The "Ave" Is Dying Again. Here's How to Save It.

Comments

1

Ban all wheels, save for the walkless. Only then, quietude.

4

The ave has been dead since the 60's.

And for all the hand wringers: There will always be an economy. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. Sometimes things like pandemics happen and we have to curtail economic activity to save lives. Stop being drama queens.

5

@4's right. The Ave has been dead/dying as long as I can remember. Combination of no real student nightlife there (rumor has it this dates back to early laws banning bars near a university?) and lots of petty crime (go ahead, lock up your bike to a rack on or near the Ave for a few hours. I dare you. The UW puts out a safety alert about a mugging, burglary, or armed robbery about every other day) make it an unattractive place for the students to hang out. As a result they go to other parts of town rather than supporting what should be a thriving university neighborhood.

6

@4, I really can't believe this kind of stupidly that must always be expressed as sound and reasonable. But the filmiest and often most unhelpful unit in a society is that of the individual. This is a pandemic and no one here is Robinson Crusoe. Why do so many Americans have such a minimal grip on this obvious fact?

7

sorry, stupidity...

8

Bring back Space Port and $10 grams.
Bring back Arnold's and the 25-cent coffee and donut special.
Bring back Hot Lips pizza.

9

They wanted to close California Ave SW in the Junction the same way, and my understanding was the business owners were worried that, with already so few customers willing to come in, anyway, that the lack of street parking would kill their delivery/takeout business. And they likely wouldn't recoup with outdoor dining? Just what I heard through the grapevine. Personally, I'd be all for it, though.

10

I don't often agree with Charles Mudede, but on this I do. I think closing the Ave to car traffic is a good idea and will help bring business there back. Good idea.

12

Closing the Ave to car traffic sounds great but to compare its desirability as a destination to the Market is way too optimistic. People aren't going to ride buses (even in a non pandemic world) to come to the Ave and you need more than those who are in walking distance if you are going to succeed in helping this flourish. Figure out how to accommodate parking (free shuttle from U-Village or the Stadium that is not in use?) and then you may have a hope of doing something.

14

Charles: thank you for the thoughtful observations. I would add: distinguish The Ave from the U District. The U District, especially from Brooklyn Avenue NE to I-5, is going through a major construction boom. About half a dozen residential and mixed-use high-rises (especially along 12th) are about to be built, and the UW's south campus and west dormitory area have seen massive rebuilding of late. I suspect, with the gradual reopening of business, The Ave may emerge in decent, commercially credible shape. I've had close and frequent contact with The Ave most of my life, and, to be sure, this is not a high point. But the new train station is almost open; an influx of residents is about to happen; and it is very difficult to gauge how all of this will play out. But in two years, much of the U District will look and feel very different from how it does now. Once the station opens, the new residential towers have tenants, and the pandemic recedes, for better or worse, The Ave will evolve in some unpredictable ways. One major worry: traffic infrastructure cannot handle all the newcomers, and The District will be more crowded than ever. So, there's reason for concerns of all sorts--but not necessarily gloom-and-doom. There's more life than death here--but thoughtful guidance and planning will be essential.

15

I always found flowers to be the douchiest bar in the u district. The college inn or the old earls were far better, at the very least a whole lot less pretentious.

If anyone remembers when University avenue had the massive construction and upgrade of the road, they had whole blocks closed off at a time. Most businesses we're worried that they would lose customers due to the construction, but if I remember correctly a lot of businesses had an uptick during that time the roads were closed. There was also a lot less street crime during that time because the bus stops were all moved to 15th. This took away the easy excuse that a lot of low lives (shitty drug dealers etc., not the street kids) had for hanging around. Close the whole thing off to traffic, let the farmers market take over the roads at the north end. Even open to cars what idiot drives down the ave, let alone park there?

18

I haven’t felt good about The Ave since the Nordstrom closed.

19

@4 -- Right, the Ave has been dying since the 1960s, just like the Turkish rug store have been going out of business for fifty years. Give me a break. The Ave changes over time. New shops replace old ones. My only concern is when chain stores replace independent shops. That seems to come and go.

That being said, like most retail, it is struggling right now. While well meaning, Charles' idea is a bad one. You still won't get that many customers, and you lose the bus riders. You also make it much tougher to do take-out/delivery (one of the way businesses are surviving right now). I could see getting rid of some parking and replacing it with outdoor seating, but that should be done on a case by case basis, by first asking the retailer. For example, here is BC Zhang Savory Chinese Crepes: https://goo.gl/maps/vRSZYFRM2SZhzWhJ7. They could have a table in the parking spot, along with another table next to it. But would they want that, or would they rather have the parking space, so that it is easier to do takeout? Meanwhile, look at the places next to them. A "Mail etc." on one side, and a place that fixed phones and computers on the other. Obviously both would be hurt by the street being closed. Then there is a bubble tea place -- again, take-out oriented right now. Bars are getting hammered, but Big Time (like most brewpubs) is depending largely on growlers and cans. They even sell their food online (which is surprising, since their food is not nearly as good as their beer). Likewise, other places that depended mostly on atmosphere are making do with takeout/delivery. They have skeleton crews -- just enough to sell for takeout. If you closed off the street and they ran a restaurant out there they would have to hire back waiters. Given it would be small, with few people (if you had proper spacing) I think a lot of them wouldn't bother.

So even the places that would supposedly benefit (restaurants and bars) wouldn't benefit that much, and some (Shultzy's) are just closed until the pandemic is over. It is quite possible that closing the street would do more harm than good. I doubt you will find widespread support for the idea.

What really needs to be done is to create a fund to support small, independent businesses. The main purpose would be to prevent them from losing their lease, not to keep them in business. That means it wouldn't be tied to keeping employees -- the employees, at worse, should be on unemployment. Of course unemployment will increase, but that is inevitable. But paying businesses to keep furloughed employees on payroll increases is silly, and only increases the chances that those employees come to work (something that is a bad idea from a pandemic standpoint).

Once there is a vaccine and widespread application, then we have a normal recession. Then we should pump money into the economy, and making small business funding dependent on employee payroll is reasonable.

20

Good Afternoon Charles,
First of all, you wrote "Asian grocery store Le Mart". Did you mean H Mart? I've been in there all right. Fascinating place.

Indeed, the "Ave" or University Way is on the decline all right. Been that way for quite a while. Not sure that the city can do much. But like you, I'm for pedestrian friendly access and outdoor seating and drinking in the immediate. It definitely needs more bars and restaurants. But during Pandemic, everything is on hold.

However, it was good to read that the Mountaineering Club on Brooklyn at 45th St. is now open at the Graduate Hotel. Woo Hoo! Great views.at the top.

21

Lark: https://www.yelp.com/biz/le-mart-seattle

22

@16 " If productivity, sales, profits, and employee satisfaction haven't been reduced by working from home, why would either the employer, or the employee, want to return to a commute and sitting in a cubicle farm?"

Right, and if productivity, sales, profits, and employee satisfaction were reduced by working from home, then folks will return to work as soon as possible.

Remember when 9/11 was going to kill big downtown businesses? No one would ever go back to working in Manhattan, so many theorized. It didn't happen that way.

Lots of people hate working from home. Lots of companies hate having their employees work from home. That is why it was not common back in the day. Companies that are really, really technically savvy (e. g. Amazon) had people come in to work. Companies that literally owned software for remote communication (Microsoft) still had most people come in to work. Do you think these businesses spent hundreds of millions on new office space, only to see it abandoned? Give me a break.

Oh, and that is office work. Here is a news flash for you: People like going to bars and restaurants. People like it so much that they act like idiots, and risk their lives (and others) to push for their opening. You are basically saying that now that people have the wonderful experience of getting growlers from the Big Time, they will never go to the bar again. Get real. Two years from now, on a Saturday night, the place will be packed. Bet on it.

23

@21 Charles,

Well, it certainly looks like H Mart:

https://www.google.com/maps/uv?pb=!1s0x549014f4acfc977b%3A0xe4705472b9833648!3m1!7e115!4shttps%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipOUbRH83VlqJ3AVFFbPHAm7kIcUZz_XfnnP60Fw%3Dw260-h175-n-k-no!5sh%20mart%20seattle%20-%20Google%20Search!15sCgIgAQ&imagekey=!1e10!2sAF1QipOUbRH83VlqJ3AVFFbPHAm7kIcUZz_XfnnP60Fw&hl=en

Thanks anyway.

24

I wish as a city we were more daring and more willing to abandon the car-centric transportation system we have created. Unfortunately, with Alex Pedersen the head of city council’s transportation committee and Mayor Durkan just paying lip service to multimodal options, we can’t seem to make smart decisions. Right now, we’re in the thick of a half-year of the pandemic closing everything down and summer is nearly over, and we’re just now getting street closures so bars and restaurants can try to recover. Smart leaders would have thought ahead and offered creative ideas to help. For months, the roads were clear of cars as we honored the stay at home order – we could have built options for social distancing activities on those roads back then, but we didn’t. There are so many missed opportunities to make our city better.
No one drives intentionally down the Ave. Sure, you might for a block (or more up north), but no one uses the Ave to go from point A to point B. You use one of the many parallel running streets if you really want to get anywhere. This has been true since the 90s. Buses can run north and south on other streets. There is no good reason why we can’t convert the Ave to an open street for pedestrians with outdoor seating and other activities. We just don’t have the leadership to make these kinds of decisions.
The University Village destroyed the Ave. When it used to be a sleepy strip mall with Lamonts and Ernests and Bosleys, there was no reason for students to go down there. Then, they started transforming it and a lot of stores left the Ave for the Village, and with that, a bunch of young employees and of course, college kids.
The Ave was where we hungout in the 90s. It’s where the drugs were, the bars, the restaurants (so many options), the scene… We walked up and down it because it was fun and there were record stores and cafes and bars and used clothing stores and shoe peddlers, and you ran into people and spent an hour in the U Bookstore or Magus. It was dingy and dirty and dangerous, but we loved it. We were dingy and dirty (and were okay with some danger). Violence was rare, but it did happen. It was part of the scene. It usually was some skinhead getting knocked around for being a racist or one homeless teen going after another for some vague reason.
A few blocks away, worse violence was happening on Greek Row every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday when frat boys got drunk and stupid. Or, twelve times a year, the home team would beat the cross state rivals and we’d have a good ole fashion riot on our hands. That was violence. The Ave could be threatening and there were fist fights, but for the most part, as long as you were cool, it was cool.
College kids prefer the Village now. It has gone from being openly hostile to college kids to welcoming their parents money (back in the day, the VP of the Village explained to me that they were fine with us kids working there, but once we were done, they wanted us gone – they provided no parking, instead to this day, they rely on the neighborhoods to house all their workers’ cars).
Why not go big and bold and do something amazing with the Ave? Why not close it down and turn it into a destination as Mr. Mudede suggests? Do we need more parking (there are almost 40 spots for every resident of Seattle)? Do we need more streets for cars to drive down? Nope… we need more places where people can safely congregate and enjoy themselves. The Ave is the perfect test subject.

25

One of the best thigns about Shultzy's when it was at its old location is they would do a trivia contest for a free sausage, written ona blackboard, before smart phones made looking up answers easy. I used to go and read the trivia question and sometimes the answer would be right around the corner in the racks at the used bookstore. I'd go look it up, and come back because sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch.

26

Capriest dear, I mourn the old University Village as much as anyone (mostly University Lanes, but the whole complex had a certain charm). The current University Village is a horror show.

But what businesses left The Ave to go to the current University Village? I can’t think of one, but I may be missing something.

27

@24 Well said. That is exactly how it went down. Yes, you avoid the Ave at all costs unless you are on foot. Charles' idea is great.

28

The Ave died the day Pizza Rigazzi no longer satisfied my 2am craving for 🍕

29

Bitter sweet article. I bought my Prom date's corsage at Flowers back in 87. And my childhood friend's mom owns Shiga Imports (still holding on). So many fond memories of the Ave. Count me in to help bring it back better than ever.

30

Making University Way pedestrian might really help. Certainly no one drives along it in order to get to the other end. I remember when construction closed The Ave to buses and moved then to 15th. In some ways, I actually preferred it. At that time I could ride either of two bus routes home and when they shared 15th I could take whichever came first.

Do the businesses need the Ave for deliveries, or are the allies enough?

The Ave is not looking good right now, but I am confident it will improve. Covid will be over eventually, UW will hold in-person classes again eventually.

31

flowers?

are you kidding?

that was a dive back in the 80s

still is today.

Now, I had lunch today at Costa's and I miss lots of places, but it's just because of Link Light Rail that flowers is not doing well

32

@26 the Apple store left, it used to be where the costume shop is now

37

There's numerous variables in play, people like to focus on a few. A few years back when there was a homeless encampment right in the front of the Ave post office Dori Monson claimed that it was causing businesses on the Ave to close, ignoring all the other issues going on (construction then, etc.).

The lack of pizza options on the Ave is disturbing though.

Atlantic Street Pizza R.I.P.

38

For 20 years I loved The Ave, took the bus there from Capitol Hill and then North Seattle. I stopped going there years ago after I was assaulted by tweeker street trash in broad daylight. Trash people, trash neighborhood. You can't sell expensive shoes to human cockroaches.

39

You can leave a comment about closing the Ave to car traffic in this survey from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSezTyuGGwFIrUNW3t83xNseH85RTt8Ze0kgTzBbQMAiVdKi_A/viewform

40

What Ross said @19.

This might have made some difference if the project had started months ago, but since it won't be implemented until Fall it's really kind of dumb. The thing kicking the collective ass of Ave businesses right now is the lack of UW student/staff/faculty traffic, and this won't do a thing to change that.

41

...and Charles @6. Whoever told this Mudede he was REALLY REALLLY smart did both him and the rest of us a real disservice. Catalina has forgotten more than Charles' pompous ass will ever know about anything....

(also @5 - the Kraken was doing pretty good punk rock business on pre-covid as was A-Pizza Mart and a couple of other bars on the northernmost stretch of the Ave)

42

I remember before the elementary school closed. There was something calming hearing children play at recess. I gave the neighborhood a feeling of well, being a neighborhood.

43

I lived at 15th and Ravenna from 1995 to 2001, and the Ave was second home. We'd walk to the Bulldog for reading material, and stop at Flowers for their amazing vegetarian buffet. Or mayble Little Tokyo for takeout, which made the cheapest and tastiest teriyaki in the city. Fond memories.

44

@41 Mudede was responding to 3, I think. And mis-@-ed. It would make a lot more sense that way.

45

Off topic,I think what really sucks is when Wallgreens and Target moved in and the Street fairs stopped due to COVID-19. Across from Nasai teriyaki is Shigai's import shop that my dad was friends with Andy Shigai who ran it and they are hurting too due to the pandemic. And the Urban rest stop there isn't doing well compared to others.

46

Shiga’s was on the Ave in 1966 when I started at the U. It has apparently been closed since March for “remodeling”. It would be a shame to lose them. An Ave institution.

47

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tnus5i6O86U

48

Just like “Seattle is Dying.” Fun film

49

@44,

Oops - I think you're right, though Chuckles himself did aim his comment at #4.. He is smarter than the guy at 3, 4 not so much....