EDMONDS — A family with strong ties to the community has taken over a tired strip mall, exciting city leaders who feel one step closer to their dream of creating a gleaming gateway.
The former Safeway shopping center at 190 Sunset Ave., anchored now by the Waterfront Antique Mall, has long been considered fallen short of its potential. Bordering the ferry terminal lanes, it is within short walking distance of both the waterfront and Edmonds’ charming downtown.
“It has presented a very tired face to the community for too many years. We’re confident our rehab efforts will reverse that,” said Lindsey Echelbarger, an owner of Salish Crossing LLC, an Echelbarger Fund Management company. The Echelbarger family runs a suite of development companies out of Lynnwood.
The company will give the strip mall a new coat of paint, landscaping and signs with the Salish Crossing moniker.
Long-range plans are in the early stages.
But Echelbarger has architects working on a plan to incorporate a 103-year-old portico he and his wife, Carolyn, salvaged from the original Edmonds High School building. The entry was removed during a 2005 renovation of the school auditorium that created the Edmonds Center for the Arts.
The two-story terra-cotta archway would serve as “sort of a ceremonial access” for pedestrians at the northwest corner of W. Dayton Street and Sunset Avenue/Highway 104.
“We have a soft spot for the old school,” said Echelbarger, noting his father, aunts, uncles and other family members and friends were Edmonds High School graduates. “We’ve been here a long time and we’re happy to have saved it. We didn’t want it carted off to a Dumpster and thrown away.”
The archway nearly ended up in his own back yard, with visions of vines and roses trailing over it for “an old ruin effect.”
“But it’s much nicer that the community be able to share it,” Echelbarger said. “Edmonds isn’t a very old town in the large scope of things, but this is going back to 1909 — it’s one of the prime artifacts of the old town.”
A community-minded developer — and one with relatively deep pockets — is a dream come true for city planners.
In a press release announcing the sale, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling called it “a momentous purchase.”
The city for years has been trying to bridge the gap between its main attractions — a healthy downtown and picturesque waterfront — while overcoming the ferry traffic and railroad tracks that divide them. At 4.28 acres, the antique mall site is the single largest chunk of land standing between the two.
“That site really functions as one of our primary gateways … especially for those coming from the west. So I think it’s important to talk about how (Salish Crossing) might provide that kind of gateway we’re looking for,” said Stephen Clifton, the city’s economic development director. “We’re looking forward to discussing their vision, sharing our vision.”
The shopping center first became a focus of discussions in 2006. Then-owner Albert Dykes, managing partner of Seattle-based Edmonds Shopping Center Associates, had pegged building heights as a limiting factor. Building heights are a hot topic in the city, and Dykes’ efforts to have the heights tripled for the site, from 25 feet to 75 feet, were nixed.
Since then, ESC Associates has fallen behind on paying property taxes and the site was scheduled for public auction, according to a public notice filed with Snohomish County. Instead, the Echelbarger group was able to purchase the property.
So far, there are no talks about changing the zoning rules on building heights for Salish Crossing.
“That’s an unknown. We don’t know what the long-range plans are yet for Salish Crossing, so it’d be premature to talk about that topic,” Clifton said.
The new owners have described the building as in better shape than anticipated, and at least in the near term, they plan to enhance what latent charm lingers underneath that curved Safeway roofline.
“We see the building as a ‘diamond in the rough,’ and that is our focus,” Echelbarger said. “We have a vision of it being a mid-century ornament for the community.”
The newly named Salish Crossing shopping center is anchored by the Waterfront Antique Mall, 190 Sunset Ave., and also houses Waterfront Sports &Physical Therapy, a few restaurants and a Maytag store. Other spaces are vacant. Prospective tenants should contact Tiffini Connell, a broker with West Coast Commercial Realty, at 206-283-5212.