I recently made my annual summer visit to Whistler, B.C. Unlike my high expectations for great food in Vancouver and Richmond, I usually have low expectations for the restaurants in Whistler. However, I finally found a restaurant that I am excited to return to. The Rimrock Café is not for the budget minded, but well worth the atmosphere, food and service. It’s located near Creekside, a couple of miles from Whistler Village. I speculated that the 2010 Winter Olympics must have been great for business and the restaurant packed for two weeks. The answer I received from the waitress surprised me.
She confessed that business was steady but there was no boom in business. She added that had the restaurant not jacked-up prices for the Olympics, the restaurant would have earned less revenue than usual. Given the multitude of construction impacts of seven years, she was unsure if it was all worth it. She appreciates the highway improvements which makes the drive much easier and faster to and from Vancouver. However, my impression is she didn’t feel it was worth it for two weeks of Olympic let down.
So what happened to the boom that so many businesses were promised by all the politicians and Olympic committees? Well, thousands of daily Olympic spectators and employees were being bussed in everyday and then being bussed out. Regulars that would usually come for winter sports stayed home and watched the Olympics on their televisions. The Olympics wasn’t a bust for all. I’m sure the businesses faired much better in highly developed Whistler Village than those outside of the “Village”.
All this makes me think about the benefits of developments/projects that don’t always reach those outside of the “Village”.
Given recent street improvements projects on Jackson Street, I have begun to question whether the new Seattle Streetcar line will be a boom to businesses along its route. The new Seattle Streetcar route will connect Pioneer Square, International District, First Hill and Capitol Hill. Who are the Rimrock Cafés along the new streetcar route that will have to endure two years of construction but will receive little benefit?
Currently, there are two Seattle Department of Trasportation (SDOT) street improvements projects occurring on Jackson Street at Maynard and 12th that expand sidewalks to primarily improve Metro bus service. These projects are not directly related to the new Streetcar project, but are precursors to the coordination needed between SDOT, Metro and local neighborhoods to address construction impacts.
The Jackson/Maynard project started on the wrong note, because adjacent businesses were not properly informed of the projects and given an opportunity to address possible construction impacts. SDOT claims to have sent information out, but I have yet to find a business owner that received a copy.
One impact is the temporary closing of bus stops and the refusal to create nearby temporary bus stops. This has forced numerous elderly and others who frequent these bus stops to have to walk to the next bus stop. I suggested to Metro to create a temporary bus stop in the street parking area directly east of the construction at Maynard and Jackson, because it was primarily being used for contractors to park their vehicles. A Metro representative explained that the parking area was needed by the contractor for staging construction vehicles, but I have found that is rare and it is primarily used by contractors to park their own vehicles. I suggested nearby street parking for construction and contractor vehicles, but I was given more explanations for why it couldn’t be done. The absurdity continues, because construction usually ends around 3 p.m. on weekdays, so the street parking area I suggested then sits empty for the remainder of the day. Instead of inconveniencing the public for about 8 hours a day, Metro and SDOT chooses to do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week until they finish their project.
One more reason for my apprehension over SDOT and Metro coordinating with communities affected by Streetcar construction. I noticed there were no “Businesses are Open” signs at the Maynard/Jackson project. We have all become accustomed to seeing these signs at similar construction projects. SDOT informed me that signs were placed at the beginning of construction, but somehow went missing. Days later, a single sign eventually appeared and continues to sit around the corner on Maynard. The sign is not visible to people traveling along Jackson Street. Driving past the 12th/Jackson project site, I noticed there are still no signs there.
I have learned in recent weeks that if you work or live in one the local neighborhoods along the new Streetcar route, don’t expect SDOT or Metro to talk to each other and that each neighborhood will have to be diligent about advocating for even the most obvious things. It’s not hard for me to imagine that Little Saigon and International District could be Rimrock Café. We will be asked to bear the burden of construction, but will have to watch Streetcar riders just passing us by.