By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Starting today, volunteer community “ambassadors” are visiting businesses along much of Delridge Way in the next phase of the survey we first told you about last week.
This week, we sat down to talk with seven people who are involved in various roles, to find out more about the project’s intent and goals.
Partners in the project include the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association and West Seattle Chamber of Commerce. DNDA’s director of housing and environmental programs Willard Brown explains that “supporting and helping to organize our business community here in Delridge” emerged as a top priority during work on what was the North Delridge Action Plan in the past few years.
So they sought a city grant to hire a consultant. Working with consultant David Daw – also present for our conversation – “we settled on a survey of businesses to find out their impression of Delridge, their interests, why they are here, what they think of the neighborhood,” and where Delridge is growing and going.
Parie Hines, an architect whose LD Arch Design (WSB sponsor) is based in North Delridge, says she’s “excited to have businesses start thinking a little more about the whole business district,” including synergies between businesses and what kinds of businesses the area needs to attract.
There’s already a strong sense of community, notes Laurel Trujillo of Ounces, which is in its first year, and she’s hoping the survey and its results strengthen it further, as well as serving as a springboard for a more accurate and positive image of the area.
They hope to make contact with 150 businesses they’ve identified from city databases, between the north end of Delridge Way and just south of the Delridge/Orchard/Sylvan Way business area. What have they found? we asked. Limo companies, landscaping companies, child-care centers, even a few international booking agencies – many businesses that are home-based.
Speaking of international, the ambassadors will identify businesses for which they might need translation services, and the survey funding will cover that, so that language isn’t a barrier to participation.
This is more than just a chance to harvest information, West Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Dennis explains: “There are so many resources from the city and even from surrounding businesses that they (might not) be aware of, a way for us to provide some education. Many businesses don’t know that libraries have people they can work with” to identify and access resources, for example. She also has found that even business “competitors” in West Seattle are eager to help each other, once they learn more about each other’s respective businesses.
Daw adds that these aren’t just educational, but also potentially financially helpful, such as “facade improvement funds.”
Brown elaborates on that, noting that DNDA might be able to join forces with businesses to “apply for certain funds, to create identification,” and beautification – “planters, benches, paint … maybe we have a theme color and all the businesses have that color.”
That’s just one idea, even before they hear from businesses about their hopes. And the final result is likely to have a message for the city, as well, since Delridge is feeling a little neglected – “more street sweeping, more maintenance.” Brown says that’s also the kind of feedback they’re seeking from local businesses, in terms of what the area needs.
Matt Larson of The Skylark says they might even hope to have some longterm problems addressed (in his case, a long-vacant eyesore remains on a roadside slope across from his business (eight years have passed since we covered a community-organized, city-leaders-involved tour of nuisance properties including that house, and it’s STILL vacant).
Hines is also hopeful this will at least result in a list of Delridge-area businesses, which doesn’t currently exist.
WHAT’S NEXT: After the surveying is done, a community meeting will be scheduled for August, with the goal “action steps, low-hanging fruit,” such as forming a business association and/or simply meeting on a regular basis, checking to identify additional resources, whether through through the city or private foundations. So watch for news of that. But first, if you’re a business, watch for ambassadors – they’ll have badges and Delridge T-shirts, as modeled here by Agen Schmitz, one of the four volunteer ambassadors:
Each is tasked with a certain geographic area; his is the “Brandon node.” The survey will take only about 10 minutes; but, he promises, “if businesses are busy or feeling harried, we’ll make a point to come back.” After today’s first round of visits, they’ll be back on the street after the 4th of July holiday.