West Seattle, Washington
The long-awaited West Seattle Trader Joe’s at 4545 Fauntleroy Way SW opens at 8 am. Mark says he got there at 4:30 am to be the first person in line. As of about quarter till 7, when we photographed him in the golden glow of the rising sun, Mark was the only person in line. He tells us first thing he’s buying is a case of the famous TJ’s wine, known by its nickname “Two-Buck Chuck.” More coverage to come – we’ll be adding to this story through the day.
7:59 AM: By the time the doors were about to open, Mark had been joined by about two dozen others:
8:12 AM: Our crew tells us the store actually opened a few minutes early. Here’s the ceremonial lei-cutting:
So, no traffic jam at this hour. We’ll check back later.
10:14 AM UPDATE: Thanks for sharing first-hand reports in the comment section! We also got a mural photo, shared via Twitter by Jose:
— Jose Mandojana (@mandojana) April 13, 2012
11:07 AM UPDATE: Three hours into Day 1, we drove back by to check traffic/parking. In a word: Busy. Here’s the view looking south down 39th SW – just west of the store (and on the left of our photo, you’ll see the entrance/exit to TJ’s roof parking) – this was taken before 11 am, so West Seattle Bowl wasn’t even open yet:
4:53 PM UPDATE: Drove by within the past hour. Still busy. Remember that if it looks like there’s no parking in the lot that faces Fauntleroy, turn right at “The Hole” and try the upstairs parking, entrance on the right (east) side of 39th SW.
11:41 PM NOTE: In the final hours of the store’s first day, business was really booming. We walked through around 7:30 and noticed long checkout lines; after we tweeted a mention of that, @juyeda – also in the store – tweeted this photo. And we forgot to mention one thing – this store has just officially applied for its license to sell liquor when privatization takes full effect June 1st.
Might be a bit of a rubbernecker slowdown on Fauntleroy Way en route to the bridge around 8 am tomorrow, since that’s when the West Seattle Trader Joe’s finally opens, two years after the location first appeared on the city website, which was two months before the lease was signed and the official announcement made. One of the city-operated cameras on the WSB Traffic page, by the way, has long been pointed right at that building:
We also wanted to remind you it’ll be Spokane Street Viaduct Traffic Switch Day 2 – check the comments on this morning’s story for a review of day 1 – AND SDOT also wants to make sure you know the evening commute through Pioneer Square/SODO may be affected by the home opener for the Mariners, 7:10 pm vs. the Oakland A’s.
Meantime, a few more views of the new store – starting with the murals, which Diane pointed out in the WSB Forums night before last, noting that they are easily visible from the street.
We have asked TJ’s repeatedly, through both local management and corporate PR, for permission to go into the store and take pictures, and it’s been repeatedly denied; they say there will be no media previews, period. But at least we can show you what is visible from the street since their windows are huge and uncovered. Above, one mural shows the Alki Lighthouse (and check out the Water Taxi on the left!); we’ve been trying to guess the next one, mostly out of sight behind the light fixtures and sign (Fauntleroy Schoolhouse?):
Meantime, we are getting recurring questions about the parking situation. What you might not realize is that the surface lot – which has an entrance at 38th/Fauntleroy south/east of, and separate from, the exit onto Fauntleroy – is only part of it.
There’s also upstairs parking; J. Hughes Construction, Inc., is working on finishing touches this morning. This too has separate entrances and exits, both off 39th SW (south of West Seattle Bowl and across the street from “The Hole”) – here’s the entrance:
And just north is the exit:
Store hours, according to the TJ’s website, will be 8 am-9 pm. And if somehow this is the first you are hearing of all this and you don’t know where the store is – 4545 Fauntleroy Way SW. It’s been 21 months since the company announced it had leased the former Huling Brothers Buick site, P.S. We’ve added two additional photos to our “West Seattle Trader Joe’s” board on Pinterest.
(Photo by WSB editor Tracy Record)
Eight days ago, we showed you the first “signage sighting” at the soon-to-open West Seattle Trader Joe’s, as banners appeared on the construction fence, including “Now Hiring.” (Our February 29th story includes info on how to apply.) Driving past the site at 4545 Fauntleroy in The Triangle a few minutes ago, we spotted crews putting up the permanent signage. Projected opening date remains April 13th (no official corporate HQ announcement yet, so there’s always a chance it might change.)
SATURDAY NOTE: We have since photographed the second and third signs – you’ll find them on the WSB Facebook page.
First sighting of signage at the almost-ready West Seattle Trader Joe’s (4545 Fauntleroy Way SW) – ‘now accepting applications’ and ‘now hiring’ banners. Though neither wants to be identified, two sources reiterate to WSB that April 13th continues to be the target opening date.
12:51 P.S. – The jobs are NOT yet listed on the TJ’s website (though you can download a generic company job application) – driving by a second time, we noticed a small posting next to the banner, so we’re going over to see what it says. (If anybody from TJ’s sees this – the WSB Forums offer free listings for West Seattle jobs – available to any business, as long as the job is IN West Seattle – go here.)
2:40 PM UPDATE: The smaller sign says they’re taking applications Mondays-Fridays, 7 am-5 pm, and a hand-lettered sign next to it adds that you should apply at the trailer in the parking lot by the future main entry. Phone number is also posted: 206-496-9884.
We got a note over the weekend saying that Trader Joe’s has set April 13th – two months from today – as opening date for its long-awaited, long-under-construction West Seattle location (4545 Fauntleroy Way SW). The sender did not want to be identified, but we did some checking and have multiple reasons to believe they’re reliable. Before mentioning this, we wanted to give the company a chance to confirm/deny, but as with other inquiries in recent months, no reply. (They tend to go into quiet mode at this phase of the game, we’ve heard from others covering under-construction stores, as they assemble the staff and go into the final work phase.) We reported back in December that another source gave us a guesstimate of early spring, and this is in line with that. Plus – most other regional openings have been on Fridays – and April 13th is, yes, Friday the 13th – so we’re sharing this info with you with the caveat that, as with many things on projects like this, it may well change. (You’ll recall that when work began at the site last year, the store was expected to open in late 2011; the last time we got a company reply to an inquiry was in September, when they confirmed it would not be open till 2012.) As for when a formal announcement of the opening date might come – hard to say – when TJ’s opened in Ballard, for example, it simply appeared as a sign on the window one day.
If you’re not among the Trader Joe’s fan base … just skip right over this one. Nothing earthshaking, but it’s a semi-goofy little Friday night tidbit:
Every so often – despite the ongoing construction (which we updated here the day after Christmas) – someone e-mails us to ask, with skepticism, “Well, how come Trader Joe’s doesn’t list West Seattle on its page of ‘coming soon’ stores?” We always reply by explaining that we have watched their website a LONG time while covering all this, and TJ’s doesn’t seem to add future stores to the list till they’re almost ready to open. Having said that, we checked their website tonight for the first time in a week or so and noticed West Seattle is finally on the list:
So for anyone STILL skeptical, there you go. (If you missed our recent update, the opening is currently projected for early spring.)
That’s the most-asked question of 2011. Corporate didn’t answer recent inquiries, so…
… two things: First, compare how the site looks today, to the rendering made public when it was announced a year and a half ago:
Second, we do have a very unofficial source’s recent guesstimate of an early-spring opening. It’s been almost four months since Trader Joe‘s corporate HQ confirmed the West Seattle store wouldn’t open till next year, seven months since the extensive remodeling began at 4545 Fauntleroy Way SW, and 18 months since the official announcement the lease had been signed. What’s taking so long? you might wonder. The site has apparently posed some challenges – checking the online city files, for example, a permit revision was granted earlier this month for a “2nd-floor parking level modifications.”
If you were looking forward to holiday food shopping at the new West Seattle Trader Joe’s – sorry to report, that apparently isn’t going to be possible. When construction at the 4545 Fauntleroy Way SW site started more than three months ago, the company told us it expected to open the store in the fourth quarter of this year. With that time frame approaching, some asked for an official update – including the WSB Forums member who started this thread, with one commenter subsequently posting that the opening had been delayed till first quarter of 2012. We renewed our inquiry to Trader Joe’s, and after a bit of confusion, got the answer back today from corporate HQ: “We are set to open sometime in 2012. We have not confirmed a date.”
Today is a semi-momentous anniversary for a certain devoted group of WSB’ers: Exactly one year ago today, Trader Joe’s announced it’s opening a West Seattle store. (Here’s our original June 16, 2010, report with the news release and comments from property owner Steve Huling; we’d been watching the site since the previous April, when a city website mentioned the possible TJ’s.) As noted here 3 weeks ago, construction is under way – inside before outside, though now that all the permits are finalized, there’s exterior work too, and the banners with contractor information for J. Hughes Construction are brand-new today.
If you’ve missed our last few updates – though the company’s plans on file with the city mention a six-month construction schedule, a TJ’s spokesperson would say only that they’re expecting to open “in the fourth quarter” of this year.
Across the Sound in Kitsap County, TJ’s fans are counting the hours till 8 am tomorrow, when their first Trader Joe’s opens in Silverdale; just like here, some people are saying, “What’s the big deal?” so a Kitsap Sun food writer set out to break down that question.
All quick notes, all from the same area of West Seattle, all businesses, so here’s the roundup:
‘THE HOLE’ SETTLEMENT: After breaking the news Friday that the longrunning legal fight over the stalled Fauntleroy Place project, alias ‘The Hole,’ had been settled, we had expected to discover the details by now. So far, no luck with any of various parties to the case. So we checked back today with the bailiff for King County Superior Court Judge Susan Craighead, who has been in charge of the case, to see what they’d heard. Jennie Cowan says the August 8th trial date technically is still on the books but, “It is likely the parties will file a notice indicating settlement and striking the trial date within the next week.” We’ll be watching for that.
TRADER JOE’S – ALL PERMITS IN HAND, PLUS …
The construction work is proceeding inside 4545 Fauntleroy Way, as the above photo (from Wednesday) would suggest, but never fear, outside work has now gotten the green light too (we reported the indoor permit back on May 21). The city has now granted ALL the requisite building/land-use permits listed on the official project page. And Trader Joe’s has applied for its West Seattle liquor license, too (for beer/wine tasting as well as beer/wine grocery store) – the online records yield a tiny tidbit: West Seattle will be TJ’s Store #157. (Its next new Northwest store, in the Kitsap County town of Silverdale, is scheduled to open one week from tomorrow.)
LES SCHWAB WORK INTENSIFIES:
Thanks to Celeste for the tip that, after the fence went up May 28th (she was one of the tipsters then too), crews are in view outside the future Les Schwab Tires location at 38th and Alaska. We first reported the plans in late January; the company has yet to publicly discuss its West Seattle location-in-progress, but we have yet another inquiry out and hope to hear back.
Last Saturday, we reported the first construction permit granted for the long-awaited West Seattle Trader Joe’s at 4545 Fauntleroy Way SW, meaning construction is imminent. And here’s another sign – as of this afternoon, the fence is up. We have a message out to corporate PR to ask if they have any update from the six-month construction schedule listed in the plans we reviewed downtown earlier this year. (ADDED 4:37 PM: A TJ’s spokesperson tells WSB they won’t get any more specific than “4th quarter” for an expected opening date.)
SIDE NOTE: Seems West Seattle Trader Joe’s fans have kindred spirits across the water in Kitsap County. They’re finally getting one, in Silverdale, – and this Kitsap Sun story about its impending opening next month includes the same sort of saga we’ve gone through here over years of rumors/etc.
STILL skeptical about the West Seattle Trader Joe’s that was first announced almost a year ago (after years of rumors, speculation, discussion, etc.)? If nothing will cure your skepticism but the sight of construction work at the site, get ready to see it.
On the heels of the land-use approvals first reported here earlier this month, the first construction permit was granted yesterday – for interior “soft demolition” work, and a source tells WSB that construction work is expected to start next week. The exterior construction permit is still pending (here’s its page on the city website).
If you are just catching up on all this – Trader Joe’s plans to open a store at 4545 Fauntleroy Way SW, the old Huling Brothers Buick showroom. They are not tearing down the showroom building, but instead, converting it, and adding a facade (the rendering above was distributed when the store plan was formally announced last June). So when will it be open, you ask? When we reviewed hard-copy plans at city offices downtown in February, we found a projection of a six-month construction schedule.
For those following this project step by step: The land-use decisions for the West Seattle Trader Joe’s are indeed published today, as we reported the other day that they would be. Here’s the one for the main part of the project; here’s the one for additional parking spaces. Both include “determinations of non-significance” meaning no formal environmental review is needed. Both decisions (the docs with the fine print are linked from the notices our links point you to) have a 2-week window now for potential appeals; the construction permit also would have to be granted before work could begin, but permit-wise, they are two-thirds of the way there.
After another wave of “what’s up with the West Seattle Trader Joe’s and why hasn’t work started already?” we checked around this morning, and uncovered big news: The city’s decision on the project’s Land Use Permit will be published in the city’s next Land Use Information Bulletin, which comes out on Thursday, according to Bryan Stevens from the Department of Planning and Development. (That’s also noted behind the “land use” tab of this DPD page.) And sources suggest to WSB the decision’s a thumbs-up. That’s a major step toward the start of construction, though Stevens cautions, “The related construction permit will need to be obtained before work can begin. Corrections are currently being addressed by the applicant.” (If you are interested in all the minutiae, you can click through the tabs at the bottom of DPD project pages like this one for the TJ’s building permit, particularly “reviews” – the department now puts more detailed information online than they used to.)
Of course, we know the main answer you want is – when will it be open? Project documents we perused at DPD HQ downtown for this February update project a six-month construction schedule, so there’s still a chance it will at least be open in time for Christmas shopping. (And if you are completely new to this story – the location is 4545 Fauntleroy Way SW, the former longtime Huling Brothers Buick showroom; the building will get a new facade on its southeast-facing side, but the project overall for the 14,000-square-foot store boils down to remodeling, not rebuilding. It’s now been almost eleven months since the original announcement.)
Two updates this afternoon on sites from the WSB watch list:
SHOREMONT APARTMENTS: Thanks to Patricia for sending the photo after spotting the land-use sign that went up in the past day or so outside the once-targeted-for-demolition Shoremont (2464 Alki SW). We reported back in December that a Mercer Island investor’s deal to buy it had closed; that purchase followed a period of bank (and even federal) ownership, which in turn followed a proposal 3 years ago to demolish it and put up an ultramodern complex. The new proposal is described on the sign and on the DPD website as adding one unit to each of two three-unit buildings, for eight units total. To find out what exactly that entails, we’ll likely have to check the files downtown (which we had done a few weeks ago, knowing a proposal was in the works, but nothing had been filed yet). The DPD website says a formal comment period will open with this Thursday’s Land Use Information Bulletin.
TRADER JOE’S SITE: It’s been three whole weeks since our last update, so if you’re among those starved for incremental info, here’s the latest bit of news: The DPD officially “accepted the application” last Thursday for the main part of the project to turn the old Huling Brothers Buick showroom site (4545 Fauntleroy Way) into a new Trader Joe’s store (rendering at right). As we had written last month, there had been some back-and-forth about parking on the site and other details, but “application accepted” is one milestone toward the permit being granted. As we noted while reviewing the file last month, TJ’s thinks construction will take about six months, so assuming a permit’s granted before long, the current realistic timetable for opening is probably fall.
With six weeks having gone by since our last progress report on the West Seattle Trader Joe’s, we weren’t surprised to see questions come up in the comment thread on this past Monday’s Triangle open house. Then, just as we got ready to start on an update, two people e-mailed to say the Burien Trader Joe’s staff — long a source of West Seattle rumors, it seems – had told West Seattle shoppers that the project was allegedly having permit problems. Keep in mind, the formal permit application was made just two months ago, and these things seldom move swiftly through the city pipeline. But to get a better idea of where it’s at, we did two things: 1. Went downtown to the Department of Planning and Development to look into the application file. 2. Talked to John Wunder, who represents properties (including this one at 4545 Fauntleroy Way) owned by Steve Huling and family (the site was the longtime Huling Brothers Buick showroom). Here’s what we found out:
THE FILE: The documents we reviewed at DPD HQ at noontime yesterday appear relatively routine. The newest one-sheet, from the land-use review, was dated February 1st. Most of the back-and-forth has to do with parking for the store, some of which will be on the building’s rooftop parking area, some of which will be on the ground-level lot. According to the documents, some of the parking was in conflict with a strip that’s on the record as an alley, so the city asked that parking proposed for that “alley” area be removed. The city asked for a traffic study and more information on where the “loading berth” will be. A few data points of interest are also in the application – it’s expected the project will generate 1,365 daily vehicle trips. The exterior modifications (architect rendering at right) will bring the height to 39’9″ in at least one spot, a few feet higher than it is now. It appears that only one comment was received during the recent open-comment period for the project’s environmental review; a North Seattle woman wrote that she felt the project would have an environmental impact, and hoped that trees would be included. (The proposal does call for adding “landscaping islands” that are projected to reduce the amount of “impervious” surface on the site.)
THE PROPERTY REP: John Wunder says he’s checked with key players on the project, and there’s really nothing to say other than, it’s proceeding. They hope to finish the permit process this spring.
The documents on file with the city project a 175-day construction schedule – that’s just under six months – so you could certainly conclude the store is not likely to be open before late summer/early fall. (The original TJ’s announcement last June promised only “2011.”) According to the documents, Trader Joe’s would seek to “commence construction immediately” once the permits are granted. The file also notes that “50 to 75 employees” are expected to work at the store.
As first reported here last Tuesday, the official city signage is up at the future West Seattle Trader Joe’s site (map), announcing the formal application for city permits. They’re not creating new buildings on the site, as noted in this followup after the original announcement in June, so no public hearing is planned at this point, but a public-comment period is now open. Today’s city Land Use Information Bulletin includes the first two official notices published online, both with comment deadlines set for January 9th: One for 4545 Fauntleroy, including building modifications and part of the parking, and one for 4527 Fauntleroy for the rest of the parking. Both of those links go to city pages that include instructions on how you can comment on the project, which requires an environmental review taking into account an “environmentally critical area” on the site (a steep slope on the north side of the site; a “preliminary assessment” of the site is viewable online here).
(WSB photo by Katie Meyer)
If you remained skeptical even after our story last week about the official permit paperwork progressing for the future West Seattle Trader Joe’s – here’s new proof it’s advancing. Property owner Steve Huling called WSB tonight to let us (and you!) know that the official city sign has gone up to tell all interested parties that the site is under environmental review for a land-use permit (as you can see here), and we just procured our own photographic proof. As noted in our earlier coverage, and in the permit applications, they are not demolishing any buildings, so this isn’t expected to be a long construction process; most recent estimated opening date was sometime in the spring. (P.S. As discussed in comments on our previous story, the “environmentally critical area” on the site involves a steep slope. The sign posting opens a comment period for this review of the project; here’s official city info on how to comment.)
(Rendering provided by Trader Joe’s with the June West Seattle announcement)
Update for those who drive by the future West Seattle Trader Joe’s location (4545 Fauntleroy Way SW) and wonder when you’ll see signs of remodeling activity: There’s finally a bit of motion in that direction. If you have been following the saga, you know that last time we talked to a spokesperson for the property owner, the company told him they were about to officially apply for permits. That didn’t happen quite as immediately as expected, but the online Department of Planning and Development files are finally showing activity – and we know it’s brand-new, not just because of the dates, but because we’ve checked the online files for the site every day since the June announcement, so we know when something has changed. Putting it all together from the outside is a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, but here goes: First, there’s a new, separate land-use permit application file here, with the summary:
Land use application to allow 29 parking stalls for a total of 76 parking stalls in an environmentally critical area. Project includes change of use from automotive sales and service to general retail sales and service (Trader Joe’s), modifications to front façade to create new entry and exit tower, elevator and stairwell.
The “fees and receipts” tab on the same DPD webpage indicates a variety of fees paid just yesterday, including one for the Land Use Information Bulletin, which means an official comment period is likely to open for this shortly, when you see a city informational sign go up at the site. And new contacts have been added, including a Redmond architecture firm, and a corporate contact at TJ’s HQ in Southern California. In addition, that page points to another case number for an additional address on the site – 4527 Fauntleroy Way – with its own set of fees marked as paid today. Meantime, according to the “inspections” tab on this DPD page, a “pre-application site visit” happened last week. We’ve had a request out for corporate comment for a few days, no reply so far, so reading the paperwork tea leaves yields the most information at this point.
EX-REDLINE SITE: Just a month after Redline Music and Sports closed at 4439 35th SW, we got reports of work at the site, and we wondered if perhaps it was related to the development proposal that was reviewed last year. Nothing on the city docket – but perusing the liquor-license applications, we discovered we’d missed something last week: A new establishment seeking the license under the name The Bridge. We’ve got an inquiry out to one of the prospective owners in hopes of finding out more.
FUTURE TRADER JOE’S: At the end of September, we contacted site spokesperson John Wunder of Associates West Real Estate to ask why nothing had happened yet with the plan announced in June to remodel the old Huling Buick showroom at 4545 Fauntleroy Way into a new Trader Joe’s. He in turn checked with Trader Joe’s development department – which has been fairly impenetrable from the media front – and reported back that they expected to apply for a permit “within a month.” Now that the month’s come and gone, and because someone asked us about a rumor of trouble, we checked back with Wunder. He says Trader Joe’s is expecting to file the official application next week: “It’s taking a little longer than we thought, but it’s still going to happen.”
(Rendering provided by Trader Joe’s with the June West Seattle announcement)
With three and a half months having elapsed since Trader Joe’s announced it was finally, really, truly coming to West Seattle – but no sign of construction on the site yet – some local TJ’s fans are starting to get nervous. We’ve received several notes in the past few weeks asking if we know why work hasn’t begun. The official online project page on the city Department of Planning and Development site hasn’t changed since shortly after the announcement, and DPD spokesperson Bryan Stevens says Trader Joe’s has not yet turned in the formal application for the building permit – so we talked with the local point person for the project: John Wunder from Associates West, who represents Huling-owned properties around the area, like this one. He says the project is still progressing, and that his Trader Joe’s contact told him today that they plan to file the official application within a month, to get permission for the remodeling work at the former Huling Buick showroom (as detailed in our post-announcement followup in June). According to Wunder, Trader Joe’s currently expects to be open here in “late spring of next year.”
SIDE NOTE: While talking with Wunder, we asked him about a rumor that Whole Foods – which as reported here in July has formally dropped out of the idled-and-court-knotted Fauntleroy Place project across the street – had reportedly signed a letter of intent for another Huling site. He says that is NOT true. He acknowledges they’ve spoken with Whole Foods, but suspects they’re far from the only local landowners/property managers who have done so.