The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

June 9, 2010

We Have A Blue Light Special on 148th?

Filed under: Bellevue — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 7:24 pm

Update 11/4/2010:  An article from the Bellevue Reporter today provides some insight on future plans for the Kelsey Creek Center, suggesting a target of May 2011 for a start to construction activity, and suggesting that there will be renovation of the existing buildings on the site to split the old Kmart building into smaller stores (with a maximum size of 65,000 square feet, roughly the size of a large grocery store)  as well as new construction of a third building.  It also mentions KeyBank as redeveloping the former Shell station on the corner (presumably into a bank branch,) although that site is not a part of the Kelsey Creek Center property.  You can find the article with more details here.  And by the way, the Chevron station which was vacant at the time I wrote the original post has since been renovated and reopened, but you probably already know that if you ever drive by there.

Some time ago on this Blog, I wrote about the former Kmart store on 148th in Bellevue, a store which closed back in 2002 and has remained vacant with few signs of life since that time.  Costco has now twice abandoned tentative plans to redevelop the former store (first into a concept grocery store which was to be known as Costco Fresh, then later into a more conventional Costco warehouse,) on both occasions being priced out of the property by a City of Bellevue zoning requirement for any new development in the Kelsey Creek Center to “daylight” the  Creek, a stream which currently runs underneath the property in a concrete culvert.  Not only would this requirement have resulted in an expense of over half a million dollars for the required stream improvements, but it would have also significantly reduced the amount of parking available at the site.  In short, these zoning requirements have basically made the site all but completely impractical to develop anything on.  That may be about to change.

According to this Bellevue Reporter article, the City of Bellevue has approved a zoning change to the Kelsey Creek Center site that will eliminate the requirement for a redevelopment project to daylight the creek by having Franklin West LLC (the property owner of the site) perform $585,000 worth of mitigation activities elsewhere on Kelsey Creek and on Larsen Lake (which the creek feeds into.) 

As you can see, the culvert through which the creek flows under the parking lot is far from a pretty sight, and I can’t say I’d blame the city for wanting to daylight the stream.  On the other hand, without the zoning change in question, it is highly likely that the property would just remain vacant for the foreseeable future, a scenario which doesn’t benefit anyone. 

In addition to the long-vacant Kmart store, there are now two vacant former gas stations on two corners of 148th and Main which have both closed recently.  The first one above is a former Chevron station (as should be fairly obvious from the colors,) while the second was originally a Texaco and later became a Shell (in fact, there used to be two Texaco stations across from each other at this intersection; the other became the 76 you see in the background,)  As you can see here, when Shell abandoned the station (and another on 140th in the Overlake area) they painted everything a uniform shade of grey to hide any signs of the station’s former heritage.  Some time ago there was a land use application sign at this location indicating plans to demolish it, although it is unclear what  will happen here.  The other station across the street appears has had some recent activity, although it is unclear if this activity is to repurpose the station, or if it is merely to dismantle it and remove whatever equipment may be used elsewhere. 

With the daylighting requirement on Kelsey Creek removed, a redevelopment of the site may actually become feasible, although it is not entirely clear at this point what interest there may be in the site if any.  As mentioned above, Costco has now twice abandoned plans for the former Kmart store, and with the proposed Redmond Costco store remaining in limbo in spite of having the required permit approvals in place, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll be trying again in Bellevue anytime soon.  Walmart seems like a slight possibility (aside from one Sams Club store in North Seattle there are no Walmart stores between Renton and Lynwood currently, and I suspect Mike McGinn would personally be leading the pitchforks-and-torches mob if they ever tried to put a Walmart in Seattle,) but I’d guess the possibility is remote at best.  Target had planned to build a new store as part of the now greatly scaled-down Factoria Mall redevelopment, but now seems content to stay put in their existing store there.  If I had to guess, I’d say that any project on this site would probably be a mixed-use development of some sort, possibly with an undetermined box store anchor.

At this point, I suppose anything would be better than what’s currently here, which is nothing.

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February 18, 2009

A Not-So-Standard Chevron Station (Updated)

Filed under: Bellevue, History — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:25 pm

Update 2/24/09:  Added a bit more info on the Standard station shown in the 1969 photo below based on information available at historicaerials.com.

For better or for worse, putting gasoline in our cars is a common everyday task, and aside from occasional brand loyalty or trying to find a place that’s a bit cheaper than the others, we tend to rarely give much thought to the gas station itself.  On the other hand, if you live or work in the Eastgate area of Bellevue, you may have noticed something just a bit odd about the Chevron station at 150th Ave. SE and SE 38th.  Specifically, you may have noticed that the station’s signage bears the Standard label in place of the usual Chevron branding. 

In fact, when this particular station got a recent update to the design package for a Chevron station, the Standard name, which has been out of general use since the mid 1980s, remained.   In fact, this is the only station in Washington to bear the Standard name, and serves the purpose of keeping the name in use in order to ensure that they retain the rights to the name, and to ensure that the trademarks cannot be usurped by another company.  A couple of years ago, Albertson’s learned a painful lesson on the subject when after purchasing the parent company of the Lucky chain of grocery stores (which used to have stores in the Seattle area during the early-to-mid 1980s, including locations at Southcenter Mall and Crossroads,) they then converted all of those stores to Albertson’s.  In 2006, Grocery Outlet (a smaller chain based out of Berkeley California which has a handful of stores in the Puget Sound area) attempted to rebrand one of its stores to the Lucky name, claiming that Albertson’s had abandoned the trademark.  Albertson’s was forced to reclaim the trademark through litigation, and soon afterwards a number of Albertson’s stores were converted back to the Lucky name, mostly in California.  Grocery Outlet continues to dispute their claim to the trademark.

This 1997 brochure published by Chevron (image originally posted on the Groceteria.com forum by Wayne Henderson, who published a book on the history of Standard Oil and its various splinter companies) briefly explains this, although some of these locations may now be out of date.  Each state that Chevron operates in has one station that is branded as Standard, but is otherwise no different from a regular Chevron station.  In fact, at the one in Bellevue the Standard name appears only on the signage, and the Chevron name appears everywhere else including on the gas pumps.

For those of you who have lived around here for a while, the Standard brand is nothing new.  The Chevron brand was first established after World War 2 by the Standard Oil Company of California (abbreviated alternately as either SOCAL at CALSO at different times and places,) one of the splinter companies that was formed in the wake of the 1911 antitrust breakup of the Standard Oil Company.  Others included Standard Oil of Kentucky (KYSO, which eventually merged with SOCAL) and Standard Oil of New Jersy, which previously sold gas primarily under the Esso brand, but became Exxon in the 1970s after several trademark disputes, and is now ExxonMobil.  During the breakup, each of the splinter companies was given rights to use the Standard Oil name within a specif ed geographic area, although there have been a number of disputes over territory and trademarks along the way.  For more information on the rather complicated history of these Standard Oil splinter companies, see this thread on the Groceteria forum for several interesting posts on the topic.

Here on the Eastside, Chevron and Standard branded stations operated simultaneously up until all were consolidated under the Chevron name in the 80s (with the exception of the Eastgate station, as seen above.)  The Standard name was applied to corporate-owned stations (but the gasoline sold still bore the Chevron brand) while independently owned and operated stations operated under the Chevron brand directly. Among the portion of the Eastside Heritage Center’s photo archives that has been made available available online, there are examples of both Standard and Chevron stations in Bellevue during the mid-to-late sixties (as well as some even older ones,) which you can find after the jump.

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February 9, 2008

Small Tales from Route 66

Filed under: History — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 9:16 pm

For those of you who have seen the post I made on abandoned Route 66 gas stations a few months ago (which seems to consistiently be among the most popular posts on this site, mostly from people searching for abandoned gas station photos,) I thought I’d call attention to a very interesting comment that was posted to it earlier today by Don Christiano, a former resident of Truxton Arizona in the early Seventies before I-40 bypassed this particular stretch of the old Route 66:

The two gas stations in Truxton are different stations. I lived at both of them in the early 70’s. The Texaco at that time was owned by Ralph and Emily Hunter. They lived in a doublewide behind the station. Ralph caught himself on fire while smoking a cigarette and standing in gas. Burned badly. Not sure what happened to them after that. The other station was part of the Truxton Cafe. Went out of business when I-40 went through. Most of those cars have been there since the 60’s. People would break-down, have no way to pay and hitch a ride to california. Most of them never reclaimed the vehicles later. Belive it or not, before I-40 went through the town had tons of life. There was a bar across the street where the Indians from Peach Springs would walk over to drink at and tons of traffic. We moved a few months before I-40 went through and I haven’t been back since.

When most people think of Route 66, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is one of the images that comes to mind, with its Depression-era tale of people fleeing the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma for a new life in California.  With the recent surge in nostalgia for the glory days of Route 66, with its images of sparkling roadside diners and motels with gaudy neon signs, we should keep in mind that for a lot of people, their trip on the Mother Road was a one-way journey, and with cars generally being a lot less reliable and hitchhiking being generally more socially acceptable than it is today, I could see where someone might have just decided to ditch their car and thumb it the rest of the way to their new life.  There are some cars parked at the Texaco that are clearly newer than that (the link goes to the full-size version of that photo,) which leads me to wonder what the story behind those might be.  It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in some cases, that same picture just might have a thousand stories behind it as well, and it’s fortunate that we get to hear a couple of them.

 Oh, and just in case anyone here hasn’t figured it out yet, don’t smoke cigarettes while you’re standing in a puddle of gas, OK?

July 20, 2007

Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations

Filed under: Culture, History, Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:34 am

Over at buzz.mn today, James Lileks made an interesting little post about old gas stations.  He makes an interesting point:

 …in the old days you could get a comb and a soda, nothing more. Maybe the plague, if you used the restroom. But the modern stations lack pizzazz. With a few exceptions they’re bland utilitarian structures smothered with ads for lotteries and smokes. The fifties and sixties saw the finest gas station architecture – and much of it is still around.

This post also called for the readers to submit their own photos of old gas stations.  Gas stations in general tend not to be built to last, and tend to also be built in cookie-cutter designs that face the wrecking ball swiftly and unlamented when their usefulness has waned.  Oddly enough, it’s that relative fragility that gives us this scene from the 1963 comedy epic It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which is almost as notable for it’s depiction of a contemporary gas station as it is for the manner in which said station is systematically demolished:

Around here, one of the few surviving 60s gas stations (for the time being, at least) can be found in downtown Bellevue, on Northeast 8th Street.  The station has slanted windows and a triangular canopy over the former location of the pumps, which are the hallmarks of a former Phillips 66 station (although I can’t recall ever seeing a Phillips 66 station in the time I’ve lived here.) This former station has most recently hosted a toy store, but now sits vacant, serving as an impromptu parking lot.  Given the rapid growth in Bellevue, chances are the station will probably be bulldozed as soon as someone decides to put up another hi-rise on the land.  An aerial photo of the station can be found here (you can switch to the birds-eye view for a better look,) which shows the encroaching construction which will probably eventually seal this old station’s fate.  Maybe if I have some time in the next few days I’ll go take some better photos.

Although there aren’t a lot of interesting old gas stations to be found around here, a roadtrip I took through the Southwestern United States back in April took me to one of the longest remaining stretches of the old Route 66 in Arizona, between Seligman and Kingman, a route lined with a number of ghost towns.  After the jump, a few photos of some gas stations I took along the route. (more…)

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