New construction harming existing Everett businesses

EVERETT ­— They welcomed the arrival of new neighbors to a traditionally industrial patch of downtown.

But road tie-ups from construction of a hotel and farmers market going up between Grand Avenue and West Marine View Drive have hurt nearby businesses.

A boat-repair shop in September sued the developer over access to a public alley. Two other neighbors — a hydraulics business and suspension shop on Grand Avenue — have seen walk-in business dry up with repeated road closures.

They also fault the city for doing a poor job coordinating the work.

“We need the alley to get the boats in and out,” said Tim Caudill, owner of Cascade Marine Service. “My major frustration was that I couldn’t get the city to do anything to verify what was going on with the alley.”

Everett spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said public works officials tried to balance the needs of the development and existing businesses.

Among other measures, the city required the developer to coordinate construction with neighbors. That was an explicit requirement of lane-closure permits.

“We recognize that any time you have major construction happening in an urban environment, you’re going to have impacts,” Pembroke said.

Caudill leases his building on West Marine View Drive, immediately north of a future Hampton Inn by Hilton. The 110-unit hotel is due to open this spring.

Across the alley in back of Cascade Marine is a block-long hole where workers are pouring the foundation for an underground parking garage with more than 200 spaces. Above the garage, there are plans to build a 60,000-square-foot farmers market and 220 upscale apartments.

After the expected completion date in the spring of 2015, the year-round farmers market will be the “largest of its kind in the western region of the United States,” Everett-based developer Path America says.

A Path America vice president, Joe Zlab, acknowledged the work has affected other businesses. He said his company is trying to work through problems as they come up and is speeding up the construction schedule to minimize disruptions.

“We’ve tried to be good neighbors,” Zlab said. “We fully realize that there are real impacts to real people and real people’s lives.”

Earlier downtown construction projects, including city street improvements on Hoyt Avenue, generated similar concerns, Zlab noted.

Path America is run by Lobsang Dargey, whose companies have been involved with several prominent Everett developments. The projects include renovating the Everett Public Market on Grand Avenue and the Cogswell College building on Colby Avenue, as well as building the Potala Village apartments and associated retail space at Rucker and Pacific avenues.

Longtime business owners on Grand Avenue said they enjoy a good relationship with construction crews who show up daily. They’d like to see the projects succeed, but they’re worried.

“We’ve had quite a bit of slowdown in our business,” said Cal Ferguson, who has owned the Aalbu Brothers suspension and steel- fabrication shop since the late 1960s.

The business was founded there in 1906.

He attributes the drop-off to street blockages, which sometimes leave nowhere to park. Customers have told him of circling the block two or three times.

“It’s hard for me to move out of here, because we’ve been here forever,” said Ferguson, who owns the building. “People know where to look for us. Some of our customers come every three to five years, every 10 years. When they need us, they come and get us.”

Serious construction work started tying up Grand Avenue in September, when crews demolished the old Motor Trucks Inc. building across the street from Ferguson.

Blockages became more frequent as crews arrived to pour concrete foundations.

Zlab said concrete pours should be done in a couple of months and that access should improve afterward.

Todd Cudaback has operated Everett Hydraulics for 15 years out of leased space next door to Ferguson.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to stay here,” Cudaback said.

It was hard for him to estimate how much business he’s lost.

“I receive numerous phone calls asking if I’m still open,” he said.

Cudaback views the farmers market and hotel as signs of progress in a changing city. He has no issue with the development itself. He just believes the city and developer did a poor job coordinating the work.

“It was sold as a bill of ‘It’s going to be a couple of days here and there,’” he said.

For future projects, he hopes some lessons have been learned.

While Ferguson and Cudaback’s problems are on Grand Avenue, Caudill’s center on a parallel alleyway a half block to the west.

To operate his business, he said he needs at least 24 feet of turning area in one spot and 14 in another.

Caudill said those widths have been cut down, in some instances, by a few feet, preventing him from working on boats. Zlab said only a few inches are in dispute.

Caudill also is upset that the city had a surveyor working for the developer measure the public alley when he challenged the widths. He would have preferred to have a city employee take the measurement.

“I don’t know why they couldn’t come out and do it,” he said.

The widths are spelled out in a written agreement the parties reached Aug. 6. The agreement also gave the landlord and the business thousands of dollars in compensation for temporary construction use of a parking lot that separates the Cascade Marine building from the hotel. The developer paved the lot and improved drainage afterward as part of the deal. Cascade Marine also got to use a vacant building for nearly a year before getting the lot back.

Caudill and his landlord filed a lawsuit in September alleging that the hotel developer failed to abide by the contract. As defendants, it names Path America Farmer’s Market and Everett Hospitality Co., its partner in the hotel project.

The suit asks for compensation related for breach of contract and construction-related nuisances. It also asks for a catch fence over the south parking lot to guard from falling debris. The case is pending in Snohomish County Superior Court.

A separate issue involving the construction site arose Nov. 29, when a man wandered into the unfinished hotel and fell about 20 feet down a stairwell shaft. Everett firefighters responded around 2:30 p.m. that day. The man, who was dressed in a medical gown, was taken to a local hospital with undisclosed injuries.

Because of medical privacy laws, the city and local hospitals were unable to supply details about the patient’s condition. Neither the state Department of Health nor the state Department of Labor and Industries had any report of the incident. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office also had no record of a death.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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