Whole Foods site updates, and a tangentially related foreclosure

June 18, 2009 at 10:18 am | In Development, Triangle, West Seattle news | 56 Comments

(photo taken Tuesday, looking east from the west side of the site)
We’ve received a couple notes in the past week or so inquiring about the status of what’s been dubbed the “Hole Foods” site at Fauntleroy/Alaska/39th – where construction on a proposed Whole Foods Market/Hancock Fabrics/residential building has been stalled for more than half a year now – like this note from Dorothy:

I don’t see the Whole Foods sign at the dig at (Alaska) and Fauntleroy. Does this
mean they no longer plan to be there? What is the status of that construction site?

First of all – the banner that used to be on the fence there disappeared the day after our most recent report of vandalism (someone cut the W out of the word Whole). But aside from that, we were overdue for a project check anyway; read on to see what we have found out – both about this site, and another site linked to the Whole Foods project’s original developers:

First — Matt Segrest, first reported back in April to be working on purchasing the site, replied to our “checking in” inquiry:

Still working on a deal. No firm timetable right now. There has been no change in the Whole Foods lease status.

Which means, Whole Foods still has a lease for a store on the site. But this doesn’t bode well for the timetable first suggested by site owner Seattle Capital early this year, hoping for a deal closing “by the end of June” (as mentioned here) and construction resuming shortly afterward.

Next, a check of public records, which revealed two things: First, the two lawsuits we reported earlier this year (one filed by former project developer BlueStar Management, as reported here, and one filed by investor BAJ Capital, as reported here) have been consolidated into one case for trial purposes (if there is a trial, it wouldn’t happen till next year). And we discovered there’s a third lawsuit related to the property, filed in late April — Aero Construction is suing Ledcor Construction (whose name is still on banners on the site, and who is said to be “actively managing” the site), Whole Foods, Hancock Fabrics, and others, claiming it wasn’t paid for site work that Ledcor ordered, and seeking at least $810,000. See the lawsuit document here.

Last but not least, a semi-related bit of news: WSB has learned that one of the other West Seattle sites that was being developed by BlueStar was just put up for “trustee sale” (as in, foreclosure). This is the three-parcel site just south of The Junction where BlueStar was going to build this mixed-use building with the working name “Spring Hill” (no relation to the Junction restaurant):

5020nightview.jpg

Though we just received the information today, it indicates the trustee sale was held at the County Courthouse downtown last Friday, and an area bank was pursuing an opening bid of $2,895,000, with accompanying documents saying that the successful purchaser would have to negotiate with the project architects “for work performed to date and for completion of the working drawings.” (Here’s our story from when this project passed Design Review last September.)

As we have learned while pursuing information on the Whole Foods site, the project approvals obtained so far would not change just because of a site ownership change. But we’ll be trying to find out whether anyone actually successfully bid for the property.

Back to the Whole Foods site – if you missed it, two recent WSB stories: First, a West Seattleite’s question to the city about street stability alongside the hole (see the story here), and Mayor Nickels’ response to our question in a recent interview regarding what can be done to prevent this kind of thing – big hole dug, THEN project hits the rocks (see the story here).

56 Comments

  1. Thanks for staying on this story WSB! Clearly, the hopeful new developers exaggerated about their timelines and financing, and in fact don’t have any special access to a Commercial Real Estate loan when that entire market is collapsing. No surprise.
    .
    But where does that leave us in the area? Presumably, Whole Foods’s lease on the unbuilt building expires at some point. (They must not commit eternally to lease a property that does not yet exist.) Do we know the timing? Seems like once that lease expiration crosses with the most-optimistic construction horizon, Whole Foods could (& should) drop the project. And then what developer wants to build a site that big on spec, with only Hancock Fabrics as a tenant?
    .
    At which point I propose we make the best of what we’ve got, do adaptive re-use and turn it into a skatepark & farmer’s market!

    Comment by Sage — 10:37 am June 18, 2009 #

  2. I miss having a fabric store so close.

    Comment by lg — 11:14 am June 18, 2009 #

  3. Whole Foods is gone. It’s moot. It will be years before the lawsuits are settled, in the mean time, nothing will happen on the site. Unless the site is sold outright to entirely new developers for a new purpose. Sadly we’re stuck with one of the infamous ‘Seattle holes’ from dead projects.

    Hopefully in the future the city can require these big dangerous and ugly pits to be filled in if/when the projects die (give them ONE year to settle, then they have to fill it back it to grade).

    Comment by I had heard — 11:43 am June 18, 2009 #

  4. I second the fabric store comment. Actually I wasn’t even in this ‘hood when the old Hancock went away. But having moved from Ballard, I miss being close to fabric/craft shops. I don’t knit, so I sure hope someone opens up a little fabric store over here. That would be terrific. The Quilting Loft in Ballard is a good example to shoot for. But as for the hole, man. What a bunch of missed opportunities, and what an unsightly result. Such a shame.

    Comment by Dreamland — 11:58 am June 18, 2009 #

  5. I really cannot figure out the obsession with whole foods. I find the store to be very overpriced hence the nick name, whole paycheck.

    Comment by paul — 11:59 am June 18, 2009 #

  6. it would be so awesome (hate to bring it up again) but a trader joe’s…. ahhh.. w/ a skate park and a farmers market- still all less expensive than the whole foods and used by much more of the west seattle/ south seattle population… it would be awesome to tell my children they could go skate while i was shopping- man- that would make the trip so much quicker!! they’d look forward to going to the grocery/market…

    Comment by lashanna — 12:04 pm June 18, 2009 #

  7. trader joes.. or winco…

    both have a lot to recommend them.. i’d like to see both. it would save me a lot of driving:)

    and yes…. a fabric store…

    it’s too bad that all we can make are suggestions.. not votes:(

    Comment by JoB — 12:10 pm June 18, 2009 #

  8. 52 minutes before the first mention of Trader Joes. You guys are slipping. You’ve really got to want it to make it come true. Show your spirit!

    Comment by Eddie — 12:13 pm June 18, 2009 #

  9. So basically we’re going to have a big, frakkin’ hole in the middle of our quaint little hamlet for God knows how long thanks to so and so suing so and so over, well, I sure as hell can’t figure it out.

    Finally, I wonder if Whole (Paycheck) Foods realizes that from a PR perspective this doesn’t reflect well on building a good relationship with the community. I’m thinking no here, otherwise they might be leaning hard to get the work finished.

    Comment by OP — 12:30 pm June 18, 2009 #

  10. Trader Joes won’t be coming to this site. The TJ business model calls for going into low rent, out of the way structures to keep costs down. The “Hole Fodds” site is going to cost mucho $$$ to finish, it simply won’t work with a TJ. However, there are a number of existing buildings in WS that would work just fine. I won’t note any of those so I don’t start another rumor wave.

    Comment by wseye — 12:40 pm June 18, 2009 #

  11. RE: Trader Joes business model (from an industry insider):

    TJ opens a new store ONLY where they can do it at a GREAT bargain. Hole Foods (non-)site is not it.

    For those who want a WS TJ: Keep diligently looking. Find TJ a great bargain and *maybe* they will come.

    Comment by bolo — 12:55 pm June 18, 2009 #

  12. Let’s fill the hole with water an make it a municipal swimming pool.

    Comment by Jeff Hardwick — 12:58 pm June 18, 2009 #

  13. If Trader Joes got into the brand new “Ballard Blocks” complex for bargain, I’d be amazed.

    Comment by Johnny Davies — 1:01 pm June 18, 2009 #

  14. so when do we as a community stand up and scream “I’m mad as he!!, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”? I don’t think anyone of those people mentioned in the story is being entirely honest with WSB, and the community.Maybe we need to become more involved instead of just listening to their excuses…not sure how that’s done, but..there must be a way.

    Comment by JanS — 1:02 pm June 18, 2009 #

  15. Agree with Jan. Do we dare contact our political representatives, such as the city council or Dow Constantine? This entire business is utterly sleazy. Never trust what a PR person says…believe me, I’ve been there.

    Comment by Jeannie — 1:26 pm June 18, 2009 #

  16. Blue Star sounds like Enron – a house of cards.
    I agree that the community should not have to have this hole burden for 10 years until the lawsuits are settled. It’s at the mouth of our community, its ugly and its a nuisance.

    Comment by true — 1:43 pm June 18, 2009 #

  17. Unless YOU have a pile of REAL MONEY,
    all your whining to council, to the blog, and to the heavens
    is going to be worthless.
    It’s all about money, and in case you have not noticed,
    all the money has gone.
    The developers are broke.
    The banks are broke.
    The city is broke.
    We’d be better off trying to develop temporary community supplied resources to make the site more useful and attractive.
    I don’t think that would include anything related to shopping.

    Comment by old timer — 1:49 pm June 18, 2009 #

  18. Might be a nice spot for a light rail station!

    (although I doubt WS will ever get LR in my lifetime. and i’m not that old)

    Comment by Keith — 2:15 pm June 18, 2009 #

  19. Old Timer: Amen!

    I’m neutral about Whole Foods’ existence in West Seattle, but am tired of them being blamed for delays in site construction. They are simply a future tenant, not the project’s developer.

    Comment by AP — 2:15 pm June 18, 2009 #

  20. Old Timer is right. It’d be best that someone just go ahead and sacrifice themselves and jump in the hole. Once someone gets seriously hurt, something MIGHT change. Payment to this brave person will be the settlement of a great lawsuit (from suing the insurers of the developers who negligently left a huge hole in the ground). I would guess that a big insurance company that gets sued and has to pay a large settlement has enough power to leverage the developers to fill the hole.. before someone else jumps in the hole.

    Comment by Johnny Davies — 2:22 pm June 18, 2009 #

  21. How about stimulus money being used for sites like this across the county? The caveat is that the site would be sold at current market value and it must be used for…Oh, I I’d say a monorail station or light rail. West Seattle’s population has and will continue to expand. The commute from downtown & I-5 is going to be a nightmare when the viaduc is being constructed. Look at Rainer Valley, it’s really exciting to see what is happening over there.

    Comment by Grazer — 2:28 pm June 18, 2009 #

  22. Fill the hole and make it a mini-Butchart Gardens…a friend suggest this just this morning :)

    at least it would pretty-fy the area…

    Comment by JanS — 2:34 pm June 18, 2009 #

  23. Make it a diving pool could jump in from neighboring properties (hi-rise?)…
    then sell it as a tourist attraction thus garnering a reputation as grand as Mexico’s cliff divers…opens up a whole lot of tourism opportunities to west seattle…

    Or, its the start of a tunnel to downtown (ok, i do favor the dt tunnel, just thinking out loud…)

    Comment by Roger — 2:45 pm June 18, 2009 #

  24. I am just waiting for a car to go over the edge of that hole… and the related lawsuit.

    Having a hole like that next to a busy intersection is asking for trouble. It is only a matter of time before someone loses control in the intersection, goes over the sidewalk, and careens off that cliff into the hole.

    :)

    Comment by kevin — 3:05 pm June 18, 2009 #

  25. Where can I find polyester fiber fill in West Seattle? Since Hancock Fabrics closed, I’ve got a sock monkey project on hold (kind of like that big hole in the ground.)

    Comment by sarelly — 3:15 pm June 18, 2009 #

  26. Do all of you West Seattlites have soo much money your just dying to find another place to spend it? Lets not forget that PCC is here and local. Not to mention for all of you who want to throw away even more money on no-organic and non-local food can go to Metro Market.
    Who knows what will happen to the whole, but at least instead of driving your car to some other location, lets support what is here now!

    Comment by Tiffany — 3:17 pm June 18, 2009 #

  27. This is really unfortunate, but stalled projects such as this are a reality of the current recession. Developments like this are planned years in advance of breaking ground, so there are many “holes in the ground”, demolition sites, and vacant lots in every major city right now (nationally and internationally). It’ll take some time, but the majority of these projects will be built (in some form) eventually or sold to another developer. As for Whole Foods, I personally think they would do well in W. Seattle. But whether you like Whole Foods or not, none of delays with this project are their fault. They are a prospective tenant and have no control over the development or financing of the project.

    Comment by Meghan — 3:21 pm June 18, 2009 #

  28. Who cares about Whole Foods!? We DON’t NEED them!

    -Fresh pastries & bread from a world class bakery.

    -A Farmer’s Market that’s one of the best in the city, that offers seasonal fruit & vegetables AND open year round.

    -Fish (and soon to be Swinery with Cheese) Shop that is awesome and close.

    What can WF offer us that all of these great LOCAL business can’t? I hope it never gets built (and probably won’t anyway). I LOVE Keith & Grazer’s idea of the light rail station. I agree with JanS – How can we as a community get together and voice our opinion about this? People do it all the time to prevent places like a Walmart going in. As a resident who lives one block from the hole, and has seen parking impacting my neighborhood there must be something we all can do together about this.

    Comment by JBL — 4:10 pm June 18, 2009 #

  29. Back in the 70′s it sat as an empty lot as we waited for it to become a Disco, we had to drive all the way to Burien when we went to “Bumpers” right there where Dairy Queen is, around 132nd. So, maybe we can wait now for the fabric store to return, or maybe……………let’s turn it into a giant skate bowl, skateboard park!!!!!!

    Comment by linda08 — 4:23 pm June 18, 2009 #

  30. I know—how about building a stadium for a sports team
    on this hole? Shouldnt cost much !

    M G

    Comment by mike green — 4:40 pm June 18, 2009 #

  31. Jans – “turn it into a mini-Butchart Gardens”. LOL Nice! Why not? :)

    Comment by HomeOnBeachDrive — 5:10 pm June 18, 2009 #

  32. Whole Foods was already 2 years behind if I recall in getting the place built in W.S. They can’t blame the economy for bad upper management problems.

    Comment by jiggers — 5:59 pm June 18, 2009 #

  33. Never wanted a Whole Foods there and personally, even though I sew and ‘craft’, I tried my best not to need to go to Hancock’s with ther “seconds” fabrics and poor customer service. Trader Joe’s and a JoAnn Frabrics would be good alternatives. Although, in a perfect world, I’d love to see something classy and inviting as you drive into West Seattle. It’s so sad to drive by all the former Huling sites and empty stores and holes in the ground. Ho hum.

    Comment by WS resident — 7:42 pm June 18, 2009 #

  34. While that giant hole in the ground is hideous, is anyone really that excited for a glorified grocery store and yet more lame condos??? I agree with other commenters that this is an opportunity to put this space to much better use for the public and the community than just another place to consume and spend money. After all, runaway consumer culture is what got us in this mess to begin with. A light rail station, a public park, a permanent home for the farmer’s market, etc. all seem like better alternatives anyway. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise?!

    Comment by Anne — 8:06 pm June 18, 2009 #

  35. The hole junction reminds me of playing Sim City as a wee lad. You know, that random section of town in the lower corner you forget to keep an eye on, and before you know it buildings are collapsing, businesses/residents scurry away, and aliens are attacking.

    Comment by George — 8:10 pm June 18, 2009 #

  36. I know, how about a foundation for a monorail to down… oh, wait.

    Comment by Dude — 8:48 pm June 18, 2009 #

  37. It would make a great dog park. In fact, lets include the land from the old Huling Brothers dealership too. :-)

    Comment by EmmyJane — 8:58 pm June 18, 2009 #

  38. Reminds me of Lincoln Square in Bellevue…it was a sucking money pit and changed hands a couple of times before the owner of Bellevue Square purchased it after making a deal with Bellevue to change ordinances to allow skybridges. I’m all for something useful and not unsightly whatever that may turn out to be!

    Comment by rebster — 10:17 pm June 18, 2009 #

  39. Let’s fill it with chocolate and have a big fondue party!

    Comment by WSGuy — 10:27 pm June 18, 2009 #

  40. I love all the skatepark recommendations!
    I wish the big hole and the old car lots and buildings would turn into community space- meandering walking/strolling/rolling paths off the busy street, native plants, art galleries, community bulletin boards and event space. We deserve a path to the heart of West Seattle that is safe and healthy for everyone.
    Anyone know what is going on with the old Huling/Gee space/properties? I wonder if we can we rent/use the space for community events?

    Comment by seaweedtoasted — 11:10 pm June 18, 2009 #

  41. To whomever is responsible for this mess, speak up, and let us know what’s going on, stand up and end the speculations.

    Comment by Chris D — 11:24 pm June 18, 2009 #

  42. Chris D, my story is kind of the point.
    .
    There is no one person responsible for the site. (My job as a journalist covering this situation would certainly be easier if there were!) That is a fact, but people are going to speculate anyway – they did, even when actual construction was going on.
    .
    Multiple investors and developers and construction companies are and have been involved, many of which are currently suing each other. You can read the documents, all linked to the stories we’ve done, which in turn are linked above – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:30 pm June 18, 2009 #

  43. I am not at all sad about the implosion of WF and ‘more lame condos’, but the hole is grim. I run by it almost every day and the ideas of a park-like situation are good. Being so close to Huling property I would like to see a statue dedicated to Huling Chevrolet: something like a broken-down GM product, surrounded by a sleazy sales staff and a shaky/overpriced repair dept. I can provide the Chevy S-10.

    Comment by stevef — 8:00 am June 19, 2009 #

  44. Has anyone noticed that as you drive by the hole at the defunct Whole Foods site on Alaska that the road is starting to erode away? The structure that is in place to hold open that hole is not designed to be a permanent structure. If someone doesn’t fill the hole soon, we could lose part of Alaska Way! Not only is Alaska Way in danger–so is the building that houses the bowling alley. I really hope there is a construction manager monitoring the erosion and settlement of that hole.

    Comment by angelica — 9:09 am June 19, 2009 #

  45. Please follow the link in the last paragraph of the story for the latest on that (following the phrase “street stability”) … TR

    Comment by WSB — 9:24 am June 19, 2009 #

  46. WE HAVE TOO MANY DOG PARKS IN SEATTLE. NO NEED ANOTHER ONE.

    Comment by jiggers — 2:18 pm June 19, 2009 #

  47. The economy has changed, and everything will have to change with it. Property owners have many considerations and if you don’t own it, it’s not your consideration.

    Comment by Natalie — 4:14 pm June 19, 2009 #

  48. Right on Natalie! And to those that advocate that the city or some public agency develop a park, greenspace, whatever, please indicate where you expect the funds to come from to pay for that.

    Many are willing to complain, few are willing to pay one red cent additional taxes for what they think “someone” should do.

    Comment by Eddie — 7:08 pm June 19, 2009 #

  49. Every time i pass one of the empty Huling properties, which is pretty much every day, i say to myself and anyone with me, “Visualize Trader Joe’s.” Some of those buildings look like a TJ would fit inside nicely, and goodness knows there’s enough parking spaces attached to each of the Hulings.
    Maybe, if at a given minute/hour/day, we all do this at the same time, the message will transmit through the ethers: Visualize Trader Joe’s.
    Here’s hoping.

    Comment by Carol — 8:53 pm June 19, 2009 #

  50. Here’s an idea. Finish the foundation underground parking structure as designed. Open it for parking to support the local businesses as the site was used prior to the dig. How many parking spaces would that provide?

    Let Skillet have a street level stall. Fresh concrete for the skate punks. P-patch container gardens section. Public art corner.

    Finish the retail and condo space whenever.

    I know I would shop in the area more often.

    Comment by james — 9:33 pm June 19, 2009 #

  51. Jiggers, there’s only one dog park in WS, FYI, the Westcrest Park Off-Leash Area.

    Comment by WSB — 11:37 pm June 20, 2009 #

  52. how about building a huge beautiful fountain…so when all of us motorists are driving by, we can reach into our pockets and throw our spare change into the fountain and make a wish… you know..like wishing we had some actual say in what happens to our area…like wishing we didn’t have to look at this crap for who knows how long…

    Comment by larry — 7:49 am June 21, 2009 #

  53. Seattle must be one of the most volunteered state in the country. Every time i read an article i see people volunteering for this and for that. What the hell are we paying taxes for? It’s almost funny! We should just start paving the roads ourselves, trimming the trees, and changing the bulbs on the streetlights! this is riduculous. Tomorrow it will be something else..we need volunteers for this..(always in a nice way) My point is… as long as were doing everything else,why don’t we all VOLUNTEER to get a bunch of dirt and fill in the hole ourselves!!!

    Comment by sea-sea — 8:01 am June 21, 2009 #

  54. For those of you looking for fabric: There’s a great new quilting shop on Vashon. It’s right in the main part of town and therefore an easy bus ride off the ferry – no need to pay the car price to get on the boat. It’s called Island Quilter and they have BEAUTIFUL fabrics. It puts the Quilters Loft and Jo-Ann’s to shame. Definitely worth a trip for those that are hard core (and even not so hard core) quilters/sewers/crafters.

    Comment by rudy — 2:18 pm June 21, 2009 #

  55. I’d like a Trader Joes in WS!!!

    Comment by Laetitia — 2:18 pm June 22, 2009 #

  56. I think Seattle as a city has bigger problems then holes in the ground…. Such as people who have recently loss their jobs that were living paycheck to paycheck to begin with (because they are students that don’t have parents to pay for everything and want an education), and now can’t pay rent, electric bills, and fear being homeless! I think the community should focus on these matters! I mean come on your just upset to see a freak’n eye sore! These developers are like everyone else that have made the economy mistake… don’t spend what you can’t afford!

    Comment by scs — 8:02 am June 23, 2009 #

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