Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Results Are In. Respondents Want Retail Areas on 35th Ave NE Designated as Pedestrian Zones.

(19) & (20) are proposed Pedestrian Zones
along 35th Ave NE.
As we wrote about earlier, the City of Seattle is considering designating retail areas within existing commercial areas as "Pedestrian Zones."  Earlier this year, 902 respondents completed a survey hosted by the City to collect data on whether or not these areas should be designated as Pedestrian Zones. Of those that responded to the citywide survey for 61 different potential pedestrian zones, 14% of the responses were for the Wedgwood-North area and 6% of the responses were for the Wedgwood-South area.  When these respondents were asked, "Should this ("Wedgwood - North" and "Wedgwood - South") area be designated as pedestrian zone," the results were:

Wedgwood - North 
Yes = 70%
No = 9%
Unsure = 20%

Wedgwood - South 
Yes = 69%
No = 17%
Unsure = 15%

This designation would include adopting rules that would only apply to those parcels within the Pedestrian Zone which would be enforced as those properties redevelop. The City has posted draft rules, intended to create a safer and more inviting pedestrian retail environment within the Pedestrian Zones, which include:

  • Require buildings to have pedestrian-oriented businesses (e.g., shops and restaurants on the ground floor)
  • Enhance pedestrian safety with rules on parking and driveway placement
  • Waive some parking requirements to encourage businesses to move into the area
The City is also considering rules that would:
  • Require overhead weather protection for new buildings
  • Limit businesses with drive-in lanes on the edges of  pedestrian zones.
  • Establish a minimum size for new development in areas designated as "Urban Centers, "Urban Villages" or "Station Overlay Districts" (Note: 35th Ave NE is not designated as such.)
No decision has been made by the City as the survey and its results are still only part of the public engagement process.  Over next couple of months, the City will be finalizing its analysis and recommendations.  But if the majority of those who responded to the Wedgwood - North and Wedgwood - South areas have anything to say, they may be designated in the future.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

We Surveyed the Businesses and Here's What They Said!

Our data suggests that most people who use the 35th Ave NE business district don't consider it their primary business district and when they do visit the businesses it's for short and specific trips. While our data also suggests that 92% of those surveyed would like more retail than there currently is along 35th Ave NE, we also learned from our very first Coffee Talk that businesses, including retail, need shoppers in order to survive.  So in March and April of 2014, we reached out to the businesses by visited every business and asking them to complete a short merchant survey and invited them to an event we hosted for them at the Wedgwood Ale House, which we called "Business and Beer."  The intent of this was to listen to our businesses, learn what their needs were, and inform them of our 35th Ave NE planning effort.

Of the 83 businesses we've previously inventoried along our business district, we collected 20 completed surveys which represents about 24% of the business district.  Unfortunately, the survey monkey tool that we've used in the past has changed their export formats so they're less reader-friendly on websites.  But, here is the data collected (XLS download) and a summary of of the results (PDF). (Disclosure: We have removed the name of each business that responded from the survey results for their privacy.)

Here's what we learned!
  • The average length of time businesses have been along 35th Ave NE is 18.3 years!
  • Business seems to be generally okay, with a slight improvement over the past 2 years. 
  • 60% of businesses who responded leased their spaces while 40% own.
  • Leases are generally 3-5 years.
  • On average, 72% of customers are from the neighborhood while 42.8% of customers are from outside the neighborhood.
  • Most customers appear to be white (81.7%) and between the ages of 30-65+.  
  • Business have described the uniqueness of the 35th Ave NE business district with such words as: "friendly community," "hidden," "charming," "quiet," "Mayberry," "neighborhood," "suburban," "restaurant-poor," "spread out," "homey," "lots of families," "close-knit," and more.
  • Business described the greatest strengths of the business district as: "a good mix of businesses," "everything is close and people are very friendly," "a large amount of independent businesses," "local vendors, friendly people," "prevalence of small locally owned business," and more.  
  • Business described the weaknesses of the business district as: "a lack of a chamber of commerce," "would like more open/green space," "need more updated restaurants in the area, catering to younger crowds," "parking," "no larger space to accommodate other businesses," "spread out patches of businesses," "restaurant 'poor', daytime only business district, just 1 street (no depth)," and more.
  • In general, businesses would like to see improved pedestrian safety, improved promotions and advertising, and improved storefront appearances/window displays/signage.  
  • According to businesses, the changes needed to improve the business district include: "updated facades, new zoning regulations, a bit more variety," "defend 35th against the cycle track...," "better parking and better signage," "better businesses, pretty outdated," and more.
  • Things that are preventing changes that could improve the business district include: "zoning and funding," "the City," "getting organized as a business community with agreed upon goals," "not enough land," and more.
  • According to the businesses surveyed, the biggest needs for our business district include: "integration, coherence," "parking...," "always more customers and encourage them to shop in the business district," "drive new customers...," "more businesses," "higher density," "attracting new customers/patients," "more foot traffic," and more.
  • The business types most desired by the businesses who responded include: "family oriented retail," "restaurants, deli," "a hardware store...," "restaurants," "all kinds, but especially more retail," "more retail! - restaurants and coffee shops," "small restaurants," and more.
Many of these responses echo what we learned during our first Coffee Talk (The Conditions Needed for Neighborhood Businesses).  There also appears to be a lot of overlap between those improvements desired by the businesses, as reflected in the merchant survey results, and the users/shoppers of the business district, as reflected in our 35th Ave NE Business District Survey.  Both businesses and shoppers would like to see improved retail and restaurants; protecting the prevalence of small, locally owned businesses; and improved pedestrian safety.  Businesses and shoppers also appear to be concerned with maintaining or improving convenient and available parking.

These survey results and the contact information provided were shared with those businesses who responded to help them organize among themselves if they so chose. We have also shared with them information on the Seattle's Office of Economic Development's Only in Seattle Initiative, which is intended to assist business district like the 35th Ave NE business district.