A new look for Sixth and Main

Edmonds Commons: Pizza, parking and more
By Brian Soergel | May 02, 2018
Courtesy of: DiMarco Architecture Artist’s rendering of Main Street looking west from Sixth Avenue South.

When the Edmonds Beacon posted a story on Facebook last week announcing the closure of a beloved Edmonds business – Next-to-Nature pet store at Sixth Avenue South and Main Street – many comments, some verging on desperation, predictably centered on the not-more-condos-anything-but-a-bank variety.

Mike McMurray hears the criticisms. But the second-generation Edmonds resident, a local financial adviser, purchased the property at 550 Main St., also home to Ombu Salon, with the idea of creating something the city can be proud of.

“The cool thing about this is that my wife and I are Edmonds people, and we want to do what’s best for the town,” McMurray said from his office on Fifth Avenue South, where his computer monitor displayed plans for the half-acre site.

“If it were a big developer, they would plow this whole thing and put some monstrosity brick apartment building with 60 units and make a bunch of money.”

That’s not McMurray’s plan for the space, which now is in the permitting stage with the city.

In fact, his plans don’t include tearing down the building on site, a distinctive 1950s, curved-roof building originally home to a Thriftway grocery store.

He envisions a renovated building – updated to meet current codes – decked out with gray metal siding and black, industrial-like windows, similar to a warehouse you might appreciate in Portland’s trendy Pearl District.

“I want to bring it back to its original architectural glory,” he said.

The building’s east entrance would look out onto a colorful courtyard with outdoor tables, plants and a water feature, similar to the space outside Old Milltown, renovated in 2012. The operating name for the entire project? Edmonds Commons.

The main interior space, at this point, will be anchored by a high-end, independent pizza restaurant, as well as a coffee shop. Plans call for a second-floor dining nook overlooking the main eating area, in addition to skylights and exposed metal beams above.

If approved by the city, and that appears likely, McMurray said the site’s parking lot would remain. Among his ideas is using the space for a year-round farmers market with covered stalls.

And parking?

Yes, parking – that’s a loud, loud concern from residents who see an increasingly popular tourist town bulging with shiny, new restaurants and an influx of newcomers vying for room in a city with limited room for growth, but with leaders eager to approve vertical and cramped housing on postage-sized lots.

A lot is up in the air, McMurray admits, but the future could see a second retail building – tied into the first with the courtyard space in-between (where the parking lot is now) with – wait for it – much-need underground parking. It would house two ground-floor retail tenants and two upper-level tenants.

Also a possibility is a third, three-story building in the southeast corner of the lot, with two live/work residential units and four residential units. According to McMurray’s plans, the live/work units would let local artists create and showcase their work along the “walking alley” created by the space between the northeast and southeast buildings.

“If the city and public like (the new building and courtyard), we might develop it to include the underground parking lot,” he said. “But whatever we do, it’s not something the city isn’t going to like. My wife and I walk by this area every weekend. We’re very transparent; we want the public to embrace it.”

Current tenants

The Beacon’s Facebook post from last week noted that Next-to-Nature announced that its last day is this Saturday, May 6.

The pet store, at the location for 15 years, said in a note to customers that the decision to close was based on a projected rent increase of more than 60 percent in the store’s next five-year lease.

“Given the reality of today’s retail environment, such an increase was impossible for us to find a way to continue operating here,” the note said.

“We will be continuing, however, to operate in our thriving Seattle and Tacoma locations. We thank all of you for the very many great memories and for the trust you have placed in us on your pets’ behalf over the years.”

McMurray said the store’s lease expired in September, but the owner decided to close early.

“We’ve all taken our dogs there,” McMurray said. “I certainly wasn’t pushing him out by any means, but at the same token there’s a lot of interest in commercial property. Next-to-Nature occupies almost 10,000 square feet. They approached me about leaving early, but I’m open to getting them a space down the road, and they are open to that.”

The same holds true for Ombu Salon + Spa, the other tenant on the site, McMurray said.

“Mike has a vision to modernize the building and create a really interesting space,” Ombu owner Beth Sanger said. “I am still discussing where Ombu fits into the project. We are evaluating multiple locations and are still determining what’s the best fit for our employees and clients.”

Another bakery on Main Street?

McMurray recently purchased, with two business partners, another location just down the street: the former Fabric of Life at 519 Main St. He said he’s already fielding requests from possible tenants, but his goal is anything but ordinary, as he wants to renovate that space as well.

He’s put a picture of Darth Vader in the window, next to a sign reading "Use the Force ... tell Vader what downtown Edmonds needs. Bakery? Coffee? Restaurant?" He wants those interested to email 519mainstreetideas@gmail.com.

McMurray, who graduated from Edmonds High School and Western Washington University, didn’t want to give away too many secrets, but said he’s leaning toward a bakery.

“My wife and I have always wanted to contribute to downtown by adding more retail and fun stuff to do,” he said.

“We’re fortunate to acquire properties downtown. Edmonds is changing, and going through a massive influx of people. So we’re trying to balance things out – yes, we want to make money, but if money was the end game, we could just sell (550 Main). The fears of people posting saying it’s going to be a big condo complex, well, it’s not going to be that.

“Our goal is to bring more variety to town, to contribute to the town being awesome. We’re not saying it’s not. But we love Edmonds – we just want a little more. Edmonds has so much potential.”


Comments (1)
Posted by: Lori Susan Kunze | May 03, 2018 16:06

Okay, if downtown Edmonds needs more variety, we don't need a third bakery!  We need Nama's back!!

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