Since “Trader Joe’s” is likely – if we had a way of ranking – the single-most-mentioned phrase here on WSB, we do periodically check out the rumors that come our way, especially if the same “rumor” comes from multiple sources. (Here’s a sample rumor check from 2007!) The latest trail started in the WSB Forums, and our ensuing research has turned up some interesting circumstantial evidence, though nothing definite yet. Read on to see what we’ve found out:
We embarked this week on ANOTHER round of rumor-checking – approximately the 1,075th in our 3+ years of doing news at WSB – after a WSB Forums thread (and a couple e-mails) popped up contending that people were hearing from employees at the Trader Joe’s Burien store that a definite West Seattle location had been found.
First, on Monday morning we called Trader Joe’s corporate headquarters, which had told us a few months ago nothing was in their “two-year plan” – through the end of NEXT year.
This time, the person answering the phone at corporate headquarters refused to put us through to the PR department, insisting West Seattle was “not on the list for THIS year.”
Next – this is still Monday – we called the Burien TJ’s to see if perhaps they had a different understanding, and if they were really telling customers their company had settled on a West Seattle site. Manager Dan talked with us and said, well, they all knew TJ’s was LOOKING for a West Seattle site, but nothing definite.
Some hours, and stories, passed. Looking again at what WSB’ers said they had heard – we decided to check the city Department of Planning and Development files for all the major remaining Huling sites, including 4545 Fauntleroy – the Buick showroom site:
And there, we we found this page on the city website, where the first word of permits and projects always pops up. Note the telltale line, which we screengrabbed:
(Sorry that’s hard to read – click through to the city site and you’ll see it more clearly.) The online file contains little else – not even a date. Seeking out anything additional that might be public, perhaps on a hard-copy form at a city facility downtown, we talked to Bryan Stevens at DPD. He confirmed by phone that it’s a new case in their system, so new that a “pre-submittal conference” meeting is scheduled for next week – the formal permit has not yet been applied for.
Next step: The property owner, Steve Huling. Wednesday, we tried multiple phone calls and even a visit to his Junction office. No luck. But he called back Thursday.
Though Huling acknowledged he is “excited” about the unspecified prospects for that site – he told us he cannot comment on any deal that might or might not be in the works, except to say that he has not yet signed any agreements with anyone to move into that site. 4545 Fauntleroy has had proposals before that fell through, he noted. (At one point, you may recall, while BlueStar was developing the site now known as The Hole, it announced an option on the Huling Buick showroom site, for a potential development to be called Gateway Center. In a recent conversation with WSB, BlueStar leadership confirmed they no longer hold that option.)
Before publishing this update, we had one more party to check back with: Trader Joe’s, again, to see if they would change the reply given what’s in the city system. We called and e-mailed the company’s national PR director Alison Mochizuki, who got back to us today:
I wanted to let you know that we are interested in West Seattle, but at this time we do not have a store location confirmed. However, I will be sure to update you if anything changes.
That statement alone is more than they’ve said about West Seattle in the past. But there the trail ends – so far.