Merchants lobby for Ericksen, Hildebrand connection
June 9, 2008 · Updated 5:11 PM
A petition drive on store counters reaps 400 signatures.
In past years, when the question of joining Ericksen Avenue and Hildebrand Lane has come up, officials have usually heard from one constituency: Ericksen residents saying no.
Now theyre hearing from another: Hildebrand merchants and customers saying yes.
The dynamic between residential and commercial interests came into relief this week, when the City Council was presented with petitions bearing some 400 signatures, calling for a formal connection between the two Winslow streets. Signatures were primarily gathered on the counters of Hildebrand businesses.
There is a need weve heard, to deal with this pretty quickly, said Kevin Dwyer, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the petition.
Long simmering, the issue heated up last month when Seattles Joshua Green Corp., owners of the 901 Hildebrand building, chained off a popular bypass through the Frontier Bank parking lot.
The move effectively cut off Hildebrand a burgeoning commercial corridor, to which tens of thousands of square feet of new retail and office space have been added in recent years from downtown. Motorists instead must use the highway or Madison Avenue; the latter brings its own challenges, particularly when nearby schools let out.
Jerry Clark, owner of Silver Screen Video, is one of several merchants urging the city to reconsider a connection.
Lets put it this way: I support doing something, Clark said. With...(the owners) closing that property off, the traffic flow to downtown is horrible. If you try to go north on Madison at 2 oclock in the afternoon, you sometimes have 30 or 40 cars backed up going through the circle.
Winslow Paint owner Mary Hall agreed, saying that the connection wouldnt necessarily preclude green space between the streets.
I think if its done the right way, we can still enjoy that special environmental beauty thats there, and have a road there too, Hall said.
Under a recently adopted islandwide transportation plan, public works officials were directed not to consider a connection until specifically told to do so by the council. But the councils public works committee discussed the connection at its last meeting and will do so again next week.
Both Hall and Clark said that a connection wouldnt necessarily help their own businesses.
(Customers) have to get to us, Hall said. Its not, oh well, well go to the other paint store. I feel that customers will get to us, (although) it might be a more circuitous route.
But she professed concern for other fledgling businesses in the Hildebrand corridor citing a furniture store that just opened there while Clark suggested theres a bigger picture still.
If we dont get people downtown, I think we run the risk of becoming a tourist town, Clark said. Its a living breathing town, and...it should stay that way.