"IT SOUNDS LIKE the new Fremont vs. the old Fremont," muses Kathryn Harper of the Seattle City Attorney's office. Sound Mind & Body Gym, a 40,000-square-foot heath club in Fremont, has threatened a lawsuit if the city grants the Fremont Sunday Market the street closure it needs to stay in business this summer. The market, made up of over 100 craftspeople and small vendors, has been a Fremont tradition for 12 years. An estimated 2,000-3,000 people shop there each Sunday during the summer.
Market in peril.
The gym's owners are upset that the market would occupy 72 on-street parking spaces directly in front of its building on North 34th Street between Evanston and Phinney avenues. The gym's lawyer, Don Running, wrote to the city: "The request to use public streets and parking to expand a private business to the detriment of other existing businesses is so outrageous that the city will be unable to articulate a defense." The market wouldn't obstruct street access to the gym's private parking lot, however.
If the gym has any allies in this battle, they're keeping quiet. A March 27 meeting seeking public comment on the issue turned into a lovefest for funky Fremont. Nearly half the event's 60 attendees heaped praise on the market, calling it the "envy of almost every other neighborhood" and "paramount" to Fremont's identity and the health of its small businesses. No one voiced opposition to granting the market a permit.
Redevelopment of the market's old site forced it to move to a nearby marina last summer, and shoreline management rules forced it to find a new site for 2002. Jon Hegeman, the market's founder and manager, says that if he fails to get a street permit in Fremont, the market may leave its "spiritual home" for Ballard. At Hegeman's request, eager Ballard merchants have already gathered the signatures needed to request a street closure there. So far, neither the mayor nor the city attorney have taken a position on the market's permit request.
In the meantime, Hegeman is hoping that the legal threats by the gym's co-owner, Vicky Aldrich, might bring the rapidly changing Fremont neighborhood together: "She may very well be the catalyst that reignites the community spirit from its slumber over the years."