Some merchants bailing on Seattle's business climate

SEATTLE -- Cranes over the downtown Seattle skyline point to a fast-paced building boom, but some merchants are bailing the city over a business climate they say is all wrong.

The move to unincorporated Lynnwood wasn't an easy decision for the owner of Northwest Caster and Equipment, given the family business had been in Seattle for decades. Steve Colvin says in the end, leaving made sense for his bottom line.

"It just seems like increasingly the city's become a more difficult place to do business," Colvin said.

Colvin said his concerns started when Metro Transit's bus-only lanes stripped away his off-street parking, which some customers counted on. Then the push for a $15 minimum wage gained steam.

"If I'm going to bring someone in on an entry level, I'd prefer to start them out where I'd like to start them out, rather than having that dictated to me," Colvin said.

Faye Garneau shares similar concerns about a possible $15 minimum wage, as well as a proposed employee tax that merchants might pay to subsidize Metro. If that provision is approved, business owners would pay up to $18 per worker annually.

"We see the city allowing things to occur that are not good for business," she said.

Garneau owns about two dozen commercial properties around the city, and worries some could soon go vacant.

"I have received notification, conversations from three tenants, telling me they're not so sure they want to renew their leases," Garneau said. "It's just too expensive to operate in the city."

The rush of construction downtown paints a far different picture. Amazon recently broke ground on a three-block complex that will create office space for 12,000 employees. City-wide, commercial office space vacancy rates have fallen slightly to 11.5 percent, which should indicate a booming business climate.

However, merchants say that's not the case in all parts of the city.

"They may think everybody wants to come to Seattle, but not really," Garneau said.

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