Speaker: Bartell family committed to development that reflects Edmonds’ values

    Jean Bartell Barber talks to the Daybreakers Rotary Club Tuesday about the new multi-use development planned for Westgate.

    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.

    Artist rendering of the completed project, showing the building against the south slope and fronted by the plaza and parking areas.

    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 view of the proposed Westgate project looking southeast from across Edmonds Way.

    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.”

    “We believe that it’s our responsibility to develop and manage properties that add value to our neighborhoods,” Barber said.

    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





    1. Just a couple of comments here:
      1) “very walkable and friendly” pedestrian area that is open to both tenants and public? What ‘Public’ are they referring to? I seriously doubt that anyone other than the Tenants will be walking around that parking lot. Why would they? I look at that illustration showing the elevation looking SE across Edmonds Way and I have to think, ‘Who would want to sit at those tables with all of the Ferry traffic and general traffic that runs fairly heavily all day, every day in that area and breath in all of the exhaust and listen to the trucks and cars, etc. Not a place I would want to be at all! It appears that the tables and chairs are only about 15-20 feet from the roadway. UGH!
      2) “a commitment to differentiation — buildings that don’t look like everything else that is being put up — and sustainability,” Really?? The Architectural rendering show a structure that looks EXACTLY like every other new building being built around here.
      3) “We believe that it’s our responsibility to develop and manage properties that add value to our neighborhoods,” More like properties that add to our bank accounts.

    2. I think it is great! More population (hopefully a tad cheaper) especially if businesses will occupy the ground space. Which usually happens. I like the mock up alot better than the way it is cut off now.

    3. My second comment is. There is a lot of people walking around there now. (I just got a perscription filled) Tons of high school students were there sitting around the bus area with no where to sit but the ground. People were eating at the popular Subway store too. I grabbed a Subway sandwich and walked over to Bartells.

    4. Having lived in Edmonds off and on since 1959, I must say that that is the ugliest, cold looking building that doesn’t seem very reflective of Edmonds warmth! Similiar but bigger to the other cold building that was built just down the road. Sad.

    5. If some do not like the look and feel of this development can you help us all with an example of what development in Edmonds met the criterial of pretty, warm and inviting? Examples of what looks anf feels good would be helpful to understand what some view as good development.

    6. There aren’t many examples of pretty, warm & inviting developments – as witness the development at the intersection of Casper and 9th. But the heart of Edmonds is the older buildings or the re-developed older buildings, not to mention our seaside tradition. How about something that reflects our “village” tradition and respects our history? I’m not an architect, so I cannot say exactly what, but so many developments feel heartless, look transient and have no soul or beauty. Nothing I see in the proposed development says “Edmonds” to me – and let’s remember that the area in question might be regarded as the “gateway to Edmonds,” and should make people feel that there is something special and identifiable here – not just more same.

    7. We need more housing for our area. It’s near transportation and supermarkets. It’s a good plan and a good location. Don’t stand in the way of needed housing development.

      • It might be worth asking why we “need more housing for our area.” Is continual “development” really a good thing, or necessary? Is there a point where a town like Edmonds reaches saturation and ceases to be itself? Is there a point where we cannot absorb more people without losing something fundamental? Will parking downtown become even more impossible? Why must we always expand – look what has happened to Ballard! These are all questions which I believe we need to examine, to avoid the danger of simply drifting into something we don’t want, because that’s the way the current is flowing. I don’t know the answers, but I wish we had a firm vision of what we want Edmonds to be like in 25 years or more, rather than just letting it happen.

        • Edmonds needs more housing because our state’s Growth Management Act requires that our population must grow a specified amount.

          • Unless my reading of the Act is wrong, it does not require that Edmonds has to build more housing. Rather–and I am citing Wikipedia’s definition here–it was designed to “manage growth by identifying and protecting critical areas and natural resource lands, designating urban growth areas, preparing comprehensive plans and implementing them through capital investments and development regulations.” So my interpretation is that it is trying to AVOID reckless urban sprawl in favor being smart about how and where new housing be built. I’m 100% in agreement with Nathaniel Brown’s comments above about using Ballard as a cautionary tale against uncontrolled development and being smart in how we proceed moving forward.

    8. Putting a huge parking lot at that corner – the gateway to Edmonds – will be ugly. 140 parking spots for 91 units doesn’t seem sufficient, and if it isn’t, where will the residents and their guests park? The development will make access to Edmonds even more congested at that corner, with not only the 140 new cars coming and going, but also the residents’ friends and family and commercial shoppers. Can’t the parking be behind and under the building and plant green areas and trees in front?

          • So that’s making them more expensive than they would be if all of the parking was on the surface, but they have no choice since there’s not enough land there to provide the required amount of parking.

    9. It would be pleasant if Mr Wambolt took some suggestions on board and said something like “Interesting idea – one we should think about” or “maybe we can approach this keeping that in mind.” So far, his answers all appear to be why not, or to dismiss concerns, as if undesirable buildings and growth were inevitable and incapable of being in any way altered to make Edmonds a better place.

      • What you consider to be undesirable buildings others obviously do not. I’m going to continue to talk about facts, if you want to continue to talk about dreams, that’s your right. So if you don’t like my comments, don’t read them.

        • Where in my comments did you see me reject facts? And what is a discussion of Edmonds architecture if there is no room for a few dream ideas? If you would re-read my post, I think you’d find my point was that various people’s idea ought to be taken into consideration and not immediately and rather brusquely rejected. Having lived in Edmonds since 1961, I am concerned with the direction we seem to be taking away from the picturesque village by the sea and we should steer change, not be taken unawares by it. But your responses don’t seem very interested in the view of residents. Interesting way to run for office.

    10. A dog-legged block of apartments mostly built up behind a parking located next to a four lane highway and behind a strip mall does not make a walk-able neighborhood. LEED certification for the building is just an expensive shopping strategy for building parts also certified by LEED at great expense than an engineering strategy that actually conserves energy or improves our environment.

      If the owners are going to be allowed to make up financially for their previous unfortunate design decisions on the strip mall next door by erecting this monument to mediocrity along side it, at least they should be honest about what they are doing. It is not an addition to the community. It will be a money maker for the owners. There is no justification for the City of Edmonds to give the owners a huge tax break.

    11. I don’t believe anyone that is going to invest their money do so to “lose” money. If they want to beautify Edmonds they will. I don’t think Bartells has done anything to harm not only their name but Washington as a whole the the past. No design, mockup will please everyone. Edmonds is growing. You can’t stop it so why not get on the train and “welcome” it. I for one would really like to see MODERATE housing, let alone lower…we need all kinds of people having a “Edmonds kind of day. “

    12. Certainly no one is going to invest to lose money. But to accept growth willy-nilly and say we can’t stop it, is not the point: expressing views on what we would like Edmonds to look like, and exchanging ideas as to what is appropriate and attractive is part of a lively community. Simply saying something is inevitable is giving up.

    13. To meet the goals in the GMA we need to add about 250 people to our population annually. It is estimated that Edmonds has already developed 95% of our available building lots. Many talk about added density in order to accommodate the added 5000 people over the next 20 years. Mr. Brown offers some interesting comments about accepting growth on a “willy-nilly” basis. He is correct. He went on to say that a good thing would be for all of us to “expressing views on what we would like Edmonds to look like, and exchanging ideas as to what is appropriate and attractive is part of a lively community.” This too is correct. We should do more discussion of what we want for growth and what are the impacts to the community not only for the elements of the planned project but the financials for the city.

      Adding a development, no matter how large or small adds to the tax base and helps with city revenue. Let me give some examples of the revenue impact to help us all understand the financial aspect of development. The Harbor Square development that was planned has some great numbers to help us understand the impact of development. It was going to add 340 housing units all much smaller than is typical and would have attracted younger first time owners and renters to Edmonds right near a transit center. These are some of the goals folks are advancing. It would have added a one-time tax boost of $1.4-1.9M with about $350,000 going to the City. It would have provided about 500 jobs and a payroll of over $23M. And it would have added around $142m to the tax base. This would have helped with the City’s revenues and would have reduced the pressure for increasing taxes on those already here.

      Mr. Brown is right for us to decide what would be best for the community and not just condemn the ideas of others. As we move forward with issues like affordable housing and development and GMA goals we should all take a breath and discuss our options and be sure we understand the implications of our choices.


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