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Shop owners in Seattle’s Melrose Market say construction is killing business

Melrose Market, before the construction started. (Photo by Joe Walf/CC images)

Parking in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is very challenging. Challenging enough that I try my best to avoid the fun neighborhood with all the good restaurants as much as possible. And apparently I’m not the only one.

At Melrose Market, a complex of upscale, artisan shops and restaurants, business is seriously slumping. Shop owners think the massive amount of construction on their block, going strong since 2013, is to blame.

“The fact that the developers have been taking up, probably, half of our very precious parking spaces has really considerably brought business down for everybody in the market,” says Sheri LaVigne, owner of the Calf and Kid cheese shop in Melrose Market.

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LaVigne says sales have dropped so significantly since construction started, she’s getting ready to close up shop at Melrose Market.

Russ Flint owns the butcher shop Rain Shadow Meats. He noticed construction workers setting up “No Parking” signs on the block, but none of them had a city permit attached. He reported the developers to SDOT.

“Our Street Use Inspectors were able to document that construction workers were illegally reserving parking spaces for themselves at this construction site,” SDOT’s communication director Rick Sheridan said. “We issued a citation today to that construction project.”

But the damage from constant construction has been done. Flint says customers have stopped coming to shop because the street is always blocked off.

“I think the city needs to be more thoughtful in the way that they hand out permits,” Flint said. “Today is a perfect example &#8212 it’s Friday, one of our busiest days. The road is shut down one way, there’s no parking all day long. On February 20, which was a Saturday &#8212 our busiest day &#8212 both sides of the street were shut down. No parking.

“One of the first shutdowns they approached us on was November 15, 2013. It was a one-week warning that they were going to shut down the street the week of Thanksgiving,” he continued. “That’s our second busiest week of the year. There’s no consideration for the people that are trying to survive on these blocks. Monday, Tuesday are slow days. That’s when you should be shutting it down.”

Both Flint and LaVigne say their holiday sales were dismal.

LaVigne thinks it’s the developers being thoughtless, not necessarily the city.

“The developers, ever since they started, they said, ‘We’re really going to work with you.’ Since day one they haven’t,” LaVigne said. “When Starbucks was doing their big thing over here, they were unbelievable to work with. The head of that project was in communication with us on a very regular basis. If they ever had big trucks out there, she would make sure they were done by nine or 10 a.m. Or she’d be like, ‘Hey, can we do it on a Monday, that’s not going to effect you guys quite as much.'”

LaVigne says she’s not against growth in the neighborhood, but it has to work for businesses, not against them.

“The whole idea of bringing more people to the area is a positive thing to think about,” LaVigne said. “But what we have to go through to get there? It doesn’t feel worth it.”

The construction on their block is expected to last through 2017, possibly longer.

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