Sunday, October 21, 2012

What next for the Tully’s space?


Madison Park Blogger descends into rumormongering

Someone started the rumor last week that the now-vacant Tully’s space is soon to be taken over by a bank—specifically, US Bank, the Madison Park Blogger’s former employer.  This perverse idea began making the rounds within a day or two of the announcement that Tully’s was abandoning its Madison Park location.  As the week progressed, it became clear that many people had heard the story, including the managers of some of the neighborhood’s bank branches. So we, of course, had to investigate.  Unfortunately, in doing so, we ended up asking a lot of people about the possibility of another bank invading the ‘hood, thereby further spreading a story that may have no basis in fact.  How irresponsible of us.

Just to be clear, there is no evidence that US Bank—or any other of the few remaining major banks not already represented in Madison Park—is planning to open a branch in the hallowed space that had for almost two decades served as the neighborhood’s anti-Starbucks.  At the time the shocking bank rumor got started, the “we regret we’re closing” notices had just been posted on the building’s entry doors and the brown-paper coverings had just been applied to the windows. Lack of information breeds speculation, and given the outsized reaction of some Madison Parkers to the introduction of Key Bank into the neighborhood (and the more recent dust up about the Wells Fargo signage), what more provocative rumor could be invented than the introduction of a fifth bank branch into Madison Park?

The wood-frame building at 4026 E. Madison St. that for almost two decades had housed Tully’s was originally built in 1900 and has had many incarnations, including, apparently, hosting a mini-mart.  The property covers 4000 sq. ft., of which the one-story building comprises just over half the total space, 2,080 sq. ft.  It could therefore easily accommodate two shops or one larger tenant, such as a bank.  Interesting enough, the tax-assessed value of this prime commercial property in the heart of Madison Park is only $401,000 and has been held by the assessor at this level, with virtually no variation, since 2001.

King County records list Wallace Properties of Bellevue as the property’s “taxpayer.” Tully’s founder Tom O’Keefe, in a recent email exchange we were copied on, stated his belief that the building is actually owned by a family trust.  And indeed, when we called Wallace regarding the current disposition of the lease, we were told that the company only serves as the leasing agent for the property.  Although we left a message with the listing agent at Wallace, we did not receive a return phone call following up on our request for comment. 

So we decided to go directly to US Bank to see if the bank is indeed in the hunt for space in our neighborhood.   We were aware that in past years the bank had been interested in the potential of Madison Park, so the idea did not seem farfetched.  Unfortunately, US Bank was only slightly more forthcoming than Wallace Properties in providing an answer.  At least we did get a call back, though all Chris Heman, the bank’s regional Retail Banking manager, was willing to give us was an official “no comment.”  Now you might think that if the story were absolutely untrue the bank would be willing to deny it.  But that’s not how things work in the corporate world, so we probably should not make any assumptions. 

Except perhaps one.  Late last week Wallace Properties slapped some “For Lease” signs in the windows of the building. So, whatever the status of any behind-the-scenes negotiations for tenant space, at this point we may assume there’s no done deal.  And with regard to the idea of another bank coming into Madison Park, is that concept really crazy?  This is, after all, where the money is.  And, as one of the neighborhood’s bank managers pointed out to us last week, the Magnolia neighborhood already hosts five or six bank branches.  So why not Madison Park?

Indeed.

13 comments:

  1. Sigh - yes, this was a surprise... my three favorite coffee shops in Seattle disappeared on the same day :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another bank in Madison Park would make it more soulless than it already is; is this some kind of Halloween joke Mr Blogger? A 5th bank would be convenient for the 1% but not for the people who come to the Park for its beauty, ambienance and the beach.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Who goes to a physical bank branch anymore? I barely see any traffic in the Key Bank, that has to be a bust for them.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I wish you would notify all the people in line in front of me that they shouldn't be there.

    ReplyDelete
  5. All the interesting new restaurants and retail shops in Seattle are opening everywhere EXCEPT Madison Park. Ballard, West Seattle - heck, even Greenwood. The soul-less drones of Madison Park do not want anything but a national bank chain. "Interesting" might bring outsiders into their Stepford world - look at the arguments against taking the fence down at Swingset Park.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I couldn't agree more with that last comment! I've only been in this area for two years and am disappointed with the direction the businesses are going - banks, retirement facility offices - how boring! We need a gastro pub - a decent drinking establishment with local brews and some good grub.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Insert the "we need a great local bookstore" argument here. However, you must remember we had a great local bookstore not so many years ago that couldn't keep up with the skyrocketing rent. Madison Park is not a neighborhood of readers or the book store would still be open. The "Amazon has driven all local book stores out of business" argument does not hold water. Look at other neighborhood book shops: Elliot Bay Books AND 1/2 Price Books AND Twice Sold Tales on Capitol Hill, Mercer Street Books on Queen Anne, Pegasus Books on West Seattle, Third Place Books in Ravenna....the list goes on and on. Sadly residents would rather have multiple places to park their money than someplace to expand their horizons. It is a shame.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Why don't all of you with so many great ideas about how other people should spend their money, spend YOUR money and open an establishment of the type(s) you propose?

    It is really easy to play "We should....." so, go for it.

    We're waiting for the talk to stop and the action to start.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you are missing the point - no small independent businesses can afford to set up shop in a neighborhood that will not patronize or support them to the degree they need to succeed. Why would anyone open a business down here when there are other neighborhoods that will? That is the tragedy of it.

      Delete
  9. Most, if not all of the bookstores you cite as proof that the "Amazon" effect does not exist, have other characteristics that a Madison Park bookstore would not/could not have.

    First, Madison Park is a dead-end neighborhood. You don't go through here on the way to anywhere else. So, any viable shop down here has to be supported locally, or be a "destination" that someone comes to looking for a book.

    There is not a building in the Park large enough to contain enough inventory to make a "destination" bookstore, so that is out. And, the same 100 locals, looking at the same 200 titles over and over again, is not a recipe for success.

    Also, several of the ones you cite have multiple locations and offer on-line ordering. A Madison Park bookstore could offer online ordering, but a chain moving down here is not realistic due to the small storefronts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, if you're going to be all LOGICAL about it . . . .

      Delete
    2. How are West Seattle and Magnolia any less "dead-end neighborhoods" that Mad Park? (Although the argument could be made that one must drive through West Seattle to get to Vashon Island.) The fact is that commercial rents are so astronomical that it is national chain banks that can best afford to park themselves in the neighborhood. The concept of value seems to be increasingly foreign in Madison Park as I have watching folks pay upward of $1M for crummy former beach shacks in an effort to get a piece of the Madison Park dream. Perhaps the neighborhood is getting what it deserves....

      Delete
  10. This space was indeed a Mini Mart during the early 80's. Which seemed odd sitting practically inside the parking lot of Berts IGA (pre-Red Apple). Working at Berts at the time, it seemed to attract a fair enough amount of business. I cannot remember what went in there after that.
    My hope is that a neighborhood friendly business leases the space. Which doesnt include a bank. Preferably a restaurant, though it would have to satisfy the right niche to fit with current ones such as Cactus, Bings, McGilvras etc. Might be asking for a lot. And understand some people might see it as to much.
    Awe, I just came up with my wish list! A small Brewery! (think Two Beers, NW Peaks, Urban Family). Small Micro Brewery… I might never leave the park.

    ReplyDelete