EDMONDS — Plans are moving forward to rebuild the former Safeway shopping center near the waterfront into a destination hotspot with one of the largest outdoor dining areas in the city.
The store at 190 Sunset Ave., that until last month had been anchored by the Waterfront Antique Mall, will be divided into two spaces, one for restaurants and shopping and another for a regional fine art museum.
Echelbarger Fund Managements has already signed two of four tenants that will occupy the retail space in the 20,000-square-foot store, Scratch Distillery and Brigid’s Bottleshop.
The hope is for the retail center to open this winter or by spring.
“Edmonds is just a wonderful little community,” said Nick Echelbarger, whose family is redeveloping the center. “And it’s very loyal. Any retailer that opens in town and does a good job has customers for life.”
It’s part of a $3 million overhaul to give new life to the 4.28-acre shopping center nestled between the waterfront and downtown. Inside a vacant storefront laid out like a puzzle is what will become the signature piece for the project: A historic, two-story terra cotta archway to be installed at the corner of W. Dayton Street and Sunset Avenue.
The 105-year-old portico used to stand at the old Edmonds High School, but was discarded during a 2005 renovation that made the school into the Edmonds Center for the Arts.
Nick Echelbarger’s parents, Lindsey and Carolyn, bought the archway, because they didn’t want to see it carted away in a dumpster. They plan to use it as a ceremonial access into the property.
It’s fitting that a family with such deep roots in the community is drawing upon a piece of history for the development.
“I saw my first movie at the Edmonds Theater,” Echelbarger said. “My Dad saw his first movie at the Edmonds Theater. My Granddad saw his first movie at the Edmonds Theater.
“And that was on my Great-Grandfather’s lap, who was reading him the subtitles for the silent movie.”
The Echelbarger family, who run a real estate investment company out of Edmonds, purchased the shopping center two years ago. The former owner had wanted the city to triple building heights for the site, but the city nixed that effort.
Lindsey and Carolyn Echelbarger, who live in Woodway, said at that time they wanted to give a new face to the tired and rundown center.
Since then, the family rebuilt the parking lot. They’ve hired nationally renowned landscapers Charles Price and Glenn Withey, curators of Dunn Gardens in Seattle, to bring in unique and rare plants and create one of the largest rain gardens in the community.
They’ve also commissioned Suquamish artist Peg Deam’s to create an art piece, “Spirit, Tide and Travels.” Mead Powers, a Seattle-based custom concrete artist, installed the artwork in the retaining walls on the project’s east façade.
And they’ve installed globe lighting outside the shopping center that can alternate colors during the holiday season.
The biggest change to the property will be this next phase, reshaping the former Safeway.
The idea is to create what is called a market-concept common corridor in the building. On the south side will be four shops overlooking a 2,000-square-foot outdoor terrace with fire pits.
The family wants to take out the south-facing wall and replace it with glass walls and doors giving the businesses access to the outdoor seating. One of those businesses is Scratch Distillery, which will produce a full-line of craft spirits on site.
“That section of Edmonds has been so underutilized compared with the downtown,” said Kim Karrick, who is developing the distillery. “Anything that we can do to bring people to that area will be exciting.”
Another is Brigid’s Bottleshop, which will feature 10 rotating taps and hundreds of unique beers. Two more businesses, a restaurant and another that could be a bakery or a coffee shop, will be added.
For the northside, a new museum called the Cascadia Art Museum will be built. Nick Echelbarger said that his parents have collected pieces of Northwest art from 1880 to 1962, or from before Washington’s statehood to the Seattle World’s Fair.
A museum board is expected to make a series of announcements about the project later this summer.
Echelbarger said they’re hoping to build a property that the community will enjoy.
“We’ve crossed the line from simply investing in a property to a labor of love,” Echelbarger said. “You don’t do retail centers and put up historic arches, hire nationally recognized landscapers and put in original artwork in the retaining walls.
“This deserves the extra effort.”