West Seattle, Washington
(WSB file photos from 2014 council hearing)
Six years after a City Council vote closed a bitter political chapter in West Seattle development history, the current council will consider a coda of sorts. It’s the official finalization (PDF) of the alley vacation required by The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW). An item on the council’s Introduction and Referral Calendar for the week ahead finalizes the vacation – the city’s relinquishing of the alley, for which the development paid what was considered fair market value, noted in the new document as $2.3 million. The council in April 2014 gave its approval to the vacation despite active opposition from then-Mayor Mike McGinn, who primarily objected to the plan for non-union Whole Foods Market (WSB sponsor) to be part of the development (citing other reasons too). A union-led campaign rallied local opposition, and eventually there was a showdown at council chambers downtown. The vacation was approved, and the new document shows that $2.3 million purchase was finalized about a year and a half now. This action is basically a technicality but will go through a committee vote first. SIDE NOTE: (corrected) Only one of the councilmembers serving now was on the council then (Kshama Sawant took office in January 2014).
West Seattle’s second grocery-store opening in eight days brought about 600 people streaming into Whole Foods Market (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW; WSB sponsor) in the first 20 minutes. Once inside, those who had been lined up outside got a raucous welcome from a lineup of cheering, applauding employees:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) October 9, 2019
Among those welcoming shoppers, the store’s team leader (aka manager) Gary Ruiz:
The store opened a bit earlier than announced – 8:46 am.
Within 10 minutes, the free tote bags were gone, but greeters continued handing out cards with “mystery savings” – anywhere from $5 to $100, to be scanned at the checkout counters, all of which were soon busy:
For a detailed look at store features (and a review of the 13+-year backstory), see our “sneak preview” published Tuesday. The store is open until 9 tonight (regular hours 8 am-9 pm).
SIDE NOTE: This is West Seattle’s fifth grocery-store grand opening in a decade. Coverage of the previous three:
Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
We toured the new store today for a preview before the doors officially open at 9 am Wednesday.
The store comes with a huge backstory; a lot has changed in those 13 1/2 years. It originally was supposed to be in a development called Fauntleroy Place across SW Alaska; that project stalled post-excavation and Whole Foods eventually pulled out, saying the terms of its lease – to provide a store for it to open – weren’t being fulfilled. Eventually, after a legal fight and auction, a different developer opened the project as Spruce, with LA Fitness in the commercial space. But by the time that opened four years ago, Whole Foods was already signed up as anchor tenant for The Whittaker – a seven-year journey that had more stops and starts, including a mayoral attempt to stop it and a short-lived decision to shelve the project. Then Amazon bought Whole Foods, and two years ago, the store plan was back on.
Now on with the tour: Read More
Whole Foods Market will open its new 45,000 square-foot West Seattle store, located at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW in The Whittaker Apartment Complex, at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, October 9. Opening day celebrations will include music and complimentary samples from local vendors before the store opens. The first 300 customers will receive a Whole Foods Market West Seattle reusable canvas tote bag including snacks, swag and a savings card with a mystery value ranging between $5 and $100.
“We can’t wait to open our doors to the West Seattle community,” said Gary Ruiz, Store Team Leader. “Featuring products from more than 700 local suppliers, grocery items and prepared foods for all tastes and preferences and décor inspired by the scenes of Seattle, we’re excited for our neighbors to experience a Whole Foods Market designed specifically for this community.”
All food at Whole Foods Market must meet the company’s rigorous quality standards, which prohibit hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. In addition, all beauty and body care products must meet the company’s body care standards, which ban animal testing and more than a hundred commonly used ingredients.
Special features of the store will include:
· Fresh produce department with seasonal fruits and vegetables, including selections from 10 local suppliers
· Full-service butcher department featuring in-house-made sausages, kebabs and chicken from local suppliers
· Seafood department offering fresh seafood and packaged, frozen fish
· Specialty foods section featuring cheeses, chocolates and pasta from over 100 local suppliers, including a selection of cheeses overseen by an in-store American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional
· Expansive, in-house bakery offering an array of self-serve baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and breads, with a variety of items from local bakeries and for special diets
· Prepared foods section with a wide selection of hot and cold food bars, including a salad bar, soup wells and stations for tacos, gourmet sandwiches, pizza, sushi, rotisserie chickens, charcuterie and plant-based offerings
· Full-service coffee, juice and tea bar called Brews and Blends, offering seasonal varieties and made-to-order juice, smoothies and acai bowls
· Bulk section with over 150 options
· Selection of beer, wine and spirits with over 300 offerings from local producers
· Beauty and body care department featuring a variety of local products
· Hundreds of products from local suppliers, 15 of which are recipients of Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program, which provides low-interest loans to local producers to help grow their businesses
Amazon Prime members who shop at Whole Foods Market have access to a number of benefits year-round, like deep discounts on dozens of select popular products each week and an additional 10 percent off hundreds of in-store sale items. In addition, eligible Prime members receive five percent back on Whole Foods Market purchases when using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card.
To celebrate joining the community, five percent of the store’s net sales on October 17 will benefit the West Seattle Helpline, which offers emergency assistance for members of the West Seattle and White Center communities. From opening day through the end of the year, all donations from Whole Foods Market’s bag credit program, which provides a credit to customers who bring their own shopping bags, will go to the West Seattle Food Bank, an organization dedicated to providing the community with access to safe and nutritious food.
Whole Foods Market West Seattle will employ approximately 120 full and part-time team members. Following the grand opening, the store will be open from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily. Whole Foods Market has 10 additional stores in Washington. For more information visit wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/westseattle
ADDED 8:37 AM: If you’re wondering about parking, there’s a large underground lot accessible off the midblock Fauntleroy-to-40th SW entrance to the complex.
This store has a big backstory of note (with a relatively huge archive of WSB coverage). Whole Foods first announced in 2006 that it would open a store – in the project across SW Alaska from The Whittaker, originally to be called Fauntleroy Place, eventually completed as Spruce, but without Whole Foods, which pulled out in 2010 due to years of development delays outside its control (the space set for the market eventually became LA Fitness). Then when what became The Whittaker was in planning seven years ago, WFM announced it would be the anchor tenant. Development of the project hit a few bumps along the way, even including mayoral opposition. Whittaker construction went ahead but then in early 2017, WFM iced its plan for a store there and a “replacement” was being sought for the space. A few months later, Amazon bought Whole Foods, and a few months after that, the West Seattle plan was back on.
Thanks to the texter who sent that photo (and also to Mel, who sent a photo from just before it went up). Signage is going up for West Seattle’s Whole Foods Market, which WFM has said will open next month (exact date TBA) at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW. It’s been 13+ years since WFM first declared West Seattle intentions (originally for the site that now holds LA Fitness across the street), 7 years since the announcement it would be part of what became The Whittaker.
Thanks to Keri for the tip! For the first time since we broke the news in September 2017 that the West Seattle Whole Foods Market plan was back on, there are signs of activity – literally – at the future store’s space in The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW).
The window signage apparently started going up yesterday – Keri’s tip came in late last night – and more was being added when we went by this morning.
As shown in the top photo, Whole Foods is still projecting it’ll open in fall of next year (when we last checked in April, the company told us “latter part of 2019”). The West Seattle Whole Foods saga is a long one – dating back almost 13 years, to the original February 2006 announcement that they would open in what was then Fauntleroy Place, a project later idled (post-excavation, so it was nicknamed “The Hole” for 4+ years), eventually becoming (under different owners/developers) Spruce, with LA Fitness in the commercial space instead. Then in November 2012, developers of The Whittaker announced WF as their anchor tenant, to open in 2015. That timeline kept sliding until the plan was officially shelved for half of last year, then revived.
As for when Whole Foods’ Whittaker build-out will start, city files verify that permits are in progress. We have inquiries out to WF, though the looming holiday could delay the response.
The WSB inbox has been full of update requests lately, regarding various projects (thank you!), and we’re working on a bunch. First the most-asked question of the week: When is the West Seattle Whole Foods Market opening?
First the backstory: You’ll recall that a year ago, Whole Foods was shelving its plans for The Whittaker (WSB sponsor), second time it had canceled a West Seattle plan – but then six months later, we discovered last September that it was back on, and got confirmation.
Since then, we’ve had one update on timeline, when Whittaker reps told the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce in January that “late spring 2019” was the newest projection.
So this week, we went directly to WFM. A regional spokesperson’s reply:
We are grateful for the community’s excitement for this Whole Foods Market, and look forward to opening during the latter part of 2019.
As for other questions, such as how the chain’s evolution and experiments since Amazon’s takeover will affect the West Seattle plan … no specifics are public yet.
Two biznotes at The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy; WSB sponsor):
MOD PIZZA: The “individual, artisan-style pizza and salads” restaurant is now planning to open its West Seattle location in early February. That’s according to Charlotte Wayte, who also sent word that they’re having two hiring events at the future restaurant, for 30 job openings: 10 am-4 pm Saturday, January 20th, and Sunday, January 21st. They’re also taking applications online. The announcement notes:
Named one of the “20 Best Workplaces in Retail” by Fortune, MOD offers health, dental and vision benefits, short-term disability, sick pay, flexible scheduling for work-life balance and opportunities for career growth. MOD is also proud to support its MOD Squad with special perks such as free meals, an employee assistance program, and access to an emergency crisis fund.
The chain was founded in Seattle and is growing fast. The West Seattle store is 2,500 square feet and, according to the update, “will include original artwork and MOD’s signature ‘Wall of Fame,’ a photo collage that pays homage to the local community and people from the MOD journey.” The opening date isn’t finalized yet but MOD says it will partner that day with a TBA local nonprofit who will get 100 percent of the pizza-sales proceeds from that day.
KINETIC SPORTS REHAB: According to the building’s updated site map, and a permit application, another of the remaining Whittaker spaces has been taken – Kinetic Sports Rehab is coming to the south building, in the space north of CityMD. It currently has two locations, both in north Seattle. (The space also is next to the future Orangetheory Fitness – we have a message out to check on when they’re planning to open.)
For the second consecutive day, we’ve received an announcement that another business has opened in The Whittaker (WSB sponsor). This time, it’s West Seattle’s first freestanding BECU branch. The credit union’s newest branch is 2,500 square feet, with five employees and one manager, per the announcement, which also says:
At the new location, BECU members can open accounts, apply for loans, and take care of financial transactions. Consistent with BECU’s operating model, the West Seattle location will offer an innovative “tellerless” layout, which empowers members to access their accounts in ways most convenient for them, including ATM, online banking, and mobile banking. Member consultants will be available to assist with these transactions, as well as provide one-on-one support for opening accounts and more complex services like mortgages, personal loans, auto loans and business services.
The branch at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW will be staffed 9 am-6 pm weekdays and 9 am-1 pm Saturdays, and has two 24-hour ATMs.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
WSB has just confirmed that the West Seattle Whole Foods Market is back on.
WFM spokesperson Susan Livingston confirms that to WSB this afternoon via e-mail: “We are moving forward with our West Seattle location at The Whittaker and will share more information on timelines for the opening once details are finalized.”
We inquired today after seeing WFM featured in the graphic shown atop this story – it’s the latest online map of which businesses are going where at The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW; WSB sponsor).
It’s been six months since the revelation that Whole Foods was backing out of West Seattle again, though its official statement at the time was that “Whole Foods Market has decided to delay indefinitely the opening of our West Seattle store.” The company overseeing the businesses in The Whittaker, Weingarten Realty, subsequently said that WF was working with it to find a replacement tenant.
Less than three months later came the news about Amazon buying Whole Foods. We tried multiple times after that – before and after the deal closed – to get a comment about whether the new ownership might lead WFM to reconsider the West Seattle store location; no reply.
Until now, the space has continued to be shown on the online Whittaker site map as available – you can see that in our August story about the signing of another tenant, Orangetheory Fitness. And then our routine check last night showed Whole Foods was back on the map – Weingarten pointed us to WFM for comment, and we just got the confirmation quoted above.
It’s been almost five years since Whole Foods was originally announced as the anchor tenant for The Whittaker (even before the mixed-use project got that name). That in turn was two years after WF announced it was no longer going into the project across the street that at the time was an inactive excavation site dubbed “The Hole,” since sold and finished as Spruce, with LA Fitness in the space where the grocery store was to be.
At The Whittaker, Whole Foods will join already-signed businesses T-Mobile (which is now open), BECU, MOD Pizza, CityMD, and Orangetheory Fitness. As spokesperson Livingston told us, there’s no timeline just yet – but we’ll continue to follow up. Before the March announcement, the company had told us two months earlier that it was expecting to open the store in summer 2018.
(UPDATED 10:12 AM with Weingarten statement, 12:40 PM with Whole Foods statement)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 2:25 AM: Back in January, you might recall, we reported that Whole Foods had decided to delay its West Seattle opening in The Whittaker (WSB sponsor) until summer 2018. That was a delay from what the company told us last June, when it said the West Seattle WF would open “in the second half of 2017.” And that in turn was two years later than the original plan – when we reported in November 2012 that WF would anchor the 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW mixed-use project, the announcement projected the store would open in 2015. (A bitter battle over the project’s “alley vacation” – lots of backstory here – figured into some delays.)
Since our January report of the latest WF delay, rumors have continued to circulate that – as eventually turned out to be the case with its previously planned WS location across SW Alaska – Whole Foods might be icing the plan all together. But there were signs of life in city permit files as recent as last month, with an application and permit for sign installation.
This morning, there’s a new report – the Daily Journal of Commerce says in its Monday edition that Whole Foods has “decided to indefinitely delay its plans” for West Seattle. Note that most of the story is behind a paywall, so if you’re not a subscriber, you won’t be able to read it. We have already sent a followup inquiry to WF and will update when we get a direct update.
10:12 AM UPDATE: Our first reply of the morning is from Carrie Murray with Weingarten Realty, which owns The Whittaker’s retail space:
Weingarten Realty is actively working with Whole Foods to find a replacement for the space Whole Foods leased at The Whittaker. We currently have several prospects interested but we cannot make an announcement at this time.
12:40 PM UPDATE: Whole Foods spokesperson Beth Krauss‘s statement in response to our inquiry does not elaborate further:
As part of a careful evaluation of our growth strategy, Whole Foods Market has decided to delay indefinitely the opening of our West Seattle store. We look forward to continuing to serve Seattle with our three other area locations: Interbay, Roosevelt Square, and South Lake Union.
After a few recent reader questions about the status of West Seattle’s future Whole Foods Market, planned for the north side of The Whittaker (WSB sponsor), we checked around – and just found out the new timeframe for its opening.
When last we checked, in June of last year, a Whole Foods spokesperson told WSB that the store was expected to open in the “second half of 2017.”
This afternoon, responding to our inquiry about the current timeline, Susan Livingston from Whole Foods told WSB: “We look forward to opening our doors in Summer, 2018.”
I’m delighted to share that we’ve updated our plans since we last shared them with your readers. Some of the new features include the addition of a tap room with lots of seating, an expanded Prepared Foods department with additional venues, and improved pedestrian connections. As with any project, weather and other factors can impact our schedule, but we’ll share details about our grand opening as we get closer to the actual date.
Livingston says that the “new features” are part of what has pushed back the timeline, and that it’s not unusual for “big-box anchor tenants” in projects like this to take longer than first expected.
When construction of The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW) began two years ago, WF was the only signed commercial tenant. Then last August, four more tenants were announced – MOD Pizza, BECU, CityMD, and T-Mobile, as shown in the latest site map above (the yellow spaces are still available, and one of them – AOL – is set aside for a restaurant). The aforementioned already-announced businesses are expected to open later this year, as are the apartments in the north building – the south building at The Whittaker is already leasing.
Photos by Christopher Boffoli for West Seattle Blog
Two years after ceremonial groundbreaking launched construction of The Whittaker – West Seattle’s biggest mixed-use project ever – its first building at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW is officially open, with a ribboncutting celebration today, including namesake Jim Whittaker, the West Seattle native who made history on Mount Everest. The lobby displays a photo of him on Everest in 1963:
Whittaker’s partner Dianne Roberts told Christopher that they still have the ice axe and flags in the iconic photograph, as well as the camera used to shoot it. She said that the clothes he was wearing in the photo are now on display at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum in Golden, Colorado.
The ribboncutting marked the fact that residents are moving into the south building this month, and will follow in the north building next spring. Property manager Ashlie Quon of Windsor Communities told WSB’s Christopher Boffoli that the South building has 129 units complete and open, 39 of which are leased so far.
Art for the site was commissioned from West Seattleite Troy Pillow – who also created the new kinetic sculpture in Junction Plaza Park. Some of his work is up outside the south entry:
The lobby sections open today feature sitting areas with gas fireplaces, a “wine room” upstairs with a function area with a small kitchen just off it for events, a mailroom, and a separate package room.
The large, open lobby features reclaimed wood throughout and a suspended Douglas Fir staircase (which leads up to the wine room/function area. That’s where some of today’s speeches took place.
While the residential units are opening, the commercial tenants won’t start to open until next year. So far, as we reported last summer, they include – besides anchor tenant Whole Foods Market, taking the retail space in the north building – BECU, City MD, MOD Pizza, and T-Mobile.
West Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Dennis, among today’s speakers, said, “The Whittaker represents an example of creating density while preserving green spaces and celebrating the real character of West Seattle.” Jim Whittaker spoke too, saying he felt “lucky” to be born in West Seattle and that the new building was marvelous and he was delighted to be on hand for the opening.
(2014 photo contributed by Mark Cohan)
You might remember that faded mural, “Alki in the Twenties,” from the east-facing side of the former Huling Brothers building along Fauntleroy north of Edmunds. As shown in the review process for the project that’s being built on the site, The Whittaker, the mural couldn’t be saved but was to be “digitally re-created.” And indeed, it has been. Here’s a sneak peek at the partly visible re-creation:
We took the photo today while checking on the removal of The Whittaker’s second tower crane, which stretched into a third day amid stormy weather. The re-created mural is on a west-facing wall of the building, and we expect to get a closer look soon.
FIRST REPORT: Tonight is the first night of road work that’s closing SW Alaska between 40th SW and Fauntleroy Way, related to The Whittaker, the big mixed-use project under construction there. The project team says SDOT required that the work be done at night to minimize the effect on traffic. Detour signs are set up.
ADDED 10:10 AM TUESDAY: More information on what’s happening: It’s about linking the signals and preparing for upgraded crossings between The Whittaker and Spruce across the intersection; the work will continue nightly through the 20th, approximately 8 pm to 6 am: “Scope of work is to install all the underground conduits and doing temp patch for a later date down the road [when more work will be done] … They will try as much as possible to be conscious of noise, but also want to be sure to finish on time to minimize the time of construction.”
9:05 AM: As reported here earlier this month, today is installation day for the second tower crane on the biggest construction project under way in West Seattle, mixed-use The Whittaker at Alaska/Fauntleroy/Edmunds. This one’s going up on the north end of the project, two months after installation of the first one at the site’s south end. The installation staging is happening primarily on 40th SW, so it’s not affecting a major arterial right now, but an engine from temporary Fire Station 32 was parked on the street for quicker access while this is under way.
The Whittaker will include almost 400 apartments and nearly 600 parking spaces, as well as retail including Whole Foods Market (no other tenants have been announced so far). The only other project in West Seattle with a tower crane right now is the mixed-use 4435 35th SW.
1:03 PM: Thanks to Matt for this photo:
That’s the first crane in the foreground at right.
Four development/land-use notes so far today:
FIRST CRANE @ THE WHITTAKER: As previewed last week, the first of two tower cranes planned for The Whittaker on the east edge of The Junction is going up today. It’s on the south side of the project and when we went by around 9:30 am, the installation operation was centered off the street at 40th/Edmunds, with no additional traffic effects except for some intermittent truck maneuvering. We’ll be checking back on it for an update later. This makes three cranes currently working in West Seattle, with the one at Broadstone Sky on the west side of 40th/Edmunds and the 4435 35th SW project.
ADDED: Above this line, our photo from noontime; below, a midafternoon photo courtesy of Eddie:
No date yet for the north-end crane.
1201 HARBOR SW: From today’s Land Use Information Bulletin, the city has approved the land-use permit for a 4-unit rowhouse at this location (map) in an “environmentally critical area” (ECA). That opens a 2-week appeal period; the LUIB notice includes links to the decision and information on appealing.
ALSO ON HARBOR SW: The construction-permit application is in for 3005 Harbor SW (map), a six-unit apartment building; that’s two fewer apartments than were planned when this project was first mentioned here in early 2014.
6001 BEACH DRIVE: Further south along the West Seattle shore, applications are in to demolish the single-family house that’s currently at this location (map) and build a replacement. The same project also has filed a land-use-permit application, because it’s in an ECA; that application says the house will have “surface parking for five vehicles.”
Thanks to LB for noticing that tower-crane base installed at the site of The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW), and sharing the photo. Crane arrivals are of interest for a variety of reasons, from traffic effects on installation day(s) to the draw of spectators, so we checked with the project team: The first of its two cranes is set for installation Monday-Tuesday of next week (April 27-28). More details to come; no date yet for the second crane. Meantime, in case you’ve been wondering – Whole Foods Market remains the only retailer confirmed for the project, which also includes 389 apartments and 594 underground parking spaces.
When the Seattle Design Commission gave its qualified approval last year to The Whittaker, West Seattle’s biggest development project ever (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW), they told the project team they’d have to come back when certain aspects of the project finished taking shape.
That return visit happened on Thursday, and revealed more details of the art and landscaping that will surround the building. We’ve since obtained the full slide deck shown at the meeting (see above), which resulted in some suggestions by the commission, whose role in the project is related to the fact it required an alley vacation (subsequently approved by the City Council this past April).
For the first time in a while, the Seattle Design Commission has a West Seattle project on its agenda. At 9 am next Thursday – December 18th – the commission will be checking in on the “public benefit” program promised by The Whittaker (under construction at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW) as required for its alley vacation (explained here). The SDC reviewed the project four times last year before giving its blessing; here’s our coverage of the final meeting, including links to the three before it. Next Thursday’s meeting is open to the public, in the Boards/Commissions Room at City Hall downtown.
(WSB video by Patrick Sand)
FIRST REPORT, 2:22 PM: With ice axes digging into dirt near the southwest corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska, ground has just been ceremonially broken for The Whittaker, ~400 apartments, ~600 parking spaces, and Whole Foods Market (the anchor, and lone announced, retail tenant). A two-year construction process now ensues; demolition and site clearing has just concluded, and excavation/shoring is expected to start in a few weeks. It’s been almost two years since we broke the news of an ‘early’ proposal for the site. We have the by-invitation ceremony on video and will add it, along with photos and more details, after our return to HQ.
ADDED 6:12 PM: We’ve substituted a slightly longer YouTube version of the actual “groundbreaking” video above, in place of the short Instagram clip (which you can still see here). And here’s our video of the speeches that preceded it:
Most of those on hand for the event, held near the northeast corner of the project site – just south of where the gas station used to be – were affiliated with members of the project team – residential developer Lennar Homes, retail developer Weingarten, Whole Foods, local communicators, general contractor Chinn Construction, whose owner Kevin Chinn was there:
(WSB photos by Torin Record-Sand)
With him at left above is Josh Sutton from the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor). Sutton was on the community advisory group that worked with the city on the Triangle Plan a few years ago, as was West 5 restaurateur Dave Montoure of the West Seattle Chamber/Junction boards:
That’s Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals at right above with Montoure. Speaking on the Chamber’s behalf, its board chair Nancy Woodland (leaning to the left and smiling in photo below):
She mentioned the community’s strength and its many “opinions,” the only overt allusion to the controversy that beset the project for months, including former Mayor Mike McGinn’s instruction to SDOT in July 2013 to not approve the project’s “alley vacation” and a standing-room-only City Council hearing last March, followed by the council’s 6-3 approval vote in April, the last major hurdle the project had to clear.
That was three months after the development team had announced the project would be named for climbing legend and West Seattle native Jim Whittaker. He and wife Dianne Roberts were at today’s ceremony:
In his honor, mountaineering metaphors were plentiful. The groundbreaking was described as “base camp,” but with a long climb ahead – two years of construction, to result in this:
And even as today’s celebration continued, so did site-prep work on the south side of the site.
Development manager Kelley Kohout told WSB the excavation work will start from that side, and head north. The project is so big, two tower cranes will be required; he says they’ll arrive sometime in the first quarter of next year. It’s already been a month since the start of demolition/abatement.
As construction ramps up, Whole Foods will continue planning its store; VP of store development Tee Ayer promised the market will reflect the community’s spirit and personality, saying, “you will see West Seattle” in it. (Just a week ago, WF announced plans for another new Seattle store, on Capitol Hill.)
As for what else you’ll see in The Whittaker’s retail space – Weingarten executive Lance Sherwood told WSB today they have nothing to announce yet, but “lots of interest” and an expectation that they’ll “have no problem” leasing it all.
Our archive of coverage on this project is here, newest to oldest.
SIDE NOTE: The last ceremonial groundbreaking for a major development was in 2008, across the street at 3922 SW Alaska, then known as “Fauntleroy Place,” to be anchored by Whole Foods. After excavation, the project was stopped by legal and other problems, no fault of WF, which was just a planned tenant; terms of its lease, for store space to be available, never were fulfilled, which left the chain free to mull other WS possibilities – finally landing with this one. Meantime, after a foreclosure sale leading to an ownership change and name change to “Spruce,” that development re-started a year and a half ago and is close to completion, now with its entire commercial space to be taken up by an LA Fitness gym.
The city has issued the master-use permit for The Whittaker, the mixed-use megaproject at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW. The project team told us they got the news from the city this week, and the online files say the permit is officially dated today. According to correspondence in the same files, the project team has told the city it is eager to move forward so the deteriorating, vandalized old buildings on the site can be torn down, but has had to wait for that permit to be finalized, which has taken longer than they expected. The demolition permit is separate and is not shown as finalized yet, so you’re not going to see backhoes show up immediately, but the project team hopes some site work can start soon. The project will line Fauntleroy from Alaska to Edmunds, and Alaska from Fauntleroy to 40th, with two buildings holding about 370 apartments, a Whole Foods Market, and other retailers yet to be signed/announced. The project gained regional attention when former Mayor Mike McGinn told SDOT to reject developers’ request to buy a city-owned alley that’s on the site; the ultimate decision was up to the City Council, which approved the alley deal last April. Construction is expected to last about two years.
(TOPLINE: The long-debated alley vacation is approved by the City Council in a 6-3 vote.)
We’re at City Hall this afternoon for the City Council meeting expected to bring a vote on the “alley vacation” for 4755 Fauntleroy Way, aka The Whittaker (or, the “Whole Foods” project). Five councilmembers voted in favor of it at the Transportation Committee‘s meeting almost two weeks ago.
The meeting begins with public comment on whatever’s on the agenda, not just this item; Deb Barker, a longtime opponent, is the first to comment on the alley vacation, urging the council to vote “no.” Next commenter is Elena Perez (above), coordinator of the group that has opposed the development for a year, Getting It Right for West Seattle. She says that after outreach done by the group, “Overwhelmingly, the conclusion is that this development is bad for our community” and calls the potential alley vacation “a land grab.”
First speaker in favor of the alley vacation is Sharonn Meeks (above). She says there’s a misconception – “the developer is going to pay” for the alley, not get it for free. She’s followed by Dave Montoure, who also is a supporter and says he has been to many meetings and hearings: “Density supports business, not just Fortune 500 businesses, (but also) small businesses like my own.”
2:25 PM: Now to the alley vacation item. Councilmember Mike O’Brien, one of three councilmembers who voted “no” at the Transportation Committee meeting, presents the “minority report” first. He says the main reason he’s opposing it is because of “the public-benefit tradeoff.” He says he doesn’t think it will meet the needs of pedestrian access. Next, the “majority report,” presented by Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. He says it’s been vetted through “dozens of meetings” at community and city-department levels. After a brief bit of history about the alley/street-vacation process, he notes that the committee he chairs reviewed the project and determined that it meets the requirements laid out in the process, including public benefits such as green-street improvements on 40th, a crosswalk to the north, landscaping, a $25,000 contribution to the new city park on 40th, and a new bike lane on the west side of Fauntleroy. And Rasmussen reiterates that the developer would pay “full market value” for the alley land.
Next, Councilmember Nick Licata, who voted against it at the committee meeting, says he is still opposed because he believes it does not provide “a significant public benefit.” After him, Councilmember Sally Clark reiterates her support, and also says she’s glad to hear that West Seattle is forming a Land Use Committee (via the Southwest District Council – see our earlier coverage). She says she believes the project “is providing more than adequate public benefit” while acknowledging that the project might not be perfect, but it has gone through boards and committees and other layers of feedback and “sets of expectations.”
Rollcall vote: 6 yes, 3 no. The alley vacation petition is approved. Rasmussen offers closing words that the development will upgrade what is currently a “bleak” site. He also thanks everyone for public involvement in the extensive process. The “no” votes are Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata, and Kshama Sawant; the “yes” votes are Tom Rasmussen, Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, Sally Clark, Jean Godden.
The council will be talking about parks funding after this meeting so we’ll be staying for that, as parks funding is a big issue for much of West Seattle.
TUESDAY MORNING NOTE: We’re working on a separate followup for later today, but a project spokesperson says a published report today of construction starting in July is NOT accurate. They continue to expect that work will begin “by year’s end.”