Change is tough, but vital for a prosperous Seattle

Jan 2, 2015, 4:49 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2015, 7:32 am
Things change all the time. Jason Rantz argues you need change. The pain you feel by a neighborhood...
Things change all the time. Jason Rantz argues you need change. The pain you feel by a neighborhood changing is short-lived and even a little selfish, if you think about it. (AP Photo/File)
(AP Photo/File)

I remember being super bummed about a record store that closed near my house in Los Angeles when I was about 15 years old. It was the only thing I knew. I’d go every weekend or so with my dad to pick up music. Then they announced it was closing to make way for some furniture shop, and I remember being devastated and thinking it was the end of an era.

A lot of folks this week are having that same feeling in Seattle, or more specifically South Lake Union, as the Hurricane Cafe closes. The 24-hour cafe becomes no more after purchased the property that houses the cafe for about $50 million.

A ton of people are bummed out because it’s been an institution for so long, but Hurricane Cafe owner Neil Scott told KING 5 that the change is inevitable.

He said he’s known about the sale for about a year, but will still be sad to see the Hurricane go. Scott leased the building from a landlord, so the decision to sell wasn’t up to him.

“We had people say, ‘How come you didn’t buy the property?'” he said. “That was the most common question I got. I just didn’t have an extra $50 million in my bank account is generally the answer.”

He said there’s been a wave of people coming to the restaurant to say goodbye.

Customers said they too will miss one of the only 24-hour diners in the downtown area.

Scott said he chose to close on January 1 because New Year’s Eve is his busiest day of the year.

“We wanted to go out with a bang,” he said.

At the same time, we find out that the Pemco Building is about to lose Pemco, meaning that big Pemco Insurance sign, and the weather and clock electronic billboard we all see as we drive on I-5 into the city will be taken down.

I was watching a woman on KING 5 who was bummed to see it go. She can count on Seahawks-themed decorations or know the weather when she passes that building.

Pemco is still in business, for those of you who have its insurance, but it’s just looking for a new headquarters because they say the building is too big for them. That building also sold for around $50 million.

Locals are complaining about the changes that are being made to these institutions, even if they don’t even belong to Pemco or have even been to Hurricane Cafe. They’re complaining about how we’re changing and losing our identity. I kind of understood where they were coming from until I started to think about it and realized there will always be a replacement.

In fact, the Hurricane Cafe replaced something that was there before it and no doubt someone at the time was crushed that the Dog House Cafe changed. Before the Dog House Cafe, there was another business there and I’m sure someone at the time was upset about that.

The same goes for the Pemco Building. It wasn’t always the Pemco Building.

I was going through some of the comments on The Stranger and one person wrote: “You are not going to recognize (or want to spend any time in) that area in five years.”

But things change all the time. And I’d argue you need change. The pain you feel by a neighborhood changing is short-lived and even a little selfish, if you think about it.

You don’t want it to change, so it can’t change, even if the change may be better for the community; even if the change is a result of evolving taste or technology or community needs.

Think of Scarecrow Video, where people bemoaned the fact that they had to close unless they were to be saved by nonprofit status. They sold and rented videos that had no mass market at a time where, if we’re watching DVDs and Blu-rays, we’re streaming them, or getting them from Netflix or RedBox or on-demand or even from the library. Few people need a Scarecrow Video, which is why it ultimately failed.

I can’t think of many instances, over the long term, where this kind of change is bad for the neighborhood. It sucks to lose a restaurant or something you’re used to, and like you, I miss things I like when they’re gone. But it can be a selfish feeling a lot of times, especially when we’re talking about businesses that don’t change lives or give back to the community in a meaningful way.

You can get cafe food elsewhere. You can find out the temperature of the weather on your phone. You don’t need that sign outside of Pemco.

It’s the evolution of a neighborhood and you have to do it to keep it fresh. Name a neighborhood that thrives without meaningful change?

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Change is tough, but vital for a prosperous Seattle