Upcoming Seattle Convention Center sparks hope for future as more stores close downtown

As more big businesses are set to close in downtown Seattle and tech companies see a flurry of layoffs, city officials are hoping the Seattle Convention Center's big expansion will drive some positive change.

The expansion at the Seattle Convention Center is set to open on Jan. 25.

Still, even with new doors opening, many said they are saddened to see their favorite doors closing downtown. Friday marked the last day Nike was open for business downtown.

"I’ve been coming for about a decade, so it’s served its purpose," said Richard Green, a loyal customer. "I’ve been that consistent. And it suddenly doesn’t surprise me, it surpassed the tests of time. It’s its time." 

Nike's closure also follows that of the Regal Meridian movie theater and one of Amazon's downtown offices. Google's parent company also announced on Friday that it would be cutting thousands of jobs. 

With businesses leaving downtown, some store owners said they worry that it’s a sign of the times.

"We really need to bring better use into downtown," said Olga Sagan, owner of Piroshky Piroshky. "The city of Seattle needs to bring people into downtown, needs to demand for people to come back. The county needs to demand for people to come back so we can have businesses coming back." 

A comeback is exactly what’s in store, according to Downtown Seattle Association. Though some doors are closing, association director James Sido said several others are opening.

"We are excited about several newcomers who have opened their doors in recent months, with more on the way. To help foster their success we need to ensure a safe and welcoming environment, something that’s been improving in downtown and is top of mind for our city leaders," said Sido.

A shining example of what’s to come is the new Seattle Convention Center Summit. The goal is to bring in new tourists and their money to the city.

"I’m really optimistic that Seattle will continue to get better and the downtown core will continue to be thriving. And once that happens, downtown visitors will want to go where the locals go. And as much as we can do that and offer those opportunities to out-of-town guests, we have repeat business. And you can’t do any better than having repeat business," said Jeff Blosser, president and CEO of Seattle Convention Center.

The convention center will also offer employment opportunity downtown. Construction alone supplied about 6,000 jobs.

"We will offer another 2,500 to 2,600 jobs in our industry just because of the business coming into the convention center in addition to the 3,500 that the arch is already supporting," said Blosser.

Support is what the hospitality industry needs right now. Anne Johnson, the general manager of the nearby Kimpton Palladian Hotel, said the opening of the convention center feels like an important part of the renaissance of downtown.

"It’s just so exciting to be talking positively about Seattle again, about bringing on new staff, bringing on new people into the hotel into the restaurants. It’s just, it’s relief," said Johnson. "We haven’t had this kind of excitement in this area for a few years now."

A relief downtown is what Mayor Bruce Harrell said the city has been aggressively working toward. He recently described the area’s revitalization plan in one word: ‘activation.’

"So, we want to see how we can use the built-in environment to have people use culture and arts and music. We want to see people having coffee. We want the officers out of the cars walking around. We want to encourage the retail stores to find a use for them. So, we’re talking to business owners about what we can do if a building is vacant," said Harrell.