Ground Sinking in Seattle’s Pioneer Square Neighborhood Threatens Bookstore, Herb Shop

Water damage caused by ground settlement is threatening a number of small lifestyle businesses throughout Seattle, WA’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.

According to a December 13 KING 5 News article, water damage has taken its toll on Arundel Books and The Hidden Alchemist, two shops located on the underground level of Pioneer Square. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) data shows that the ground level throughout the area has sunk between one and 1.4 inches, possibly a result of Hurricane Bertha.

At Arundel Books, a small bookstore, some 200 books have already been destroyed by mold, according to owner Phil Bevis, after moisture seeped through the brick walls of the store’s back room. Bevis said this is the first time something like this has happened in his bookstore. It usually takes just 24 to 48 hours for mold to start growing after water seeps through a building’s foundation. Bevis has since boxed up about 4,000 of his shop’s books to prevent them from being destroyed.

At The Hidden Alchemist, owner Sunny Savina says, the sinking ground caused a water pipe to burst, which in turn destroyed her herb shop’s stock of homegrown mint and lemon balm. The amount of herbs destroyed was worth about $1,000.

WSDOT crews are currently investigating sinking throughout the city. According to a KIRO 7 article, the WSDOT’s revised map shows that sinking related to Bertha is much more widespread than originally believed. However, WSDOT officials reported that the city’s viaduct has settled evenly, which indicates its structural integrity has largely remained intact.

According to KIRO 7, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said the buildings throughout the Pioneer Square neighborhood are not at risk — but the shop owners themselves appear to see things differently.

“If this problem isn’t fixed right away, we’re going to have to move the store,” Bevis told KING 5 News.

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