Michael Suzerris had a vision: he wanted to create a space in Wallingford where people could come together and advance the kind of projects that he thought would nurture the community: it would be not just a yoga studio, but also a dance space, a coffee house, a kids play area, a barter fair, a community center.
As the owner of the Yoga Life studios in Green Lake and Queen Anne, he had experience driving projects like this to completion, and he was making progress. Wallingford Center offered an ideal, central location and had vacant spaces. Over a period of years, he negotiated with them, slowly overcoming obstacles: the price was too high, but it came down. The owners were set on building a retail-only establishment but, in the face of a deteriorating economy, saw the wisdom in relaxing the rules. He was in the end-game.
And then a final requirement came: to guarantee the five year lease, they wanted to secure it against his home. But he didn’t own his home. Two businesses, yes, but not a home.
Frustrated and exasperated, he was threw up his hands, almost out of ideas.
There was a warehouse-style building down on Pacific Ave near Gas Works that he had rented for an event some time ago. A martial arts studio had the lease, but he had no idea whether it was still there, whether they were interested in sub-leasing or moving, just that it was a large space and that he was running out of options. So he hopped on his bike and rode down to take a look.
We’ve all had those days where things just work out, right?
As he pulled up, the previous tenants were carrying their last boxes out the door of the now vacant studio. He placed a call to the owner, Bill Hardwick (of Hardwick’s Hardware) and, one thing and another, he had himself a studio (no guarantee against a house required).
We had the pleasure of visiting the studio (2210 N. Pacific St.) several weeks ago during PermaCulture Now, a gathering of people and groups involved in the permaculture movement and can attest to its potential. It’s a huge open space with tall ceiling and wrap-around windows overlooking Lake Union, from the ship canal bridge to Gas Works, and Michael and his crew have done a beautiful job upgrading and finishing it. The daylight is golden on the wooden floors, and a raised platform area sits below the windows all along the south and west sides, creating a multilevel sitting space, perfect for our conversation.
OmCulture (now a Wallyhood sponsor) has been open since this past Fall, and is growing into Michael’s dream. There are daily yoga classes, ecstatic dance events, family dance events, and eco-community events such as the aforementioned PermaCulture Now gathering.
We hope Michael succeeds in expanding his space further. His description of OmKids, a coffeehouse were parents can gather and share during the day while their kids frolic sounds like a perfect addition to the neighborhood (and a nice supplement to the more sedate Mosaic), and his idea for a “barter share” event, where residents can come swap the produce from their gardens, sounds like a great opportunity for us to off-load our tomatoes and honey (and maybe pick up some cucumbers and broccoli).
Now that the space itself is complete, it sounds like they’re just trying to figure out what all they can do with it. Michael mentioned that he’d be interested in getting input from the community on what you all would like to see there. We told him we’d ask.