I was chatting with a friend of mine in real estate the other day, and he had an interesting take on 45th Street:
Noting that commercial districts around 45th (Fremont, south Stone Way, Tangletown, 65th, even along the waterfront) have all seen some interesting new businesses come in, while 45th itself has been relatively stagnant, with new restaurants and shops struggling to survive, he declared 45th “the hole in the donut”.
His notion is that the people who own the property along 45th are holding onto it, waiting for their payday when the new HALA rezone goes into effect and allows for taller buildings all along the 45th Street corridor (thus making their properties more valuable). In the meantime, they’re not willing to invest a penny in their existing properties, on the assumption that they’ll be torn down when they’re sold, so capital improvements don’t make financial sense.
As a result, anyone wanting to do business on 45th Street has to take a short-term lease (because the owner wants the ability to sell as soon as the new rules go into effect) and has to pay for any capital improvements themselves. This certainly fits with what we know: the Seamonster renovation is entirely funded by the tenants, just like the Octopus Bar was.
Add to this that Seattle building code rules require that if you make “substantial improvements” to an older building, you are then required to bring the entire building “up to code” (including earthquake retrofitting), which can make relatively affordable projects unaffordable.
The question I have is why is Wallingford / 45th Street different than Ballard, Green Lake, Fremont and other surrounding areas in terms of its ownership? Or is just that the existing zoning is different?
On a related note, here’s a tidbit I learned from Mike Ruby: if you’ve ever wondered why that parking lot next to Uptown Espresso is just a parking lot, instead of a development of some sort, it’s because the ground underneath it is so polluted from a service shop that used to be there that whoever wants to build will be responsible for hauling the soil to a toxic waste containment facility in Oregon, which makes any developer shudder.
Any old timers remember the name of the service shop that used to be there?[UPDATE: Joyce added this info in the comments:
The name of the service station was Vic’s Gas Station. It was also called the Lil Stinker station and they had an artist’s sketch of a skunk as the mascot. He sold cheap gas. It was owned by Victor Green. That’s about all I can tell you. Gas may have been around 25 cents a gallon. Unbelievable, I know. ]