West Seattle, Washington
(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.
New information this morning on West Seattle’s now-confirmed future Trader Joe’s (here’s our Wednesday story): We’ve just spoken with Associates West Real Estate‘s John Wunder, to whom property owner Steve Huling referred us for additional information following our conversation yesterday. One big question we asked him: While the preliminary city filing first noted here in April mentioned only “minor exterior improvements,” some seeing the project rendering above thought it looked like much more than that. No, he says, it really is “minor exterior (work)” – once you see what part of the building is involved:
We just went over to take that photo after Wunder explained that the rendering depicts what’s planned for the east/northeast corner of the building, where there’s currently a service entry to the garage, next to the showroom. “If you look closely at the rendering, you’ll see the same lines, so the entry is going to go right at the point of the building,” Wunder explained. (A wider shot would show Fauntleroy off the left side. Note that this also is kitty-corner to the under-construction Link.) He also said that while, as DPD‘s Bryan Stevens confirmed to WSB yesterday morning, the formal permit application for the 14,000+-square-foot store has not been filed yet, that should happen shortly. Wunder said, “We don’t anticipate problems; the preliminary meeting went well.”
(Future long-awaited West Seattle Trader Joe’s)
We’ve just spoken to Steve Huling, owner of the property that this morning has been confirmed as a new Trader Joe’s – the one we told you in late April was worth watching, after a notation appeared on the city DPD website – and he says he’s finally able to talk about the project, since the company this morning officially confirmed it: “Now that it’s out, I can finally start talking about it! They’re going to create a lot of new activity in the area. I think this is a great deal for the community.” First, here’s the news release from the company:
Trader Joe’s, a unique, neighborhood grocery store with foods and beverages from the exotic to the basic, has signed a lease to open a new West Seattle store located at 4545 Fauntleroy Way SW. The store is scheduled to open in 2011 and is approximately 14,200 square feet in size.
Trader Joe’s was originally named in recognition of its distinct grocery buying process, because they search the world for great values and distinctive products. Crew members (store employees) consider themselves “traders on the culinary seas.” Crewmembers sport brightly colored Hawaiian-themed shirts, adding to the light-hearted air of the store.
Many area residents after the store opens can expect to receive a copy of the Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer” in their mailboxes. The Fearless Flyer is a somewhat irreverent description of a timely selection of Trader Joe’s products. It’s been called a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine. Each edition highlights a selection of Trader Joe’s products that the company buyers believe are worthy of customer interest, including comfort foods and items that are organic or have other special attributes.
Trader Joe’s carries an extensive array of domestic and imported foods and beverages including fresh baked artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees, international frozen entrées, 100% juices, fresh crop nuts, deli items, and vitamins and supplements, as well as the basics, like milk and eggs – all at honest, low prices.
Trader Joe’s is truly a grocery store unlike any other. Trader Joe’s is a “store of stories,” meaning every item in the store has its own virtues — high quality ingredients, great flavor or simply an extraordinary price — many items often feature all of those qualities. Another significant point of difference, all of Trader Joe’s prices are everyday prices. Trader Joe’s doesn’t have “sales” for a few days, only to hike the prices back up again. Their prices change only when their costs change — there are no fancy promotions, discount cards or couponing wars.
So how does Trader Joe’s offer unique groceries at prices everyone can afford? By offering more than 1000 items under the Trader Joe’s private label, which includes Trader Darwin’s vitamins (For the Survival of the Fittest), Trader José’s salsas, Trader Giotto’s marinara sauces, in addition to specially purchased items.
Also, Trader Joe’s buys differently than other grocers – they purchase from manufacturers, not through distributors. They’ll take a brand name product, take out the preservatives and artificial colors and ingredients, and put it under their Trader Joe’s label to sell it at a real discount.
Trader Joe’s introduces approximately a dozen new items every week, heightening the store’s adventurous appeal. Our buyers travel around the world searching out unique products at great values. In order for an item to be sold in a Trader Joe’s store, it must pass the scrutiny of a discerning tasting panel. Thousands of items are tasted each year to find products that both appeal to the culinary adventurer and microwave aficionado.
Huling tells us it’s been tough to keep quiet until the company confirmed it publicly. He adds, “Since this has been announced, we’re hopeful there’ll be some additional activity in the area – I think this whole area (the Triangle) is getting ready to bust open. It’s nice, it’s a great community, and it’s nice to see all the growth and it sounds like it’s going to be done in a very respectful way.”
As for how soon construction will start – earlier this morning, we had spoken with Bryan Stevens at DPD. The construction permit has not yet been applied for – the “initial information collected” designation that remains on the DPD page means simply that conversations have been had, but no paperwork has been filed. ADDED 5:07 PM: This is the rendering provided by Trader Joe’s.
We spoke with the project architect before seeing it today and hope to speak with him again tomorrow to find out more about exactly where on the lot this is going, since the DPD notation was “minor exterior remodel,” and this would certainly go beyond that.
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:Read More
The ol’ Trader Joe’s rumor just keeps swishing around WS like a glass of Two-Buck Chuck in a Nisqually-length earthquake. An intrepid reader just e-mailed the company again, hoping perhaps for a pleasant surprise, and shared with us the following response. (Personally, we find the “check back in fall” rather intriguing!)
“At this time, we do not have any confirmed plans for Western Seattle. Feel free to check back sometime this fall for any updates.
Thanks for shopping with us,
Trader Joe’s Customer Relations”