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South Park Bridge Groundbreaking Celebration

Meghan Walker
05/05/2011

The 80–year–old bridge that connected Seattle's South Park neighborhood to Georgetown and Boeing shut down nearly a year ago for safety reasons. Many people there said the bridge closure would cause businesses in South Park to fail. Thursday is the groundbreaking for construction on the new bridge. And, the community is having a Cinco de Mayo party to celebrate.

Kathi George Wheeler: "Our main businesses down here are really hurting a lot since the bridge closed. And I just thought, 'oh my gosh, if there was this huge, huge pinata, you know, I would think people would come from everywhere for that."

That's Kathi George Wheeler, who works in South Park. KUOW's Meghan Walker has more.



TRANSCRIPT

In a garage in Seattle's South Park neighborhood, Alex Lopez is making a pinata. A really big pinata.

Lopez: "So basically as you can see from the scale model, it's 26 feet long, by 7 feet tall, and then by 6 feet wide, does that make sense?"

It's a replica of what the new South Park Bridge will look like. It'll be stuffed with candy, of course. And also, coupons and gift certificates to South Park businesses. It's so huge, it'll be held up by a crane. And it will be popped open during the bridge's groundbreaking ceremony.

Lopez has gotten a lot of help building it.

Lopez: "A lot of different people. Yeah it's great. Because they watch me work on it, they're very curious. Because you can see that large thing, it's larger than the garage outside there. It gets people's attention, so they come in and inquire what's going on and they end up helping me."

The restaurants and businesses in South Park took a blow when the bridge closed last summer. The South Park Business Association says one business has already failed. But the biggest loss has been to restaurant owners, who used to rely on customers who work in Georgetown. Now that they can't get across the river as easily, Georgetown workers go elsewhere.

Judith Herrera owns Muy Macho, a Mexican restaurant next to the old bridge. She says business is down by half, and thinks South Park is dying.

Herrera: "When the bridge closed, business is down 50 percent. Everybody is sad, mad, you know, angry, because South Park is dying."

Kathi George Wheeler hopes the pinata and Cinco de Mayo party will help attract customers and revitalize the neighborhood.

Wheeler: "Our big thing now is to try to do whatever we can to keep them afloat. They're not looking to get rich right now; they just want to be able to keep their doors open until the bridge gets opened again, so their customers can come back across the bridge."

The new bridge will be built just north of the old one. It's going to cost almost $100 million. A third of that is coming from the federal government. Officials from King County expect it to be finished in two years.

For KUOW News, I'm Meghan Walker.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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