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Vashon Village tenants wonder and worry about site’s future
Some of the tenants at Vashon Village say they’re reeling from the news that the small colorful buildings that house their businesses might be razed, while others say they see the latest developments as a chance for new opportunities.
In interviews with several tenants at the park, reactions were mixed to the news that developer Dan McClary has signed an agreement to sell the business park to Don Asher and Bob Kendrick, businessmen who want to redevelop the site.
The two men have put together a four-page color proposal extolling the property’s potential as a site for a new Vashon library — a proposal they shared with the King County Library System’s board of directors Tuesday night. Their tentative plan calls for placing the library where the small buildings currently stand, putting a plaza behind the library and, at the west end of the property, erecting a small, mixed-use building for both commercial and residential tenants.
But several businesses could be displaced if they move forward, tenants pointed out, and some are already expressing qualms.
“It definitely makes me nervous,” said Tammy Thomas, owner of Pampered Paws, a dog-grooming business at Vashon Village. “I’m not panicking, but I’m definitely keeping my eyes and ears open. I don’t want to find out that in three months, my office space is gone.”
Alice Larson, who’s had her office at the site for 20 years, said she was troubled that she didn’t hear from McClary about the pending sale. A social service researcher who also does intricate origami work, Larson said she’d hate to lose a spot she’s come to love.
“It’s a great location. I feel perfectly safe. I eat two meals a day in my office. I live here,” she said.
Wendy Rogers, owner of Wendy’s Weather’d Wear, a consignment clothing store, said she sees the situation differently.
“If they’ve got the money, more power to them,” she said. “Whatever happens happens. ... There’s no reason to be upset about it.”
But Asher said their plans are very preliminary at this point, and it’s far too soon for tenants to worry. What’s more, he added, he and Kendrick hope the current tenants could remain at the commercial park, should the two men move forward and erect a mixed-use building on the west end of the 4.5-acre parcel.
“Nothing’s going to happen immediately,” Asher added.
Vashon Village is comprised of nine buildings, all of which were built in 1980, according to the King County Assessor’s Office. McClary bought the business park in 2005 for $1.6 million, the assessor’s office Web site shows. It’s now appraised at $1.55 million.
The commercial area has a colorful history. For years, the Happy Garden Restaurant and Bar was located at the site — a happening place and the Island’s favorite watering hole. When it closed, another restaurant opened — a steak house that didn’t have nearly the following of the Happy Garden; it burned down under what was considered at the time suspicious circumstances, tenants of the business park said.
Many other businesses have come and gone over the years, Islanders recall. Frame of Mind started at the site. A Montessori school was once located there, as was the Island’s first naturopath, Fran Brooks. Flowers were sold from one of the little shops; David Kirkland, since retired, practiced law there; a jean shop that Islander Bettie Edwards believes was called The Jean Shop was a going concern for a couple of years.
“There’s a lot of history in this complex,” Larson said.
But it sometimes seems pretty quiet these days, Rogers noted — and she sometimes wonders if her retail outfit suffers a bit from being on the north end of the Island, disjunct from other retail shops.
“I love my building. I love the inside of my building. But sometimes the location is a little lonely,” she said.
Jon Garriott, who with his wife Sarah owns Village Fitness Center, said his business has done well at the commercial park and, should Asher and Kendrick’s plans come to fruition, he’d like to remain there.
He hopes and expects, he added, that the two men will work with tenants to ensure that happens.
“If they want to go forward with their plan, they need to be sensitive to helping us out,” he said. “There are some great businesses here that have been here a long time and are very steady.”