Goosefoot to buy Myers’ mall

With the signing of a multi-million dollar purchase agreement Saturday, the newest commercial landowner and developer in Bayview has now likely become the area’s most influential.

Goosefoot Community Fund, the non-profit developer of the new Bayview Cash Store and Bayview Corner, signed an agreement to purchase the Whidbey City mall complex from longtime South Whidbey commercial property owner Kent Myers. The agreement, which promises a purchase price in the neighborhood of $4.9 million according to Goosefoot, calls for a closure on the sale in late June 2005.

Better known to many South Whidbey residents as the home of Casey’s Red Apple Grocery Store, Neil’s Clover Patch Restaurant, and several other commercial businesses, Whidbey City was built by Oak Harbor developer Bob Sebo in the early 1970s. Myers, doing business as the Myers Group, purchased the then-named Mark & Pak grocery store from Sebo, then bought most of the mall in 1980. He later bought several surrounding properties, including the former Whidbey Island Bank building adjacent to the mall and a location currently leased by landscaping materials company. The sale to Goosefoot includes all these properties. It does not include the portion of the mall occupied by Sebo’s Do-It Center; that property is still owned Bob Sebo.

The latest sale of the property will be completed seven months from now, as Goosefoot has made the sale conditional pending a period of “due diligence.” Linda Moore, the organization’s executive director, said Friday that Goosefoot will use that time to evaluate the property in detail, including its storm sewer system, its septic system, and the condition of buildings on the property.

Talking about the sale Monday, Myers said he is trying to make his life “a little more simple” by selling the property, and is hopeful the new owners can complete the job he started nearly 25 years ago. Though he has entertained other purchase offers over the past two years, Myers said he decided to sell to Goosefoot because he believes the organization has the money and ability to develop Whidbey City and Bayview to their full commercial potential.

“It isn’t that nothing good has happened here,” he said of his ownership of the mall and surrounding property. “It’s tired and it needs some revitalization. You need to have somebody like Goosefoot, with the financial backing to really do something here.”

But even with new ownership, the likelihood is that no changes will happen for some time, according to Goosefoot’s Moore. She said her organization chose to purchase Whidbey City as part of a long-term effort to unite commercial property owners in the Bayview area to develop locally owned businesses that employ South Whidbey islanders and appeal to South Whidbey consumers. High-end retail, she said, is anathema to Goosefoot’s intentions.

“If it winds up as cedar shingles and a place where the people who work there can’t afford to buy, I’ll consider it a failure,” she said.

Moore said Goosefoot currently plans to honor the leases businesses in Whidbey City signed with Myers & Associates. Myers & Associates will be one of those leases, renting the old bank building for its corporate offices and as a retail location for its Copy This, Mail That business.

Changes designed to unify Bayview

Initially, Goosefoot plans to work to unify Bayview as a commercial center. Both Moore and Myers described the area as being at the geographical center of South Whidbey’s commercial community. Specific measures Goosefoot plans to take include asking the U.S. Postal Service for a distinct Bayview zip code, and opening talks with other property and business owners in the area that could lead to shared sewage facilities.

Most of the commercial property at Bayview is currently owned by just six people or groups. Those owners include Whidbey Telephone Company, Vic Hanson, Bob Sebo, Verlane Gabelein, Goosefoot and, for the time being, Kent Myers. Former Cash Store owner Don Azar and another Bayview Corner property owner, the late Ray Gabelein, sold their properties to Goosefoot in 1999.

Goosefoot’s second goal may arouse interest in only a portion of the Bayview business community. At Hanson’s Lumber, located just a few hundred yards away from Whidbey City, business and property owner Vic Hanson said he has no need to share in a common sewage solution.

“Well, I’m pretty well built out,” Hanson said Monday. “It wouldn’t make sense for me.”

However, when it comes to storm drainage, Hanson said cooperation with his neighbors might make some sense.

Neil Colburn, owner of the Clover Patch, was more enthusiastic about shared sewage costs. He said he paid for half of the septic system that currently serves Whidbey City about 14 years ago. That system has been problematic over the years and may need to be replaced. If that replacement is part of a larger, Bayview-wide effort, Colburn might take part.

“If there’s an affordable way to deal with sewer issues, I’m interested, you bet,” he said.

Goosefoot may have a vested interest in promoting an area-wide sewer or septic system. The organization built a 3.2-acre septic field off Meinhold Road while rebuilding the Bayview Cash Store. Goosefoot’s Moore said the capacity of this field is barely being used by the cash store and a few other nearby buildings, thus it could accommodate several other hookups.

Purchase is another phase to project

In addition to rebuilding the old Bayview Cash Store and bringing a number of new businesses to the Bayview area over the past three years, Goosefoot made one prior attempt to gain a strong foothold in the area’s commercial future. In 2001, the non-profit acquired an option to purchase the water system that serves Bayview from then-owner Bob Porter. After Sept. 11, 2001, Goosefoot chose not to exercise that option, according to Linda Moore. The system, named the Vistaire Water System, was sold this year to a partnership that includes Vic Hanson and Verlane Gabelein.

Goosefoot’s failure to acquire the water system is of little consequence, Moore said.

The 21-acre Bayview Corner property owned by Goosefoot was purchased in 1999, and the Cash Store was remodeled with funds from the organization’s philanthropist founder, Nancy Nordhoff of Langley. The work done at the corner — which also includes a new grass parking lot and a remodeled Sears kit house used as offices — is described by the organization as Phase 1 of the work it plans to do at Bayview.

Fully paid off, the Bayview Corner property will serve as collateral for the bank financing Goosefoot will need to purchase Whidbey City. With the completion of the Cash Store this past spring, Nordhoff is no longer funding Goosefoot.

Still on Goosefoot’s board of directors, Nordhoff said the purchase agreement with Kent Myers was signed with the most serious of intentions. At the same time, she said the purchase was something she hadn’t thought of when she first formed the non-profit in 1999 to purchase and rebuild the Cash Store.

“I don’t think I thought about it in the beginning,” she said. “It popped up along the way.”

Goosefoot is looking for investment partners in the Whidbey City deal. Linda Moore said the organization might take on equity partners, and plans to sell business tax credits tied to the property because, as a non-profit, Goosefoot cannot use them.

Additionally, Moore said Goosefoot may purchase more property in the Bayview area in the future.

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