One year after Greenwood’s natural gas explosion

by | Mar 9, 2017

One year ago today, downtown Greenwood exploded after an improperly decommissioned natural gas line ignited. Three businesses were instantly turned into rubble, and numerous others were damaged – some only lost a window or two, while others took months to repair and reopen. Nine firefighters were injured, none seriously.

The wreckage of three destroyed businesses was still smoldering hours after the natural gas explosion on March 9, 2016.

Of the three destroyed businesses, Neptune Coffee told Seattle Met in January that reopening in Greenwood would be impossible; Greenwood Quick Stop owner Joon Park told the Phinney Neighborhood Association that he’s been helping out at his family’s other store in Marysville and doesn’t know what the future may hold in Greenwood; and Mr. Gyros continues to frequently park its food truck at the explosion site and operate its Ballard and Wallingford locations.

Today, G&O Family Cyclery, which was adjacent to the three demolished businesses and whose building was severely damaged, celebrates its grand reopening in its new permanent space, at 8558 Greenwood Ave. N., just one block from the explosion site. From 7-10 p.m., stop by for music, snacks, reduced price vegan hot dogs from Cycle Dogs, and generally celebrating the bike shop’s rebirth.

Other damaged businesses never reopened. Kouzina Greek restaurant, two doors south of the explosion site, tried to keep its catering business, Zoey Catering, which provided gluten free food to numerous large clients, including Seattle Children’s hospital, but announced in January that issues with the building and the inability to find a new location meant shutting down. Insurrection Performance, directly south of the explosion site, held fittings for its leather motorcycle clothing at the Phinney Center by appointment but no longer has a physical location.

The explosion site today is an empty lot surrounded by a chain link fence.

The Angry Beaver tavern, directly across the street, suffered extensive damage and took months – and loads of money not provided by insurance — to reopen. The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center, spent months providing its free programs to children at the Phinney Center before moving back into its space in September after extensive repairs.

Flint Creek Cattle Co. restaurant, on the corner of Greenwood and 85th, finally opened in October after suffering explosion-related damage during construction.

The list of damaged businesses (more than 50) and each one’s issues with reopening and insurance companies is too long to go into here.

The property owner, Slattery Properties, which owns the entire west side of the block of Greenwood Avenue between 84th and 85th streets, has applied to develop that entire block (minus the Flint Creek building), into a six-story residential/retail building.

The community’s spirit kicked in immediately after the explosion. Just hours after the blast, the Phinney Neighborhood Association organized the Greenwood Relief Fund, raising more than $321,000 to help affected businesses pay employees and make repairs. Several thousand dollars of that came from Greenwood Elementary parents who sold “Show Greenwood Some Love” T-shirts with a design that a school parent had originally conceived as a school fundraiser. And dozens of other businesses held fundraisers and put out donation jars on their counters for months.

During Friday’s monthly Art Up Artwalk, the Phinney Center Gallery is hosting the grand opening of “Greenwood Rising,” a collaboration of the PNA and Urban Hands (a Greenwood nonprofit that provides free meals to tent cities and others in need, and which organized a massive neighborhood cleanup and painting party the Saturday after the explosion.) The show is up now at the PNA, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., and features the artwork of numerous street artists who donated their talents to paint colorful plywood murals over the many blown-out windows and doors of downtown businesses. Professional photographer Chuck Johnson has created new art by combining photos of the murals with mixed digital art to bring to life different components of the images. The original pieces are not for sale but prints of most of the pieces will be available. You can meet many of the artists at the opening reception from 7-9 p.m. on Friday. The show will be at the Phinney Center Gallery through April 7.

“Greenwood Rising” was a motto taken on by the neighborhood after the explosion, to illustrate its resilience. It’s also the second time the neighborhood has used a variation of that motto – the first was when an arsonist destroyed four businesses just half a block away in October 2009 and artists depicted a phoenix rising from the ashes on a huge mural that covered the safety fence where the businesses used to be. Part of that mural now lives in nearby Naked City Brewery’s beer garden, a permanent testament to the strength of Greenwood.

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