Metropolitan Market, which has been an important part of the Upper Queen Anne community for 41 years, will be leaving its location at 1908 Queen Anne Ave. N. in August of this year.
The grocery chain, which also has a store 11 blocks away in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood at 100 Mercer St., has announced it will not be part of the new development at the Upper Queen Anne site, formerly referred to as the Metropolitan Market project.
The company’s Chief Operating Officer Todd Korman said on Friday, Feb. 10, that they could not make the costs of the new project pencil-out for the six-store chain, which began with the single store on Upper Queen Anne in 1971. He said they had worked closely with developer Joe Geivett since his company Emerald Bay Equity bought the property in 2008, but the new development would have simply cost too much.
Both Korman and Geivett say the recent appeals to the project had no bearing in the chain’s decision to pull out of the deal.
“We have been working with Emerald Bay for more than three years,” Korman said. “But as everything came together, the cost of the redevelopment as it’s designed became too expensive.”
Geivett said Metropolitan Market officials actually made the decision that they wouldn’t be part of the new development last July. That decision required Emerald Bay to give the store a year’s notice to vacate on Aug. 1, 2012.
Korman said the complexity of the project, which calls for a much larger grocery store to be built on the first floor of the four-story apartment development made the cost prohibitive for the company. He said many aspects, including placing equipment on the roof, the delivery of goods and the flow of customers would all be different and more expensive in the new development.
He said underground parking for instance, is considerably more expensive than above ground parking and the size of the site itself would cause issues.
Korman stressed that it will be business as usual at the Upper Queen Anne store until the location closes on Aug. 1 of this year.
“There will be no changes at all at the store,” he said. “We’re full-steam ahead.”
Korman said all employees at the Queen Anne location will be offered jobs at the chain’s five other stores and no layoffs are expected.
Both Geivett and Metropolitan Market’s Korman say the two sides tried to work out the development so the grocery store would stay, but it just couldn’t be done.
Geivett said he will be able to replace Metropolitan Market and is talking to grocery chains about the project, but has yet to sign a replacement tenant.
“We are in talks with a number of grocery chains that would be fantastic fits for Queen Anne,” Geivett said. “For all those neighbors who are concerned, none of them are QFC.”
The announcement of Metropolitan Market’s leaving will undoubtedly cause a round of déjà vu for many local residents who remember back in 2007 when a similar development was planned for the Metropolitan Market location. At that time, the chain was going to leave the site and QFC was going to move in. The project was eventually defeated for a number of reasons, including opposition from local residents who did not want a large corporation like QFC moving in. Instead, they wanted to keep Metropolitan Market in the neighborhood.
It was after QFC withdrew from the deal that Geivett’s Emerald Bay Equity bought the property and began to plan it’s own development for the same location.
But, once again, Metropolitan Market officials could not figure out a way for the project to make financial sense.
Metropolitan Market has long been a strong cultural and economic leader for the Upper Queen Anne community. Korman said that commitment to the community would not change. The chain will continue to support the Queen Anne Helpline and other charitable organizations. The store will also continue to be a sponsor of the Queen Anne Farmers Market.
However, the location had its limitations. Korman said the Upper Queen Anne store is the only one in the area without a full delicatessen and other amenities that they were able to add to the Mercer Street store.
Korman said Metropolitan Market would be looking to expand into other locations around the Puget Sound area. Currently, the chain has stores in Kirkland, Upper Queen Anne, Lower Queen Anne, Sand Point Way, West Seattle and Tacoma.
Korman said he expects there to be a smooth transition to the Lower Queen Anne store and continued growth for the company. The Mercer Street location was formerly a Larry’s grocery store before being acquired by Metropolitan in 2006. The company remodeled the site and reopened in 2010.
“My message to the people of Queen Anne is we want to thank the community for 41 years of support and we look forward to continuing that relationship at our Mercer Street store,” Korman said. “We will continue to be an active member of the community.”
Geivett said he wants Queen Anne residents to know that Emerald Bay Equity realizes how special the community is.
“We are committed to putting the right tenant in that building for this community,” Geivett said. “This does not stop our project.”
In other news about the project, residents appealing the planned development to the city have received an extension on the appeal hearing until March 20 at 9 a.m.