Waterfront businesses to get $15M for closure during seawall build

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SEATTLE — The city of Seattle has announced it will provide $15 million to waterfront businesses to compensate them for shutting down for nine months during construction of the new seawall.

waterfrontThe businesses say it’s the only way for them to survive during the upheaval.

“To be so close to the edge and be pushed over by the seawall process, it would have killed many of the people down here,” said Bob Donegan of Ivar’s Seafood.

Just a few weeks ago, these same waterfront businesses filed a big lawsuit against the city to stop the seawall project, which is set to begin in September and last until spring 2016.  They argued not enough was being done to help them through the critical construction period.  Soon thereafter, this $15 million deal was announced.

Donegan said without this help, the waterfront would have lost all its character.

“We would have had national restaurant chains come in because they can pay the big bucks and they would have taken over the waterfront,” he said. “So all the brands you see when you go to Los Angeles and Chicago and Manhattan, that’s what the Seattle waterfront would have been.”

So who pays this $15 million?

Taxpayers do.

But the leaders of the project say they don’t actually have to come up with any new money.  They can fund it within the existing seawall budget, because shutting down the businesses for nine months, starting in October 2014, will make it cheaper and faster to complete the project.

“To maintain access, we had to build bridges to every door on those piers so that people could cross a 40-foot-wide excavation,” said Jessica Murphy, Seattle Department of Transportation’s seawall project manager. “The cost of maintaining that access in this unique site was a very high cost on this project.”

Fifteen businesses will split the money, based on the revenue they would have generated during the nine months of closure.

Not all business will have to shut down, however. The way construction is being staged, the Great Wheel, the Aquarium and Argosy Cruises will continue their operations uninterrupted.

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