Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Mayor Jenny Durkan has promised to listen to small businesses, taking early action to set up a Small Business Advisory Council that just had its first meeting.
On a smaller scale, she has been visiting community business districts, including an hourlong walking tour in the heart of the West Seattle Junction on Saturday before her town-hall event at the Senior Center.
We’ve already published our “town hall” coverage, but we were also along for the walking tour – here’s what we saw and heard:
Lora Swift (above right), executive director of the West Seattle Junction Association, met with mayoral staffers in advance to plan the tour, which started at West Seattle Performing Arts (4210 SW Edmunds). A kids’ dance class was under way when the mayor and her entourage arrived; she had a bouquet of flowers and high-fives before she left.
This was after she posed with students and parents for a “smile and say West Seattle!” photo op.
Next scheduled stop was ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery (4711 California SW), after an unscheduled stop at Bakery Nouveau, during which the mayor bought six macarons for one of her sons. It was going on noon, so while there was the usual BN line, it wasn’t too long.
At ArtsWest, she was greeted by managing director Laura Lee and artistic director Mathew Wright.
ArtsWest is getting ready to present “Hir,” a co-production with Intiman Theatre, opening this week; the tour group also got a peek inside the theater, where rehearsal was under way.
The mayor had lots of questions including how ArtsWest chooses its productions; they spoke of sparking conversation, and pushing boundaries, as well as the challenges of running a viable arts business – they’re 65 percent grant-funded, they told the mayor. Durkan in turn was heard to voiced concern about displacement affecting arts businesses.
Being an art-focused retailer was the topic at the next stop, Virago Gallery (4306 SW Alaska).
Employee Kim, who was working behind the counter, showed the mayor her work – described as “tiny weapons” that she makes on-site, and introduced her to an apprentice who was there shadowing her. She also spoke about Virago’s upcoming move around the corner to California SW, and the safety/security challenges they’ve faced at their current location, with a bus stop right outside the door. Swift explained to the mayor and staff the issues that resulted in the removal of bus-shelter structures across the street a year-plus ago.
The conversation there wasn’t just business – the mayor also heard all about the Menashes’ famous Christmas lights on Beach Drive.
At the final stop, Antique Mall of West Seattle (4516 California SW), crime/safety returned as a topic.
Along with a quick walkthrough to get a look at the eclectic variety of merchandise, the mayor heard about last month’s break-in (reported in WSB Crime Watch).
After that, it was a short walk around the corner for an early arrival at the Senior Center, where staffers from various city departments were getting ready for the town hall – like West Seattleite Irene Stewart from Age-Friendly Seattle:
And Durkan stopped for a few more chats with community leaders including Tamsen Spengler, new co-chair of the Southwest District Council:
West Seattle has two neighborhood-district councils – Delridge Neighborhoods as well as Southwest – whose participants have been watching closely to see what kind of relationship they’ll have with the Durkan administration, considering that her predecessor had gone to great lengths to cut official city ties with the groups, even signing an executive order and forming a new city commission that at one point was billed as a replacement for them, though it has turned out to have a different mission.
P.S. We covered her subsequent town hall speech/Q&A separately, with video, here.