The Bartell Drugs-affiliated company that is building a new multi-use development in Edmonds’ Westgate neighborhood is committed to reflecting Edmonds’ values, including its focus on community and sustainability. That’s the word from the granddaughter of Bartell Drugs founder George Bartell, Jean Bartell Barber, who spoke to the Edmonds Daybreakers Rotary Club meeting Tuesday morning.
Barber, who lives in Edmonds with her husband Dave Barber, also invited the community to attend a Wednesday, April 26 open house to learn more about the project. The event will run from 4-5:30 p.m. that day at the newly-opened Ono Poke restaurant, 10016 Edmonds Way.
The building housing Ono Poke along with other businesses — as well as the locally-owned Bartell Drugs building nearby — will remain intact as the L-shaped development is built, Barton said. Much of it will be tucked into the hillside behind to create open space in the front, she explained, with the goal of providing a large “very walkable and friendly” pedestrian area that is open to both tenants and public.
The commercial real estate firm building the project is Henbart LLC, founded by George Bartell in 1922. During her Rotary presentation, which included a fair amount of Bartell family history, Barber said that the Henbart name stems from truncated versions of her grandfather George Bartell Sr.’s middle name — Henry — and last name.
“We believe that it’s our responsibility to develop and manage properties that add value to our neighborhoods,” Barber said, noting that the company owns most of its properties long term. The company also has “a commitment to differentiation — buildings that don’t look like everything else that is being put up — and sustainability,” she added.
The design, currently in the permitting phase with the City of Edmonds, includes 59,100 square feet of multifamily residential and 3,100 square feet of retail space. Barber said the company hopes to receive a building permit by September, with construction anticipated to take 16 months.
The Henbart project is the first to be proposed since the Westgate commercial area was rezoned by the Edmonds City Council in April 2015 to include taller buildings — this project will be four stories — and mixed residential/commercial use.
“We are also the first company to take advantage of the [city’s] newly-passed multifamily development tax exemption,” Barber said, explaining that such an exemption applies as long as 20 percent of units are rented to tenants who have low or moderate incomes.
The residential portion of the property will have 91 units, which will be a mixture of studio, open one bedrooms, one bedrooms and two bedrooms, she said, “although it will be heavily skewed to the smaller units to make them affordable.” There will be a total of 140 parking stalls — some at grade and some underneath. Tenant amenities will include a lounge and a workout room.
The company expects that many of its tenants will be commuting to jobs in Seattle, she added.
“The units will be typical modern urban units,” Barber said. “Edmonds is mainly known for the old traditional garden apartments, and these will be very much the urban updated with all the current amenities.”
The Westgate development will also be built to LEED standards, meaning it will use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Pointing to the company’s ownership of LEED buildings in both Seattle and Ballard, Barber said that such a designation is “very important to us because, again, we plan to hold these long term.”
During her talk, Barber — who serves as the Bartell company’s vice chair and treasurer — outlined her family’s ongoing connection to the Edmonds area. Her grandfather, George Bartell, bought several pieces of land in the Meadowdale area in the 1930s for a fishing retreat. That property is now part of the Meadowdale Beach Park.
The first Bartell store opened in Edmonds during the 1960s — in what is now the Cascadia Art Museum at Salish Crossing — “was abysmal,” she said. “It was the worst place we ever put a store because if you think about it, you don’t get many customers from the west. We were surrounded by a lot of water and not a lot of houses.”
“We had an opportunity to get out of lease after four years and took it.”
But the drugstore came back to Edmonds in 2003, building on property it already owned at Bartell’s current Westgate location.
In 2015, the company decided to the purchase the property around the Edmonds store. “We wanted to be able to control the destiny of the corner of Westgate,” she said. “We thought we could do a better job of putting something in that the community would like and we would be proud to be a part of.”
As for other family history, Barber explained that George Bartell Sr. was a 22-year-old pharmacist when he started Bartell in 1890. The company’s first store was on Seattle’s Jackson Street. “He had worked at the pharmacy for two weeks and he bought it on credit and that was the start of our company,” she said. George Bartell Sr. was succeeded by Barber’s father, George Bartell Jr., “and those two George Bartells ran the company for 100 years.”
Barber and her older brother — “also George” — ran the company until two years ago, when they hired an outside CEO. The company is now starting to bring in the fourth generation of owners — children of both Barber and her brother — who are ages 20 to 30, she said.
She also quipped, for those doing math in the room, that “we Bartells are never very quick to the altar or the delivery room when I have a grandfather who was born in 1868.”
— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel