertime, that not one single customer came in. Parking is completely closed off in front of her business, and it could be that way until the new year.

“My business has dropped by 75 percent,” she said. “I just want to cry, that’s what I’m feeling because my husband and I both work here and all of our income is from this restaurant. I’ve been here 18, almost 19 years and I have a lot of long time customers but they struggle to find parking (and find other places to eat).”

We asked WCCDA’s Vy Nguyen for a list of businesses directly impacted by the Delridge Way S.W. construction project. Here is that list, and note you can always find parking nearby if you are willing to walk a few extra steps!

-Beauty Hair Salon (they have parking in the alley! Entrance on Cambridge between CDA parking lot & apt building)
-88 Restaurant
-Lee’s Produce
-Suzy’s Espresso
-Delridge Deli & Bakery
-Delridge Chiropractic
-Super Charge
-Platinum Cuts
-Café Rozella
-White Center Glass & Upholstery
-Color Art Press
-Center Tools
-Kiki Corona Fashion
-Triangle Pub

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