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So many business vacancies

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  renzntzman 1 year, 5 months ago.

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    Does it strike anyone else that there are so many businesses shutting down right around 85th and Greenwood?  Is it a change in the neighborhood, or is it a difficult place to do business in general?  I’m thinking of opening a business in the area but I’m hesitant because of how many places seem to be failing there.

    I’d appreciate any thoughts from locals with more insight.





    I absolutely agree that the vacancies are troubling. I worry that two of the high profile “anchor” business locations are empty right now. The Greenwood Academy corner has been vacant for a really long time, too. I’ve heard people say that the rents were too high, but that’s just hearsay. I don’t have any direct evidence from the landlords or tenants.

    Despite these vacancies, I actually think it could be a great place to do business.  One of the neighborhood’s strengths is the number of Greenwood residents who are close enough (and willing enough) to walk from their homes to the business core for many different things. That’s actually one of the main reasons we stayed in the neighborhood when we sold our old, smaller house.  There is a pretty significant level of community support here, and there’s a huge desire to see new businesses thrive.

    There are reasons for optimism, too.  The Yard has been successful enough to expand.  The buildings next to the Taproot are moving towards completion. The construction on the old McDonald’s site seems to be going well (though I wish they’d gone for a less suburban mall design).  There’s a new hot dog business moving in next to the Yard.  Many businesses that have started in the last 5 – 10 years have taken root or even grown (The Yard, Angry Beaver, Chocolati, Aloha Ramen [best restaurant in the city, IMHO], Olive and Grape, Couth Buzzard, Naked City, Gainsbourg, et al.) And the Sushi truck is a fantastic addition.

    I know there have been discussions on this board about what types of things we’d like to see in the neighborhood. I’d love to have people reply with what they’d like to see.

    My two cents: We tend to be bar/food heavy right now, and it would be lovely to get something totally different  – retail of some sort. Or something just a little different than what we already have – I’d love to see a good bakery like Macrina, Essential, or Besalu. We don’t have any really good breakfast places. Nobody but the bars stay open particularly late, so a good food/coffee after 10 option would be nice.  Nobody has live music. It would be fantastic to have a bar that doesn’t have a TV on the wall.  A butcher or seafood store would be good, but I think there’s a butcher going in down in the 70s on Greenwood.

    Good luck – seriously consider this neighborhood. Greenwood has a lot to offer already, and I think there’s great potential here.




    Thanks for the input Joe.  The Academy space is indeed quite steep, as is the red building on Greenwood (formerly used furniture I think).  The spaces in Piper Village are a bit more affordable.  There must be a big change happening, though, since rents would increase, or demographics would change such that the used furniture stores would shut, as well as some other businesses.

    I’m looking for a good location for a music school which will primarily serve families with children.  I am considering taking a look at Piper Village, though I never thought I’d want to open in a strip mall style location.  Do the locals all pass through there from time to time?  Or is it shopping for a certain type of consumer?



    I agree with a lot of what Joe said.  You should also consider looking further south on Greenwood and Phinney.  There are a lot of vacancies throughout that area, and although there is somewhat less car traffic, there is tons of foot traffic.  We live closer to the PNA and regularly walk to businesses and restaurants from the zoo up to 87th, and we know our neighbors do too.

    That said, I think there is something like a music school going in on the east side of Greenwood at about 78th — I want to say the building is called the Ridgemont?  We picked up a flier there during the Phinney Art Walk, but no longer have it so I don’t remember the details.  You might want to stop by for more info to make sure you want to compete with them.  Just a heads up.



    I go to the Piper Creek Village regularly to get things for my dog at Mud Bay. That stretch doesn’t feel like it’s hit its stride yet. Mud Bay does well, and Top Ten just relocated down there for a bigger space. They’ve (Top Ten) been around a while, so if they felt like it was a good move to head into that space, I trust their business sense. I think there’s a spa going in down there too, and those “endcap” type shops that lead out onto Greenwood could pull people down that way.

    You should talk to the folks at 826 Seattle and Rosewood Guitar. 826 does free writing tutoring and instruction, and they have a storefront that sells some space-themed goods to support and market the program. I think most of their income is contributed though. Rosewood has a shop and they give lessons. You might also want to talk with Theo at Couth Buzzard. They’ve been great for hosting music nights in the bookstore. And there’s an Irish Dance school in the 8500 block of Greenwood.  I don’t know what’s slated to move into the storefronts under construction next to the Taproot, but you might want to connect with the Theatre about them.

    There are a ton of families in the neighborhood. I think the kid population is growing too. Anecdotally, there are 12 kids under the age of 10 just in our half of the block, which is just 2 blocks west of Greenwood. A number of larger houses have been on the market lately, and they’re selling quickly for the asking price.

    I’ve been in the neigbhorhood for about 10 years (my wife for 13), and we’re both very optimistic about the future of Greenwood. We hate to see the vacancies, and we hope that the landlords can see their way clear to working with tenants to keep them filled. But we like the way the neighborhood is going.

    Good luck to you.



    Thanks for the input and the heads up on the other school erin.  I like it more as you go south, personally.  Somehow I haven’t seen many vacancies up there.  I’ll take another drive by tomorrow and check it out.


    The building going up next to the Taproot is an expansion of the theater, it will all be Taproot.  On the corner of 85th and Greenwood there is a bicycle shop opening in the old Terra Bella Space at 8417 Greenwood Ave N called Gillies and Oil Family Cyclery.  The other corner, the old hair academy, is not occupied due to the current owners rent demands from what I understand.  Also, School of Rock will be opening in Piper Village this summer across from Mud Bay and Top Ten Toys will move back upstairs after construction has been completed.

    That’s all I can think of for now.



    Thanks for the thoughtful replies, everyone!



    I keep overlapping replies with other people.  That is very useful information about School of Rock.


    Also, I believe that corner lot on the NW corner of 85th and greenwood is entirely for sale, and not necessarily looking for lessees? There was an article on this blog a few months back about all the upcoming property changes. With the finishing of the new Fred Meyer, and the Taproot Green Bean construction finishing up, I think things will really pick up in some of these vacancies. I have heard numerous times though, about the really high rents in those areas though.


    The sale on the NW corner has already been completed and the space at 8421 (Antika) is still vacant at present and looking for a tenant.


    There are lots of skilled workers out of work, with a good savings, ready to go into business for themselves, but rents are sky-high all over this area, not just Greenwood.

    I’ve been in Seattle over 40 years, and I’ve seen this happen over and over again. Developers want to make changes to a neighborhood, but the neighbors don’t want those changes.  So the building owners deliberately bring down a neighborhood.   It happened in the U District.  It happened on 15th Ave across from Volunteer Park on Capital Hill.  It happened on Capitol Hill’s Broadway, and to a lesser extent on Alki, and in the Central Area and South Lake Union.

    The rents are deliberately kept high, to drive out businesses.  In the U-District and on Broadway, I heard people talking about the police directing panhandlers and homeless people there.  Eventually the  neighbors will say, “Enough! Do whatever you want.  We don’t care.”

    Then the buildings are razed, and replaced with  heavier density, increased traffic, restricted parking, and corporate chains.  The small mom-and-pops are pushed out.

    It’s the Seattle way.  How long it lasts depends to a large extent on how organized the neighbors are.  If they are organized, like the U-District and Capitol Hill groups were, it could take a decade.  If they are not organized, and the developers call the shots from the get-go, it can be done pretty quickly.


    Phinney Goat

    I don’t know, Margaret. Such a plan would only be effective in fairly idealized circumstances. After all, if neighborhood resistance were really so great, then developers would ratchet down their expected income post-modifications, which means the properties are worth less, which makes the rate of return hurdle more difficult to pass. After all, you are proposing some serious upfront costs in the face of a supposedly hostile customer base.

    Of course monopolies and monopolistic situations exist, so I would never assume that customers always win in a battle against businessman ambitions. But neighborhood retail buildings? I think that you overestimate the pricing power of such businesses. More likely, in the neighborhoods you referenced, sentiment as expressed by neighborhood chatter did not match up to sentiment as expressed by neighborhood pocketbooks.



    I believe a lot of the property from where the old macdonalds was over to the fred meyer site is and has been owned by the same family for generations and their view is long term, however the neighborhood council (community council?) seems to have been taken over by those with more to gain from increased density. I used to go to their meetings but the vitriol and obsessive formality makes it intimidating. That said, the community had a lot to do with keeping it from becoming a high rise area (are they still trying to do this?). Seattle’s failure is that increased density in old neighborhoods wont work unless you can get people out of their cars.
    On where we are going from here, I am fairly pessimistic not becasue of the vacancies, but because of the crime increase. It seems like we are becoming like the U district ten years ago.




    Most small businesses fail, that’s the way it’s always been.  It’d be interesting to see a breakdown of how many businesses have opened versus closed for the last decade between Holman and 50th.  Just looking at a few blocks near 85th is a too-narrow sample.

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