Waterfront businesses close ahead of seawall construction

SEATTLE -- There will be a lot of changes along Seattle’s waterfront this week. Construction is getting ready to begin on a major part of the seawall, which means more than a dozen businesses will have to close their doors.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop has been part of the Seattle waterfront for more than a century.

“My great-grandfather is the one that opened it way back in 1899,” says owner Andy James.

There are treasures for tourists, but locals like Mallory Fry are also loyal customers.

“This place is awesome,” she says.  “I’m into the weird stuff. I like all the knick-knacks you can’t find anywhere else.”

But shoppers will have to search for their oddities elsewhere for the next nine months.  The store closed today, so the city can begin re-construction on the seawall.

“I think the most time we’ve ever been closed has been about a week,” says James. “So this is very different. “

15 businesses along the waterfront are closing this week. Originally, the city was going to let them stay open during construction. But property owners weren’t sure pedestrians would make the effort to keep coming.

“They have to dig a big trench in front of us, there’d be like gangplanks basically to get here,” says James. “It’ll be noisy and dusty and there will be a lot of vibration.”

The city agreed to pay the businesses up to 15 million dollars for closing. But James says it isn’t really enough to cover all his expenses and keep all his employees.

“We are different because we don’t have another location to transfer people to. Ivar’s has been careful about finding places for their people I’ve heard. We don’t have that option.”

But even customers understand something has to be done to fix the aging seawall.

“It’s made of wood, they’ve got the critters chipping away at it, it’s damaged from the earthquake,” says Fry. “If they don’t fix it, it could collapse, it could cause problems.”

So businesses are packing up for now. But they’re already planning their return to a new and safer waterfront next year.

“Mark July 1 on your calendar, we’re going to be back,” says James.

The Great Wheel will remain open during construction, as well as a few other businesses like the Seattle Aquarium and Argosy Cruises.