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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

May 6, 2011 at 7:31 PM

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South Park business owners hanging on

Posted by Gabriel Campanario

oldsouthparkbridge-m.jpg

Sketched May 3

juliaramos-m.jpg"I wish we'll still be here when the new bridge opens in 2013."

That is Julia Ramos' hope. She is a South Park restaurant owner I first met a year ago right before the aging drawbridge that crossed the Duwamish River was closed permanently for safety reasons.

All the businesses I visited last year are still open, but life has not been the same without the bridge and the customers it brought. The lunch crowd at Jalisco is less than half of what it used to be. "We are hanging by a little thread," said Ramos, 51, one of several longtime community members King County awarded with a keepsake piece of the old bridge. Sunday is the 19th anniversary of Jalisco's opening on May 8, 1992.

Ramos is giving out more coupons to attract new customers and looks forward to welcoming the bridge workers arriving in August, when construction is scheduled to start. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held this week as part of Cinco de Mayo festivities.

She's also advocating for better signs to help drivers reach South Park. "We want to stay here. These two years will be a test."

Next door business owner Jose Vasquez, who runs Video Mar Tech Consulting, said the bridge closure has had one positive effect: it has brought the community together. "The neighbors and the business owners are taking an active role. We want to create a vibrant community," he said.

viavaddione-m.jpg

That was the spirit I found a Via Vadi Cafe, another business I visited last year. "We felt we had an obligation to patronize businesses in South Park," said Jeff Hayes, a customer who has lived for 12 years in the neighborhood and works for the Seattle Fire Department.

viavadditwo-m.jpg

Kathi George Wheeler, who runs a graphic design studio just blocks from the bridge, said the closure has galvanized the community. "When something bad happens, people pull together."

Wheeler, who is known as George in the community, took inspiration from the neighborhood's resilience to design South Park's new logo, which depicts the silhouette of a salmon up against three bands of color. Like the fish, "the people here are swimming upstream against the odds," she said.

Links
South Park neighborhood on Facebook
South Park bridge on Facebook
King County South Park Bridge project

A look back
Last year I spend three days in South Park right before the bridge was closed. Here are my stories:
-South Park neighborhood prepares to lose its bridge
-Time to get around the bridge
-A community mourns its bridge
-Bridge operator ready for last day on the job
-Businesses face future without bridge.

Coming up
One week every month, I take my sketchbook to a different community following suggestions from readers. Where should I go next? Send me your ideas via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. Have a great weekend!

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