Businesses in Redmond Square are facing uncertainty after a California-based development company purchased the property in November 2016.
Redmond Square houses many local businesses, including a number of immigrant-owned operations, said Jennifer O’Neal, program manager for Eastside Cultural Navigator Program. At least two business owners in the square have said there is a lack of information concerning the future of the buildings their businesses sit in.
The San Franscisco company Legacy Partners purchased the property in conjunction with a Chinese investment firm for $31 million, according to a Reporter article last year.
O’Neal said many of these businesses in the square employ people who many not be fluent in English and who might not have opportunities available to them if the restaurants they work at are forced to relocate or close if the current mall is demolished for development.
Jessica Chen owns Nara Japanese Restaurant with her mother. It is a second-generation family-owned establishment that has been in the square for 28 years.
Chen said she doesn’t know what Legacy’s plans are for the mall.
“There’s been a bit of a disconnect between the new owners and the current manager that runs it and all the tenants,” she said.
Chen wouldn’t say when their lease was up, but said they hadn’t received a renewal offer they could accept. Some other businesses in the plaza have had their leases extended, Chen said.
While she said she understands the property owners want tenants paying rent as long as possible before any future development, she and other business owners would like more information.
“They also have to give us enough time to figure out where to move to,” Chen said.
The family has been looking at alternative locations in or around Redmond, but Chen said rent in the city is often times too much for them.
They are also considering closing down for good if they can’t find another location.
Chen said the city had been working on finding ways to help the businesses, but nothing came of it.
She had not heard from OneRedmond, which serves as both a development-promotion organization and a consolidated chamber of commerce.
The former Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce voted to approve the creation of OneRedmond in 2011 and joined the nonprofits Redmond Economic Development Alliance and Realize Redmond in the public-private organization. (In full disclosure, the Reporter is an investor with OneRedmond.)
Kristina Hudson, director of business expansion for OneRedmond, said they offer free services to local businesses if the businesses reach out. They also actively look for businesses that need assistance.
“We value our local small businesses tremendously, they are the bread and butter of our local economy,” Hudson said.
Some services Hudson said OneRedmond can provide businesses include assistance finding a location, working on tenant improvements and communicating between the city and the businesses.
Tim Nease is the owner of the Noodle Land restaurant in the Redmond Square. She has been at the current location since 2001 and said the landlord and new owners have not been in steady communication about their plans for the building.
“I don’t know where to go or what to do,” she said.
Nease is 59 and said she planned on working for around five more years before retiring.
Now she said she’s not sure if that will happen.
Her lease ends in September but she received an offer to extend her lease through the summer of 2018.
Even with this offer, the uncertainty of not knowing when or if she will have to relocate worries her.
Nease said there have not been other locations in Redmond available or in a price range that she could move to. She said she would like to stay in Redmond.
Her main concern was a lack of information about future plans for the building and her business. She also hoped if new development was planned, that the property owners would make offers to the existing businesses first.
“Before they go to somebody else, they should ask us first,” she said.
Legacy Partners’ Seattle office did not respond to an email request for comment by the time of publication.
In the previous Reporter article, Legacy’s Parker Nicholson said the project on the site will have between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet of retail space and the businesses currently located at Redmond Square will have the option to lease space in the new development once construction is complete if they choose to.
“We’re not trying to shut them out,” he said, adding that some may choose to stay, others will not.