Sunnyside Losing Downtown Businesses

Sunnyside Losing Downtown Businesses
SUNNYSIDE - KIMA has learned more businesses are leaving downtown Sunnyside. We found a lot of those business owners are blaming the city, citing crumbling sidewalks and 4 day work weeks. They say it's time to bring downtown Sunnyside into the 21st century. The city and Chamber of Commerce say they're working on it. What KIMA discovered is that time may be running out.

A furniture store has been a staple of downtown Sunnyside shopping for the last decade. But now, you'll have to drive over to Yakima Highway if you want to buy a new sofa or bed. H & H moved out of its downtown shop a couple of weeks ago, adding to a long list of businesses that used to call downtown home.

Online shopping and short trips to Yakima and the Tri-Cities have taken away some of that business. Outdated, crumbling storefronts are also making it tough to keep tenants.

"There's some buildings out there that look the same as they did 40 years ago," said Gerald Roy, Chamber of Commerce President. KIMA asked, " Is that an issue?" Roy answered, " That's part of it. It starts with infrastructure. There's issues with sidewalks, the streets, buildings."

Many blame the city. Roy says, "It has been quoted by some business owners that they feel that it is an impact. That the traffic on Fridays when the city is closed has decreased."

While that hurts a number of businesses, some are working it to their advantage. Brenda Mora with El Conquistador Restaurant said, "Our business has been good since we've been here, and it's better for us since they've moved out. More parking spaces for us."

But even with the benefit of having more parking spaces available, many downtown businesses still worry they'll be the last one standing.

Mora said, "Someday we're going to move out of here, too. We don't want to be the only one in downtown."

The Chamber, city and two other business groups are working together to come up with a downtown revitalization plan. That will include the hiring of a consultant at a cost of nearly $10,000. But just who will pay for that consultant is still up in the air. And the question is, can they make changes fast enough to keep what business is left?

The interim city manager told KIMA Sunnyside is more than willing to pay a portion of that consultant fee. It will be up to the Chamber, Port of Sunnyside and downtown association to cover the rest. They'll also use those future plans to seek out grant money from the state and feds, to pay for improvements.