It’s reefer madness on 15th Ave E where, if nothing else, paranoia about the demand for commercial space for I-502 retail floats thick.
It’s not just smoke. Entrepreneur and real estate investor Ian Eisenberg has confirmed with CHS his plans to convert the former veterinary clinic he purchased at 15th and Republican into a marijuana shop. CHS reported on the $1.5 million purchase in February as the CHS advertiser and Uncle Ike’s owner snatched the property out from under another prospective I-502 retailer.
But judging by the volume of emails, text messages, and phone calls CHS has received from worried neighbors and customers, the other side of 15th and Republican is also being lined up for some major changes with many rumors of another retail marijuana operation being planned in the storefronts currently home to Angel’s Shoe Repair and the Postal Plus post office.
Ray Angel, owner of the 100+ year old shoe repair shop, said he couldn’t talk with CHS on the record about the situation but Ed Zhang — the official postmaster and business owner of the US Postal Service outlet — confirmed that though he still has two years left on his lease, he has been notified by the building’s ownership that he will face a doubling of rents.
“A community needs a post office,” Zhang said about the pressure to move his shop and find another location to serve the 98112 population.
Zhang said he doesn’t know why his landlords seem to want Postal Plus to move and CHS found no record of construction permits or liquor board applications indicating plans for an I-502 related business at the address. We also found no record of any recent sale of the building.
Joel Ostroff, who manages the property for Stanley Real Estate on behalf of the real estate investors who own the building, declined to comment.
Across the street at the old animal clinic, Eisenberg said he is moving forward with remodeling the facility “in anticipation of eventually finding a license holder to partner with.” He, too, has heard the rumors about another pot shop at the corner. Meanwhile, construction is moving forward near Eisenberg’s Uncle Ike’s on another I-502 retailer. CHS reported in October that an I-502 lottery winner for a license to operate in the Central District has purchased a property being used as a mosque. According to the Department of Planning and Development, a construction project — “change use of 1st floor from religious facility to general retail sales & services” — has been permitted at the 24th and Union storefront. It appears that Mello Times, is indeed, gearing up to open at 2413 E Union.
The clustering of I-502 marijuana projects in Central Seattle is an outgrowth of the overlaying restrictions on store locations based on state and city rules including the required 1,000-foot buffer from schools, parks, or community centers. The state liquor board that administrates licensing also could have discretion to prevent a Starbucks-worthy kitty-corner pot shop situation that may be playing out at 15th and Republican. Another potential location for a store in the spaces now home to Angel’s and Postal Plus could seriously weaken Eisenberg’s move into the neighborhood. In the meantime, Rudy’s plans for a new barbershop on the street show that not every new investment on 15th Ave E will be marijuana related.
Demand for space might also be shaped by another powerful market force — price. The Seattle Times celebrated 4/20 by sharing the good news/bad news for marijuana retailers: The average price of legal weed in the state has fallen to $12 a gram.
In the meantime, Zhang told CHS last week that he is still talking to his building ownership and knows that if Postal Plus gives up the two years left on its lease, it will also mean the end of Angel’s in the location as the repair shop is on only a month-to-month lease. “It’s a lot of pressure,” Zhang said.
UPDATE 4/22/15 3:10 PM: According to the latest permit information from the liquor board, Samuel Burke’s application to become an I-502 retailer now lists a 1455 E Republican address. We spoke with Burke about his plans for the tōk pot shop here last December.