5-story apartment building to replace Grumpy D’s and other 15th Ave businesses

Grumpy D’s Coffee House and several other businesses on 15th Ave NW will have to move to make way for a massive six-five-story apartment building construction.

Marta Kurtz, owner of Grumpy D’s, says their current lease goes through December 2019, and the future is uncertain after that. They’re looking for a new location, but so far, have come up empty.

“When they told us, we started looking for a new place, but there is nothing. All the buildings that have businesses on the bottom are all small office spaces,” she says, adding that they’d prefer to stay in Ballard.

“If we move far, we don’t have the clientele anymore. It would be like starting all over again,” Kurtz tells My Ballard. “And that first year was rough.”

According to the city’s land use records, the development will be a 6-story building with 12 live/work units, 68 small efficiency dwelling units, 83 apartment units and commercial space at ground level, with parking for 63 vehicles proposed.

Photo of Dan and Marta Kurtz from Grumpy D’s website

Thanks to Gina for the tip

71 thoughts to “5-story apartment building to replace Grumpy D’s and other 15th Ave businesses”

  1. It would be nice if Grumpy D’s could lease some of the business space planned into the apartment building, but I imagine it will cost a fortune. They are such good people and have built a viable business in their neighborhood. I’m sad to see it go.

    1. Hi Deb – I am part of the development team on this project. We have always been open to the Kurtz that it is our priority to offer them the commercial space which will be in the exact same location as their current coffee shop. I believe our new space will be bigger so I am not sure why it was indicted that the space will be too small. We continue to express our desire for them to lease the commercial space.

      1. Even if they could afford it, I doubt it would have the same character that makes Grumpy Ds great. I just learned of the closure while sitting at the coffee shop getting work done. This makes me very sad because it brings a ton more people to this great neighborhood that won’t be so great anymore with the loss of this business.

        Can’t you just leave us with a few of our favorite coffee shops? I’m all for change and development, but there has to be some compromises.

    1. No, they will all be small sh*ty and expensive. The will have horrible soundproofing, so that you will hear all of the traffic noise, as well your neighbors. Think I’m wrong, check out yelp, all the new apartment complexes are horrible.

      1. Yep. The city insists on 3 or 4 refuse containers, so our smarty pants citizens get to enjoy loud mafia trash trucks every single morning. Save the planet!

        1. the city insists on 3 or 4? last i checked, it was 3. are you arguing for throwing everything into the garbage? or should we all just burn our trash in our back yards? typical conservative nonsense.

      2. The building will have soundproofing and will be built with appropriate and modern material. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

    2. I am part of the development team so I can speak to this specifically. While we do not plan to mark the building as “affordable housing” we will have 68 units available in which one personal making an annual salary of $45k per year will easily be able to afford. In addition, we are planning to provide 40+ 2 bedroom units so that families, who otherwise cannot afford a home in Ballard will have an option to live in neighborhood. The 2 beds will also allow for roommates to share a dwelling as well as retired couples who may on a fixed income.

      1. let’s do some math here. $45k – let’s say the person has enough deductions to where their federal income taxes are only 12%. that leaves the person with $39,600/year, or $3,300/month. “easily” be able to afford typically means under 30% of income, so will 68 apartments be available at $990/month? how big will these apartments be? how long will these 68 apartments stay at that rate (including inflation)?
        what will the rates be for the 40+ 2 bedroom units? retired couples on a fixed income (social security) receive a MAX of $5374/month. will these 2 bedroom units be available for under $1612/month?

  2. I own one of these other businesses and am so so sad to see the neighborhood continue to go in this direction. This news has made it difficult to secure new contracts as our clients rely on a stability of location that we will no longer be able to guarantee, effectively destroying our business model before the building itself is destroyed. This development will kill 4-5 small businesses, yet the developers don’t seem interested in meeting current tenants halfway financially (or including us at all in the decision making process that led up to this). So sad to see how the priorities have shifted from people to profit.

    1. $eattle only cares about money and “saving” the planet. and by “planet” i mean: Bezos, P. Allen, Mariners, junkies, jihadis, MS-13/Rainier Beach Gangs aka “local youths”, whopping taxes, confusing bathrooms, sex offenders, and random commies with blue hair.

      1. Confusing bathrooms? Huh? I’m guessing you have a hard time dealing with the concept of a bathroom can be used by either men or women, is that right? Let me explain it to you then: When the bathroom is available go in and pee or poop. There, was that so confusing?

    2. “So sad to see how the priorities have shifted from people to profit.”

      I truly must ask – what rose colored world have you been living in where profit has not been the primary decision maker in a capitalist economy? In the words of Tina Fey’s kids — “I want to go to there”

    3. The priority of business has ALWAYS been profit. That’s pretty much the definition of “business”. If the priority is people, then it’s not a business, it’s a charity or a hobby or something else, which is fine, but it’s not a business. Any business that claims to care about people is engaging in “public relations”, in order to maintain or increase profit. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying that’s the way it is. If we want to make sure the profit motive doesn’t result in a bad outcome for people, we need government regulation. For example, I see some suggestions in these comments for requiring developers to provide retail space. Those kinds of things might work.

      Edited to add: Nothing here is meant as a criticism of the owners of Grumpy D’s. I like them and I like their business and I wish they could find a way to stay!

    4. Hi Jay – I am part of the development team. Which current business do you own that is part of our proposed development? I do not recognize your name. There are five parcels in the proposed project and six businesses. All of which we have a solid relationship with and continue to work alongside to make this transition as smooth as possible. While five businesses may have to relocate, we are building 12 work live units on street level and one commercial space. We will be doubling the small business potential for this particular block and we hope to retain leases with business that will please the community.

  3. The part that makes me the angriest is the ousting of people and their lively hood. Not a choice. Just get out. We’re coming in. I see a future with lots of overpriced empty condos as North Ballard (where I live) turns into a ghost town.

    1. If we prevented development of the property, that would interfere with the livelihood of the real estate developers, builders, future tenants. I wish Grumpy’s could stay, but the future is always uncertain at the end of anyone’s lease. That’s the whole point of a lease— both parties are committed until the end date, and after that, it’s uncertain. Both are free.

      I’ve seen it said many times that our mixed use zoning needs to require the ground floor retail spaces to be smaller. Landlord’s prefer one big, rich, stable tenant, like a Bartell’s or Target or Whole Foods. Not a dozen little independent stores that are always coming and going. But the most lively and creative small businesses can’t afford a supermarket-sized space. They need little storefronts as incubators to grow into something great, or fail in style.

      The developers need incentives to divide up the retail space, like extra height or other goodies, since it’s not in their interest to have to deal with a bunch of entrepreneurs. New development is inevitable but it doesn’t have to erase all the places Grumpy D’s (or El Camion) could move to.

      1. Huh. I bet all these junkies and thieves have been a real blessing and a help for the small biz all over town in places like Sodo, Lake City, Pioneer Sq, and of course ol’ Ballard. Tell us more about your brilliant insights. Nothing like hearing from a local shop owner about how they can’t get the police to respond to people openly defecating on their property or, in the case of this guy, rampaging through a dept store for 15 min unimpeded. Not to mention the landlords giving up on Seattle because of the insane requirement to house felons as well as the obscene property taxes (aka rent increases to tenants) to pay for the felons in the parks.

        Oh, and let’s not forget the arsonist hobo junkies burning down developments while people like you insult the locals. Real classy.

        Yeah, let’s look at the finer points of leasing, elenchos. You should talk to the biz owners downtown who have to take their own lives in their hands just to get their cars after dark and require female employees to be accompanied to theirs.


        1. Do you sit there all day, scouring the news sites, waiting for that one news article that you can then reply to an unrelated comment with and say AHA SEE SEATTLE IS TEH SUX0RZ OMG EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE!!11!!!

          I would tell you to get a life Harley, but sadly this IS your life.

          1. I, for one, would like him to find a different forum on which to live his life. I have heard the one note in his song, over, and over and over again. It’s not insightful, fresh, or clever. The one thing I thought was kinda clever was just stolen from an alt-right meme.

            Kind of tragic, really.

      2. We are building 12 live/work spaces aimed at small business owners and one 1,500 sq. ft. commercial space in which we had hoped to retain Grumpy D’s and if not will target another local coffee shop.

        1. I hope that you work something out with Grumpy Ds. This is really my favorite place to work and I don’t think it would be the same in a “modern” commercial space. Is it possible to take this into account during the design phase?

    2. I am part of the development team. We are not ousting people and their livelihood. First, I think it’s important to note that that 3 of the 5 parcels/business owners are also the sellers who have opted to capitalize on Seattle’s real estate market and sell their land and relocate their business. We have been in communication with all the businesses and their owners for more than a year now and nothing will change for them for another 18-20 months. The remaining two parcels should look to their previous landlords who also opted to sell and capitalize on their land value in order to secure their financial future. None of the parcels in this project were purchased under distress or through foreclosure. All five land owners made a calculated decision without force to sell their land.

  4. They seem like nice people, and I like their coffee shop, so on a personal level, it’ll be sad if they can’t find a new location. But let’s be serious here: this is good news. We have a severe housing shortage in Seattle, which is having terrible effects, driving up prices, etc etc etc. We badly need a lot more housing, and the more of it we can place near frequent housing, like the D, the better. We do not have a coffee shop shortage–in the city of even in the neighborhood. In the big picture, this is very happy news, even if it’s sad for these people.

    1. yeah, the housing shortage that is causing the homeless “crisis”, right? how many homeless will be paying rent here in your opinion?

      1. I’m not an expert on homelessness, which is a complicated issue, so I can’t answer your query.

        The housing shortage crisis that I’m referring to is the one that has allowed the landlord who owns several rentals on my block, which are neither new nor nice, to charge twice as much as she did a decade ago, despite making no discernible improvements. She is able to do so because the number of jobs in the city and region has grown faster than the amount of available housing. Since I’m not an idiot, I can see how those two things are related.

        1. It’s a “crisis” because people they think they have a right to live here….which they don’t. We don’t need more apartments and condos. We need the people who are moving here for all these jobs to go live in Kent or Lynwood or somewhere else where it is more affordable right now. I’d like to go live in Medina, but I can’t just go there and demand that they make it more affordable for me and call it a crisis if they don’t.

          1. In fact, people do have a right to move freely about the country. This is a basic human right, protected by all democratic and liberal governments around the world, and denied only by authoritarian regimes like China.

            The obvious corrollary of a right to free movement is a land use regime that allows housing supply to meet demand. Otherwise, we’ll have an affordability crisis, as we have across the region. I understand that people like you think private property rights should be restricted so we can force non-rich people to have awful, expensive, life-shortening commutes because you have an aesthetic preference for shorter buildings, but that doesn’t mean it’s a wise or just to base public policy on your profoundly selfish and short-sighted whims.

    2. The only way to get affordable housing is to build more, that means zoning changes to allow more density. We have a shortage of buildable land, locked between 2 lakes and the sound, we have to use the limited land supply better if we’re going to house all the people in and coming to the greater Seattle area. This is an incredible place to live and work and other people have noticed. If we don’t build more, the existing properties will be worth more than than average Seattleites can afford. The greater area has undergone a massive average income gain over the last few years and a lot of locals have been passed by. The average house (3 bed, 2 bath) is now over 645k. and requires a six figure income to qualify. If we don’t find away to bring this into balance with the average income people make, then expect more people to be priced out! Seattle has changed and live with it or move. Sad but true!

      Seattle is still a great place, just growing up!

      1. This argument you are presenting seems to be barfed back up from what the developers/Seattle gov’t are feeding to everyone. That we have a “housing crisis” that must be solved from moving away from single family homes to dense apodment style living – and hey… on the way the developers and Seattle gov’t are really seeing a looottt of $$$$$$ flowing into their pockets. The new low quality/high density homes cost just as much as single family houses – so it’s not a question of coming in line with average income. Look at the cost of the new condos/townhouses/apartments along 15th and surrounding. Property taxes go up and up and up to clear out the single family homes and make way for developers. The real problem here is that developers/Seattle gov’t are in a perverse kickback cycle with each other and that drives their decision making process. I never thought Seattle was a great place and I certainly don’t think it’s a great place now. It’s a very difficult place to live for many, who have had the screw turned on them for years and years. We INSIST on density before all else. Traffic, public transportation, parking… we just ignore that those things are problematic because people (read: developers and those getting kickbacks from developers) want density! Ughhh.

        1. The housing crisis is real. The number of units in the city and the population of the city are facts. The population has increased by 30% in 20 years. A 19% increase in just the last 8 years. During the same period that the population increased by 30%, the number of housing units only increased by 19%.

          Simple math. It’s a housing crisis.

          We do not insist on density. When was the last time anyone laid a finger on any SF5000 property? Single family lots are sacrosanct. That’s why so many keep saying something has to be done: the vast majority of the city is single family and nobody has made any headway in changing that. You whine and moan, but you nimbys have won that battle, hands down.

          This kickback conspiracy theory… why limit yourself to a developer cabal with politicians and Big Hobo? Why not Russian spies? Or Martians? Or Satanists? No evidence is necessary, so you are totally free to make up literally anything. Zombies? Robot mind control? Why not? It doesn’t have to only be kickbacks, and the evidence for Satanists or zombies is equally good.

          1. The reason “Big Hobo” is hilarious is because the idea that homeless people are a looming threat, organized by a secret evil cabal, is so, so, so stupid. It’s funny because it’s stupid.

  5. I know it’s not Ballard, but move up to mountlake terrace. Still affordable and up in coming. Lots of potential up here!

  6. I remember when it was a used magazine store. I bought a copy of Life magazine with Sonny Sixkiller on the cover there about 15 years ago.

  7. All that is local disappears and global generic replaces it. Seattle culture dies a slow death. Seattle is being neutered by outside investors.

        1. And has always been the nature of Seattle since its founding. It is beginning to be apparent that the newbies have no idea what Settle is all about. Did they really think they might somehow be different? LOL Where is this hype that draws them coming from?

  8. These 2 people simply didn’t have to start and build this business up. Dan was forced into early retirement and when a chance popped up to open this place, he jumped on it. They had no idea about running a coffee shop but poured their profits and lives into this warm inviting place, and did OK! And there is NO app for starting over, especially at their stage in life. Risks come with rewards, opportunities, and the occasional “oh crap” times too. Will anybody still be able to see the sun when our city council and developers are through?????

    1. You do realize the property owners and developers are businesses too? You just happen to like an outcome where one business gets what it wants at the expense of another, and dislike the opposite outcome.

      What would you have the city council do? Seize control of the property from the owners? Declare the lease binding in perpetuity? If they take control of this property, why shouldn’t they take control of yours? These businesses have conflicting interests. If you what the government to intervene and pick winners and losers, what principle is that based on? It can’t be arbitrary reactions to whatever you like or whatever you’re angry at today. That’s Trumpism.

      What should the rules of the game be?

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