It’s in The P-I

There is an article in today’s PI that was brought to my attention this afternoon. The gist of it is that small business is being shoved out of the Seattle area in favor of “big box” and national chain stores. It mentions West Seattle and other neighborhoods that are being impacted by dense development.

This is not just happening in Seattle. Neighborhoods across the country are increasingly being homogenized with Starbucks, Gaps, and the random Jamba Juice. Developers can get more money out of national chains, and there is little risk of Gap not being able to pay the rent. That leaves small business out of business though.

I was drawn to Seattle because of the amount of small funky shops and restaurants. My first neighborhood that I lived in was Capitol Hill with the Globe Café, and then to Belltown with the Cyclops Café, before it became a yuppie haven with 18 dollar omelets. LA, years before I was born, invented the strip mall. LA’s Sprawl is legendary, and with all those chain stores came the decimation of local flavor. Just like Seattle, LA skipped its “ethnic” neighborhoods, leaving Echo Park, Olvera Street, Venice Beach, and Little Saigon intact. Downtown Seattle is now finally rid of its local business. 1st ave has rents around 9 dollars a square foot, meaning Mom and Pop are not opening a stand there. Developers rarely want to take a risk on a first time entrepreneur. Look around Ballard and Wallingford and see what has happened there. Bahn 88 would never happen in the new 2600 building downtown.

Even if they could afford the rent, developers would much rather take the sure shot with Whole Foods than gamble on a local business. West Seattle is quickly falling to the same developers’ thumbprint as this article points out.

White Center is one of the last places in the area where individuals are even allowed to open a business. This creates a wonderful potential here. There are rumors of a hipster men’s salon and a funky bakery that now calls Pike Place Market home moving into White Center. With our low density, we are left alone by the condo developing crowds. Our area and its lack of development has actually
fostered the growth and flavors of many ethnic groups, but it is a delicate balance. A balance that could quickly shift if developers are brought in.

Seattle has plans for White Center that are a lot different then the plan they had for Belltown. White Center is a potential site for a jail, and a Cabrini Green style ghetto that would decimate the growth that has been happening around here. No one is going to take a chance of sinking their life savings into an area of Seattle that Mayor Nickels wants to use as his poor folk dumping ground. With annexation will come more payday loan shops, 40 ounce convenience stores, cheap bars, and a few more pawn shops to round out the mix.

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3 Responses to “It’s in The P-I”

  1. Hey Full Tilt – this article told it really well! Don’t forget our story at Giannoni’s – we had to fight NOT to be a pizza chain to get our lease… The developers want the brand names because they think that people want them too – and that brand names will make their properties more valueable. When I read all the comments of the people who say that they want private businesses, I am a little confused! Do people want privately owned or corporate owned? I think the reality is that we can exist best with a balance of both – key word being balance. Private, locally owned businesses need a lot of support and need to be recognized for all of the struggle that goes along with competing with National brand name retailers, because it is hard! I think there should be a way to identify privately owned businesses and recognition for their patrons. Maybe we should think about that one… By the way, this website is great! I have more than once felt like WSB truly cuts off a little north of Westwood… Can we be White Center too? Take Care – Donna

  2. Hi, Donna, this is TR from WSB (and part of the White Center Now team). Sorry to hear it seems WSB cuts off north of Westwood – actually we work really hard to address all of West Seattle, to the Roxbury line and often beyond, and west to east, to Pigeon Point and Highland Park – which is a first, really, as even the city divides West Seattle into two “districts” (Southwest and Delridge). Nonetheless, of course you can be WC too. We are excited to be part of the team in this endeavor because we suspect that, regardless of whether WC is ever annexed by any of the cities who have eyed it, its boundary with West Seattle truly blurs more and more each day. We live in south West Seattle ourselves and feel like our extended neighborhood really extends all the way to Burien — Tracy

  3. Love the article, especially as a native Seattleite. Everything’s going or gone from my childhood, and not necessarily for the better. WC feels like Seattle did when I was a kid, and I love it here. I’m all for some positive changes, but Seattle’s been whored out like the ladies of the night on Aurora and, like them, ain’t looking or feeling so hot in the morning light.

    Also, regarding where the neighborhood extends to, that’s been one of the best parts of living up here – I feel like we have such easy access to so many places, not just White Center – South Park, Burien, Georgetown, West Sea, Downtown – all by walking, bussing, or a short car trip. We’re still overwhelmed by how much cool stuff is close by, and we find something new [to us] and awesome every weekend.